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AAAA Football Feature

By Billy G. Baker


Moncks CornerSouth Pointe (9-1) comes into the 2018 SCHSL Class AAAA playoffs with a giant bulls-eye on their backs as the Stallion are hoping to make state history with a 5th straight state title and schools like top ranked Hartsville, Greer, Belton-Honea-Path, Daniel, and Myrtle Beach are intently focused on that target as the playoffs begin.

If there is one team tired of playing Cinderella to the Stallions, it would be the red-hot Hartsville Red Foxes (9-0) who come into the playoffs seeking to find the elusive glass slipper after losing to the Stallions at the AAAA level the past two seasons and they were runner-up to South Pointe at the AAA level in 2014. The Red Foxes last won a state title as a AAA member in 2012.

Hartsville head coach Jeff Calabrese (170-59) has won 142 of his games on the sidelines of Red Fox football. The Red Foxes come into the playoffs a number one seed out of Region 6-AAAA, one of the strongest and most competitive regions in AAAA with fellow playoff members Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Marlboro County and Wilson all being very competitive teams. In fact, Hartsville closest game all year was a 14-13 win over Wilson on October 12th

Hartsville defeated the other three Region 6-AAAA playoff foes by the combined scores of 144-53. Hartsville comes into the playoffs with the best scoring defense in AAAA allowing just 106 points all season. They have the 7th best scoring offense in AAAA at 364 points. They are led on offense by senior quarterback Tiyon Evans (5-10, 210) who has completed 52 of 84 passes for 1,0005 yards and 10 touchdowns and via the ground he has contributed with a team leading 826 yards on 65 carries and 14 touchdowns. Evans is averaging an impressive 14.7 yards every time he runs the ball.

On defense the top seeded Red Foxes are by linebackers Kevin Haigler (6-1, 215) with 79 tackles and 313 defensive points and Justin Abraham (6-1,230) with 83 total tackles and 300 defensive points. The Red Fox defense has 12 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries to their credit.

Joining Hartsville as number one seeds in the lower state are Region 5-AAAA winner North Augusta (8-2) and region 7-AAAA winner Bluffton (5-4). The upper state has four regions and joining South Pointe as one seeds are Region 1-AAAA winner Belton-Honea-Path (8-2), Region 2-AAAA winner Greer (9-1), and Region 4-AAAA winner A.C. Flora (8-2).  

First round playoff upper state games this week (Nov. 9th) has BHP hosting Westwood while third seeded Ridge View hosts a strong four seed in Travelers Rest and this game has been rated a toss-up by pundits. Greer will be at home throughout the playoffs and they host fourth seeded Pickens this week. Number two seeded and host York is a heavy favorite over fourth seeded Orangeburg-Wilkinson in first round action while host South Pointe is a two- touchdown favorite over number two seeded and upset minded Walhalla.

Daniel is hosting third seeded Eastside and this game has been rated dead evenRounding out the upper state is host A.C. Flora against fourth seeded Lancaster while second seeded Greenville hosts third seeded Wren in another very competitive game.

In lower state first, round action host North Augusta is a heavy favorite over fourth seeded Hilton Head and two seed Lower Richland is a slight favorite over third seed Colleton County. Hartsville will host fourth seeded Crestwood as the heavy favorite and fourth seeded Brookland-Cayce travels to two seed Beaufort and the Bearcats are favored to win on the road

Number one seed and host Bluffton is an underdog to fourth seed Wilson while three seed and host South Aiken is an underdog to three seed North Myrtle Beach in first round action. Host and two seed Airport are expected to get a challenge from four seed Marlboro County while highly regarded junior quarterback Luke Doty will lead host Myrtle Beach, a two seed, against upstart Dreher a three seed from the midlands.

Hartsville was the only undefeated team in AAAA during the regular season. South Pointe showed they could be beat with an early season loss to Rock Hill 29-22. The Stallions also were tested in a 28-27 win over Greenville, a 35-30 win over Lancaster and a 38-35 nail-biting win over Ridge View. The Stallion defense is ranked 16th in points allowed in AAAA while their 428 points on offense is third best in the state.

Logic surely suggests yet another rematch between Hartsville and South Pointe in AAAA when the gold medal round comes to USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium on December 8th.  However, Greer is a team loaded with senior leadership and they are the top scoring team in AAAA at 456 points while boasting the state’s the fourth best scoring defense at 140 points. Greer has won state titles in 1989, 1994 and in 2003 and senior running back Dre Williams (5-10, 180) comes into the playoffs averaging an eye-popping 209 yards of total offense a game. Greer could be the spoiler in the upstate.   

If there is another potential spoiler in the upstate that team could be Daniel.  The Lions are certainly one of the most improved teams in the state at 8-2 after going 2-9 last year. The Lions have out-scored teams 400-169 this season. They are led by junior quarterback prospect Tyler Venables (5-11, 185) who has completed 165 of 234 passes for 1,932 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for 588 yards on 87 carries and he has 16 touchdowns via the ground.  On defense senior linebacker David Cote has been stellar leading the team with 99 tackles coming into the AAAA playoffs.

It’s five weeks of hand-to-hand combat known as the AAAA playoffs that conclude on December 8th at USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium.  Can South Pointe improve on defense enough to establish a new state record should they win a 5th straight title?

Last year the Stallions had forced 33 turnovers, allowed just 10.5 points a game, recorded 117 tackles for loss and had 45 sacks entering the finals against Hartsville.  They had three defenders with over 110 tackles each last year. In 2018 they enter the playoffs with senior outside linebacker Savion White leading the way with 99 tackles and could be the only Stallion with 100 or more tackles at the end of the season.

On offense the Stallions are led by running back Joe Ervin who enters the playoffs with 1,493 yards on 183 carries and 19 touchdowns while junior quarterback Tahleek Steele has completed 133 of 211 passes for 1,995 yards and 27 touchdowns. Receiver Marice Whitlock is a speedy receiver with 39 catches for 665 yards and five touchdowns to date.

Buckle up, the AAAA playoffs are going to bring a lot of excitement to fans across the state over the next five weeks.             

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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