Here is a look at the Class 5A as we head into Spring Practice, with region predictions. We will revisit this after the Spring evaluation period.
REGION I PREDICTIONS
1. T.L. Hanna 2. Greenwood 3. Westside 4. Laurens 5. Easley 6. J.L. Mann 7. Woodmont 8. Wade Hampton
This region is definitely top heavy. Hanna returns some top key talent including their quarterback but I think this may be the “must do” year for the Jackets. The well is a little shallow after this class so if they are going to get it done, it has to be in 2018. Greenwood is going to be strong on defense and they are a large football team. They will challenge for that top spot, along with Westside. The Rams have as much speed if not more than Hanna and Greenwood but they lack a signal caller and that will be huge for them. This team is strong in the 2020 class and will be good in the future. Take your pick at 4 and 5. Laurens has some talent but they seem to self-destruct. Easley has a new quarterback that may be able to help them but neither of these teams will finish above 4th. J.L. Mann is the best of the rest, followed by Woodmont. Wade Hampton will bring up the rear of this train.
REGION II PREDICTIONS
1. Gaffney 2. Byrnes 3. Dorman 4. Boiling Springs 5. Spartanburg 6. Hillcrest 7. Mauldin 8. Riverside
This is a tough region to call. Last season the top four or five beat each other up pretty good. I’ll be totally honest with you. The only thing I’m sure about in this region is that Riverside will finish in the 8th spot. I thought last season that Gaffney was going to surprise some folks and they did, but they also managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, too. They cannot do that this year. I think that four schools, Gaffney, Byrnes, Dorman and Boiling Springs are going to mix it up for the top spot. I also think that Spartanburg could be in the mix but I don’t think they finish higher than 3rd or 4th. The wild card in this region is Hillcrest. They have a solid quarterback and Coach Porter has proven he can lead his team the distance. But this is a new monster, Region II, for the Rams and I believe they will find it a tough challenge. Mauldin is going to be improved and a spoiler in the region, knocking off a couple of teams they aren’t “supposed” to beat, but I don’t see them finishing any higher than 5th. And, as I said, look for Riverside to bring up the rear.
REGION III PREDICTIONS
1. Northwestern 2. Rock Hill 3. Nation Ford 4. Ft Mill 5. Clover
What we do know is that Northwestern returns some pretty solid talent in skills positions. But lets be honest, this region after that top spot is not going deep in the playoffs. I believe that Nation Ford and Rock Hill battle for the 2nd spot with Fort MIll and Clover battling for the 4th spot. Rock Hill, I thought, was going to be much improved last season but their defense gave up 344 points. That has to change this year for them to compete at the top of the region.
REGION IV PREDICTIONS
1. Sumter 2. Spring Valley 3. Irmo 4. Blythewood 5. Lugoff-Elgin
One of the two Midlands regions, I think that Sumter is going to be the team to beat here. They return some strong talent to that team, along with extreme speed. They are physical and if they can play without mistakes (turnovers) they can win this region. Spring Valley has all of the pieces back but they did lose their quarterback and he was a huge part of their success. They did not have a successor but I believe they have a transfer in that could fit in that spot. That said, he won’t be the track guy that was running the flexbone like the one they had last season. Irmo should finish in the third spot. Actually, they should compete for the top spot every year but they don’t. They have talent coming back all over the field. Blythewood will be under their third head coach in three years. They lost key talent from a team that was riddled with injuries last season. Quite frankly, they made a huge error in letting their coach go after the season. Lugoff-Elgin is the wildcard. They were extremely improved last season but the move to Class 5A could be a huge challenge for them. I believe they are capable of finishing as high as third in the region but don’t see them knocking off the top two.
REGION V PREDICTIONS
1. Dutch Fork 2. Lexington 3. White Knoll 4. River Bluff 5. Chapin
Dutch Fork returns the entire house. This is the best team in the state and they won’t be challenged in this region. I believe Lexington is a team that could make things interesting. They will have a new quarterback but they return some talent up front and on the defensive side of the football, where they will be strong at the LB group. White Knoll I’m just not sure about. There are coaching changes within the staff and they lost some key talent. River Bluff should be improved and could challenge both Lexington and White Knoll. Chapin makes the move to 5A and that will be challenging for them. They are strong in the trenches, no doubt, but I’m not sure they will have the fire power to compete 5A week after week this season.
REGION VI PREDICTIONS
1. Conway 2. Carolina Forest 3. West Florence 4. South Florence 5. Socastee
Conway returns a wealth of talent to their team, including some hefty guys up front. They did lose their quarterback and he was a good one, along with some of his targets. But they will be the team to beat in this region. Carolina Forest is an improved football team and they love to run the football. I think they can be a 2nd place team here. West Florence comes up next but after the resignation (forced) of their head coach this team could have some turmoil. Socastee and South Florence will fight for the 4th spot. Socastee played zero defense last year, giving up more than 400 points. That will be their challenge this year to overcome, especially with the loss of weapons on their high scoring offense.
REGION VII PREDICTIONS
1. Berkeley 2. Cane Bay 3. Wando 4. Goose Creek 5.Stratford 6. James Island
Cane Bay and Berkeley comes up with the big boys but I believe they will be challenging for the top spot. This low country region is the weaker of the two in my opinion and I beleive the top spot is fair game. Wando returns some talent and will have a new quarterback at the helm. The question is, can they generate a little more offense this season. Goose Creek and Stratford will battle for the 4th spot and I kind of think it will be Goose Creek to get it. Both struggled last season, Goose Creek with a lethargic offense and Stratford with a swiss cheese defense. The one to correct their err will get the third spot, and possibly higher. James Island will finish in the 6th spot because there is no 7th spot. Untl someone in that school cares about football (besides the head coach) they will continue to struggle.
REGION VIII PREDICTIONS
1. Fort Dorchester 2. Summerville 3. Ashley Ridge 4. West Ashley 5. Stall
This low country region will see Fort Dorchester at the top, but it won’t be blow outs as it was last season. They lost their heart, Dek Joyner at quarterback, but they do have a replacement for him that can get the job done with the weapons around him. He stood out in JV play and the limited snaps he got last season. Summerville is an interesting team. They just hired a new offensive coordinator and he is an air-it-out kind of guy. It will be interesting to see if the Greenwave can play to their ability. Ashley Ridge was young last year but they they return strong talent and I think could challenge for the 2nd spot. Experience at quarterback is their strength. West Ashley will be the blue collar bunch of the region and could challenge for the third spot. Stall will finish dead last in this region.