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Calhoun/Orangeburg Feature High School

 Calhoun Academy battling for spot in SCISA AA finals

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

St. Matthews—To say head coach Todd Layton’s first season at Calhoun Academy has been a success would be an understatement.

The Cavaliers were 17-3 overall after winning their first-round series in the SCISA AA baseball playoffs and finished second to Robert E. Lee Academy in the region standings.

“A few of them got a lot of playing time last year, but it’s still new to some of them. They got to watch and learn from the older guys playing the last couple of years. It is expected that you do well around here. Everybody is looking forward to the challenge. There’s not a nervousness, it’s more of an excitement,” Layton said.

The Cavaliers claimed the state championship a year ago, but this is a different team. They will have their toughest test yet as they battle Pee Dee Academy with a berth in the finals on the line.

“I don’t know if anybody is prepared for what we’re about to face with Pee Dee with their pitching, but we’re as ready as we can be. They’ve got one kid going to Coastal and another going to (Presbyterian), and we haven’t seen anything like that this year,” Layton said.

The pitching staff has been outstanding all year, as Caleb Crosby, Kyle Gray and Chris Phillips received the bulk of the innings. The defense has done its job as well, minus one eight-error game.

“They’ve done really well this year and they’re a big reason why we’ve had the success we’ve had. They’ve given us a lot of big innings. They’ve recorded a lot of strikeouts,” Layton said.

At the plate, Layton has been pleased that different players have stepped up on a nightly basis. Crosby, Gray, Phillips and Fuller Prickett are all hitting in the high-.300 range while Dillon Johnson has provided a boost after being cleared from knee surgery.

“We’ve hit the ball pretty well. Fuller has come on really strong the last half of the season and Caleb and Kyle have been solid all year long. Dillon just came off an injury and he’s swinging the bat real well,” Layton said.

If the Cavaliers are to overcome Pee Dee, they will have to do all the little things correct. There will be a miniscule margin for error with runs at a premium.

“We’ve got to pitch well to stay with them. They’re going to strike people out and we aren’t going to get many hits off them, but we’ve got to take advantage of every situation that comes up and play every inning like it’s the last. Pitching will be the key. We’ve got to throw a lot of strikes and play defense behind them,” Layton said.

 

 

 O-W football players ‘excited’ about spring practice

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Orangeburg—There were plenty of ups and downs for the Orangeburg-Wilkinson football team in 2016. The Bruins finished the season 7-6 overall, but advanced to the third round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

They’ve continued that late momentum throughout the winter in the weight room and have had seven practices so far this spring. Participation levels are up as nearly 70 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors have taken part in the drills.

“They were excited. We had a pretty good offseason program going, but the kids were anxious to get out of the weight room and get out on the field and see what they’re capable of doing,” Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Tommy Brown said. “Our numbers have been increasing every year. When you start playing good football, everybody wants to be a part of it.”

The Bruins should be strong on the defensive side of the ball, where several key players return. Defensive end Zyon Utsey is a player that has stepped up as a leader this spring.

Nose tackle Rodney Tyler is back for his fourth year as a starter and inside linebacker Skylar Mack is back to full strength after missing time with an injury last fall. Ricky Grimes and Bradley Brown are other players to watch at the linebacker position.

On the offensive side, the Bruins have a threat in running back Theo Johnson, who gained over 1,400 yards on the ground a season ago. Wide receivers Zach Felder and Jalen Darby will be weapons on the perimeter.

“We have quite a few coming back from last year. Defensively, we’re returning some defensive line and linebackers, so we’re pretty solid there. Offensively, we have our running back and a couple of receivers returning also,” Brown said.

However, Orangeburg-Wilkinson will have to break in a new quarterback. Rising junior Nick Lawson was the backup on the varsity last year and will have the first opportunity to take the reins of the offense.

“Hopefully he’s going to step up and be the starter. He has a strong arm and he’s athletic, he just needs more experience,” Brown said.

The team will also have to develop a new offensive line. Most of that unit graduated, but the younger players aren’t short on size or talent.

“We lost several starters on the offensive line. Even though we’re going to be bigger next year, they’re lacking that game experience,” Brown said.

Orangeburg-Wilkinson will wrap up the spring with an intrasquad scrimmage on May 30. They will look to take what they’ve learned during the month and continue progressing into the summer.

“We stress teaching the fundamentals. That’s important. We want to come out of the fundamentally sound on the things that we’ve put in offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game,” Brown said.

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