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Midlands Football Feature

By Chris Dearing

Special Contributor

Columbia -- The leaves have finally started changing color, there’s been a few nights with a chill in the air and that can mean one very important thing in South Carolina – the playoffs and state championships for all fall sports are coming to an end.

Cheerleading, Volleyball and Tennis will be wrapping up shortly with football just beginning postseason play due to weather again being a factor this season and pushing the beginning of the playoffs back a week to November 9.

Dutch Fork, the two-time defending Class AAAAA champions, again has been the class of the Midlands. The Silver Foxes have run roughshod over their opposition this season, outscoring opponents by an average of 61-7. Dutch Fork (8-0) has punted eight times this season and the starting defense has allowed one touchdown.

“We’ve been very efficient,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “We haven’t had to play our starters many times in the fourth quarter and when they’ve been in there we’ve been pretty good.”

If they hope to repeat, the Silver Foxes might have to play a road playoff game for the first time since 2015. If Berkeley or Summerville reach the Lower State Championship, they will have home field advantage. Dutch Fork also has a potential match-up with Fort Dorchester or West Florence in the third round.

River Bluff finished second to Dutch Fork in the region and will host its first-ever home playoff game with Conway coming to town. The Gators bruising ground attack of Braden Walker and Antonio Gantt could be a success in the postseason where ball control will be key.

Irmo finished in a three-way tie with Blythewood and Spring Valley in Region 4-AAAAA. The Yellow Jackets earned the No. 3 seed will play in the Lower State against Berkeley. Blythewood was the No. 2 seed and will play host to Nation Ford in the first round. Spring Valley was awarded an at-large bid and will face region champion Sumter in the first round.

Lexington also made the playoffs and have a first round road game at Carolina Forest.

The feeling is the title still runs through Dutch Fork and it’s going to take someone playing at peak performance to knock the Silver Foxes off.

Looking at the Class AAAA bracket, A.C. Flora could be a surprise team in Upstate. The Falcons went winless in 2017 and lost the first two game this season before winning eight in a row and going into the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the state.

Quincy Riley has returns for touchdowns on special teams and the two-headed quarterback system of Matt Jamison and Josh Heatley have played at a high level in recent weeks.

The defensive front led by Dewey Greene is also a force. If the Falcons can get past Lancaster in the first round, they have Greenville or Wren waiting in the second round. Four-time defending champion South Pointe, Greer and Belton-Honea Path also stand in the way in a top-heavy Upper State bracket.

Airport and Lower Richland each earned a No. 2 seed and will open at home. Dreher, is a No. 3 seed in the Lower State with Ridge View earning a three-seed in the Upper State.

Brookland-Cayce is a No. 4 seed but if a team can pull off a run, it’s this Bearcats squad. They’ve advanced the state semi-finals in each of the last two seasons and aren’t intimidated playing on the road.

Westwood earned an at-large berth but must open on the road at BHP.

Gilbert might be the best bet to make a run in Class AAA. The Indians stumbled during the regular season to earn a No. 2 seed but also feature a two-quarterback system with Josh Strickland and Jy Tolen.

Camden, Newberry, Swansea, Fairfield Central, and Pelion all would have to shake off disappointing regular seasons to make a deep run into the playoffs.

Gray Collegiate has used the passing of Hunter Helms to win its first-ever region title in football. The War Eagles get Latta at home to open things but has a potential second round matchup with Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

Columbia has a home playoff game for the first time in several seasons when they host Batesburg-Leesville. C.A. Johnson is also in the field as a No. 4 seed.

Hammond is on the verge of adding to its dynasty in SCISA Class AAA. The Skyhawks are two wins away from claiming their 10th title in 15 years. Jackson Muschamp has played very well at quarterback. Jordan Burch and Alex Huntley, two highly-touted juniors, also play a variety of roles for the unbeaten Skyhawks.

 

 


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