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Lee Academy playing best football at end of 2020 season

Bishopville – Riding a five-game winning streak, the Lee Academy football team enters the 2020 SCISA Class A state championship game on a roll.

The Cavaliers will certainly need to be at the top of their game in Saturday’s finals. The opponent is two-time defending state champion Thomas Heyward Academy.

“They’ve lost three games in three years and they’ve won back-to-back state championships so we certainly know what we’re up against,” Lee Academy coach David Rankin said. “They can run the football and they’re physical. It’s a tall task to stop the run but they also throw it well enough to beat you through the air. Defensively, they are well-coached and athletic. Lot of team speed and they really get after you. They present a lot of challenges but I feel like our boys will give a great effort.”

The Cavaliers have indeed peaked at the right time, according to Rankin. Their last loss came to Carolina Academy, who is playing in the Class AA state championship game. At 9-3 overall, the other losses came to AAA Wilson Hall and AA Pee Dee Academy.

“We’re playing our best right now, which is what you want as a coach,” said Rankin, who is in his 35th season as a head coach. “We have gotten better each week and we played a tough schedule so we have been tested. We’re as healthy as we’ve been all season so we should be ready to go.”

As Rankin says, the Cavaliers hang their hat on the running game when it comes to offense. The Cavaliers have rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a team, led by quarterback Keaton Price, who has rushed for 1,533 yards and 24 touchdowns. Price also can be a threat in the passing game with more than 1,000 passing yards.

Andrew Hair has contributed nearly 600 yards in the run game. Jenkins McCullum and Hampton Gaskins also get carries.

Josh Kirven leads the team in receiving with 25 catches for more than 400 yards. Tight end Lucas Freidenberger has 15 receptions for 398 yards and Drew Nix has over 100 receiving yards.

Working along the offensive line are tackles Jarrett Huetmann and Tripp Strange, guards Eli Tomlinson and Dayton Brown, and center Parker Wilson.

On defense, Gaskins is the team’s leading tackler with 60 tackles as one of the inside linebackers. Hunter Arledge is the other inside backer, while Nix (31 tackles) and Freidenberger (55 tackles) are the outside linebackers.

Huetmann is a starter along the front and has 37 tackles and five sacks this season. Cameron McElveen has 36 tackles and Wyatt Welch has 58 tackles and two sacks.

Kirven starts at one safety and has 57 tackles and three interceptions. Price starts at one corner and has three picks. Corner Ethan Grantham has 40 tackles and McCullum is the other safety.

“We run a 3-4 and we try to keep it simple and get after it,” Rankin said. “We will have to tackle well on Saturday.”

Rankin says he felt good about the potential of his 2020 team, knowing that improvement would be crucial.

“I felt like we could be very competitive and have a good season,” Rankin said. “It always comes down to how well you develop in every area. This team has done everything we’ve asked.”

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