HSFB: Playoff Primer, Nov. 16

The number of games involving local teams is dwindling and will be reduced by at least three after this week, because three schools from the LowcoSports coverage area are playing for state championships this weekend.

Beaufort Academy takes its crack at a state title tonight, while John Paul II and Thomas Heyward play for state crowns Saturday. May River and Whale Branch will try to keep their title hopes alive in the second round of the SCHSL playoffs tonight.

It’s going to be a brisk night under the lights, and you can follow all the local scores at LowcoSports.com or via the free ScoreStream app.

Here’s your primer for this week’s local playoff games:

SCHSL CLASS 3A SECOND ROUND

Gilbert (7-3) at May River (11-0)

May River’s “Revenge Tour” makes one more stop, as they get another crack at the Indians, who hammered them 58-10 in the first round of the 2016 playoffs. That was the Sharks’ inaugural season, and they’ve rapidly matured from new kid on the block to state power – one of four remaining undefeated teams in Class 3A.

It’s a tough second-round matchup for the Sharks, as Gilbert has an excellent passing duo in quarterback Josh Strickland and receiver Matt Reed, and if the Sharks have a weakness it’s in the secondary – though that unit has improved as the season has progressed and has slowed down some solid passing attacks. May River’s outstanding front seven will need to get pressure on Strickland to help the back end of the defense in coverage.

This will be one of the toughest tests yet for a May River offense that has steamrolled everyone in its path. Gilbert defensive end Darrius Bell is a force, but the Sharks’ offensive line hasn’t had any trouble thus far creating big holes for running back Brandon Morales and quarterback Ahmad Green.

The Revenge Tour rolls on.

Prediction: May River 31, Gilbert 20

SCHSL CLASS 2A SECOND ROUND

Whale Branch (7-4) at Carvers Bay (9-0)

The Warriors stepped up big with a 30-28 win at Oceanside Collegiate in the first round, and their reward is a long bus ride to face undefeated and third-ranked Carvers Bay. The Bears have outscored opponents by an average of 38.6 points, including a 46-6 rout of Garrett Tech in the first round of the playoffs.

The Bears are led by dual-threat quarterback Janaz Sumpter, who has accounted for 23 touchdowns (15 rushing) and has not thrown an interception in 72 pass attempts. Whale Branch’s defense will have its work cut out slowing down Sumpter and running back Toronto King, who has topped 100 yards in five of the six games he has played.

The Warriors have their share of weapons on offense, too, including running back Irvin Mulligan, but Carvers Bay’s defense has allowed double-digit points only three times all season.

Prediction: Carvers Bay 34, Whale Branch 17

SCISA 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

John Paul II (7-4) vs. Florence Christian (8-2)

At Benedict College

You can read our full preview here, where you’ll learn that this is a matchup of two similar teams who are peaking at the end of the season. It shapes up as a slugfest of two offenses looking to grind it out on the ground.

Both teams are bound to move the ball with their powerful running games, but JPII’s defense has played lights-out the past three games, and that could prove to be the difference.

Prediction: John Paul II 27, Florence Christian 24

SCISA 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

Thomas Heyward (12-0) vs. Pee Dee Academy (9-1)

At Benedict College

The Rebels get their much-anticipated rematch of last year’s semifinals to cap off as they look to cap an utterly dominant season. The only loss between the teams was Pee Dee’s overtime defeat at Lee Academy in Week 1, nearly three months ago.

As noted in our full preview here, the Eagles sling the ball around the field much more than the typical SCISA team, which is something the Rebels haven’t seen much of, but Thomas Heyward’s secondary is improved from a year ago with play-maker Trey Pusha roaming the defensive backfield.

Pusha also will have to carry the load on offense with leading rusher JR Patterson sidelined, but as the Rebels have proven all season, just about anyone they put in the backfield can do damage running behind a dominant offensive line.

This one should be a treat.

Prediction: Thomas Heyward 33, Pee Dee Academy 26

SCISA 8-MAN STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

Beaufort Academy (9-2) vs. Andrew Jackson Academy (10-0)

At Patrick Henry Academy

Yet another opportunity for revenge, as the Eagles take on the last team to beat them. Our full preview here focused on how quickly longtime Beaufort High coach Mark Clifford was able to build BA into a state-title contender, but Andrew Jackson remains the class of 8-man football until someone snaps the Confederates’ 48-game winning streak.

The Eagles have the personnel to do it with De’Shaun Epps and Ja’Sean Lawson in the backfield and quarterback Dawson Coleman capable of connecting on big pass plays, as well as Edward McCormick anchoring a solid defense. They’ll also have one of the best coaches in the state — at any level — on their side.

Clifford was a quick study to the 8-man game, and with a second crack at a team he saw just six weeks ago, he will have the Eagles ready.

Prediction: Beaufort Academy 32, Andrew Jackson Academy 29

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