There are 32 teams remaining in the state playoffs after today and of those 32 teams, 8 of them are from the Midlands. There are some upstate folks who will tell you that the best football in the state is played there; there are some Pee Dee folks who will say the same about their teams; the lower state folks, the same. But I’m here to tell you that if you take a look at the teams that are remaining in brackets from the Midlands, I’d take that line up against most any other area of the state. That’s not to say that the other areas aren’t good, as well, but with 8 out of 32 teams remaining, it’s difficult for anyone to argue they are better. Here’s my look at the Midlands teams, their next hurdle and how far I think they can go.
DUTCH FORK: In 5A, there is one lone remaining Midlands team, but it is a juggernaut, Dutch Fork. This week, the Silver Foxes will travel to take on Fort Dorchester, who destroyed Berkeley on Friday night. This Fort Dorchester team has a two-headed monster of an offense with a running senior quarterback and a freshman phenom passer. But their true strength is the defensive front. They are big, they are physical and will be the best defensive front the Foxes have seen all season, including Mallard Creek.
Prediction: Dutch Fork takes care of business with the best quarterback-wide receiver combination in the state and wins this game by 17 or more points.
Their destiny: This team will repeat as the 5A State Champions.
RIDGE VIEW: in 4A, The Ridge View Blazers will travel back to Central, SC to take on the unbeaten Daniel Lions. Daniel knocked off Ridge View earlier in the season, but this is a different Blazer team taking the road Friday night. I feel this is the best defensive front in the upstate 4A and their offense is mature, and everyone is healthy.
Prediction: Ridge View will go to Daniel and flex their defensive muscles and knock off Daniel in what will be perceived by the state as an upset win.
Their destiny: I think this team, in error free games, can make it to the state title game. They have to get by Daniel and then next week, a date with a high powered offense from the winner of the Greenville-Wren match up but I like defense and this team is peaking at the right time.
AIRPORT: In 4A Lower State, the Eagles got a big win over Lower Richland and earned a trip to Myrtle Beach to take on the Seahawks. Myrtle Beach struggled Friday against North Myrtle and the hand of their starting quarterback, Luke Doty, is injured. Speculation is that he will return to play but an unhealthy Doty could make the Seahawks suspect.
Prediction: I think will be very difficult to knock off the Seahawks at home, especially if Doty returns to play. I think Myrtle Beach wins this game but if the Eagles can generate 200 yards of ground offense from their running backs, they an win this game.
Their destiny: This will probably be it for the Eagles. But if they DO manage an upset win, they won’t go further than the next round.
BROOKLAND-CAYCE: Also in lower state 4a, the Bearcats of Brookland-Cayce are a team that could very well play in their third semifinal in five years. They annihilated a good Wilson team 40-6 on Friday with speed, good defense, and help from the rain. They face a Hartsville team that has recovered well from early season woes and come to town with a ground game and a physical defense.
Prediction: I think Brookland-Cayce has too much team speed for the Red Foxes. It is a home game, the Bearcats have the talent to get to state for the first time since 1966 and they can smell it.
Their destiny: At the very least, I think this team plays in the semi-finals. I think they have the speed, offense and defense to get to the championship, but their special teams play scares me against a team like Myrtle Beach if that is, in fact, next week’s match up.
CAMDEN: In 3A upstate, Camden has been a big story all season with solid play and big wins. They knocked off defending 3A champion two weeks ago and Friday night, they knocked off a very good Broome football team. This week, they travel to Union County and face a team that can run the football and plays stellar defense.
Prediction: I think if this comes down to defense, the home team, Union County, gets the edge here. They erupted for a huge ground game this past week, albeit in poor conditions. Should be a close game.
Their destiny: I feel this could be it for the Bulldogs. But if they do manage an upset, I don’t see them, nor Union County, getting past Chapman in the semi-finals.
GILBERT: The Indians destroyed Lake City on Friday night and Dillon got a close win against Wade Hampton on Thursday night. I look for a very good football game, very physical, between these two.
Prediction: Gilbert wins this game in an upset and Jy Tolen shows everyone why he should have been an all-star.
Their destiny: I think the Indians are playing better football than any other team in 3A lower state right now and I think they play for a state title this year.
SALUDA: It’s tough to beat a good team twice, so they say. Saluda lost the first outing against Southside Christian but will be ready this time around. They will see an air attack that they are familiar with and it is dangerous.
Prediction: As much as I like the Southside Christian offense, I don’t see them beating a good team twice in the same season. Saluda will be better prepared for their foes this time around.
Their destiny: The season will end for the winner of this game next week, as neither of them can beat either of the other two teams (Abbeville, Gray) in my opinion.
GRAY COLLEGIATE: The War Eagles are a battle tested team and have what may be the most explosive offense in the 2A class. That said, they will be introduced to a whole new world this week when Abbeville comes to town.
Prediction: I think Gray can have success early with explosive plays, but Abbeville’s defense and patient, physical offense will take control of the game.
Their destiny: I think this is it for Gray Collegiate but if they do manage to shock the state with an upset, they can get past the next round to the Championship.