This is usually the time of year when we’re crunching the numbers to figure out which matchups will determine who makes the playoffs or wins the region title, but in a high school football season unlike any other, we’re gearing up for three non-region contests on the SCHSL Week 6 slate.
But, boy, are they some good ones.
A Lowco-on-Lowco battle and two cross-classification clashes that should give us a better idea about a couple teams’ chances of making a deep playoff run are on top. Here’s your weekly primer.
May River (3-1) at Orangeburg-Wilkinson (3-2), 7:30 p.m.
The Sharks were getting ready to welcome Hilton Head High to the Tank last Friday night, until coronavirus concerns forced a cancellation. After an unexpected bye week, May River will be back in action against a challenging Orangeburg-Wilkinson squad. The Bruins were shut out last week against Brookland-Cayce, making this non-region contest a critical one for both teams to find their game and build some momentum going into the postseason.
We already knew that Ahmad Green was our “Mr.Football.” Now, he’s one of only five finalists to hold that title for the entire state. The face of May River football has been a one-man wrecking crew again in 2020, rushing for 409 yards with nine touchdowns plus a pair of passing scores in only four games. He’s got an opportunity to make a huge statement against an Orangeburg-Wilkinson defense that won’t pull any punches. The Bruins have allowed only 16 points per game this year, and their beasts on the defensive line should provide a challenge to the Sharks’ blockers. May River loves to run the ball and will have to execute much better than they did against Beaufort High, where Green was contained and shut down time and time again.
A week of rest should do wonders for Green and running backs Cam Scott and sophomore Jaiden Jones, who is second in the area in rushing yards only to his quarterback. Senior linemen Moxon Zehr and Garrett Bonneville will have to battle hard to give enough protection for Green to work his magic. As much as May River’s ground game is the key component to their offense, Melvin Livermon and Steffin Gadson are reliable receivers and should be used more to mix up the offensive attack. With opposing defenses focused on stopping the run, throwing the football could be important down the stretch against quality foes to come.
May River’s defense has been solid at times this season but was picked apart by Tyler Haley and a red-hot Beaufort squad a few weeks ago. This is an important game for the Sharks unit to prove they can handle a strong offense. Meanwhile, Orangeburg-Wilkinson is trying to shake off some disappointment of their own after getting shut out by Brookland-Cayce, and the talent is certainly there for the Bruins to rebound. Quarterback Anthony Mack is only a sophomore, but he’s played like a veteran so far this season. He’s got some phenomenal weapons to throw to, including 6-2 Donovan Chapple and Nahshawn Hezekiah. All-star defensive back Steffin Gadson will be tested in a big way, and Eli Hall will need to bring his best intensity in order to make some stops against an offense that is hungry for a bounce-back performance. Senior Rett Harrell has put together a fantastic season on the defensive line, and his effort will be key to create some penetration against a Bruin lineup loaded with strong athletes.
This one should provide a great litmus test to see where May River is trending going into the postseason. After a letdown performance at home with a shot to take control of the region, the Sharks have a lot to prove on both sides of the ball. A quality opponent like Orangeburg-Wilkinson will give them a good look at what they need to work on going forward, and they’d like to see their team hold their own against a talented 3A squad. The offensive line needs to give the run game an opportunity to create some problems for the Bruins early, and the defensive stars need to step up and lead against a group that has the potential to get hot very quickly. The week off should help the Sharks in this battle on the road, but fending off a host of talented athletes looking for a statement of their own will not be easy. — Wes Kerr
JJ: May River 27, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 23
WK: May River 21, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 20
BL: May River 24, Orangeburg-Wilkinson 21
Beaufort (4-0) at Carolina Forest (4-1), 7:30 p.m.
With an unexpected opening in their schedule, the Eagles could have taken the week off to nurse any nagging injuries and prepare for the postseason. But Bryce Lybrand wanted to do the latter by seeking the best challenge he could find, and he found a good one.
The Panthers climbed into the Class 5A Top 10 this week after a 70-28 stomping of St. James, and their only loss was a 34-27 overtime defeat at Sumter on Oct. 9. Carolina Forest has put up big numbers on offense, averaging 44 points per game, but the Panthers like to do their damage on the ground, and that’s no easy task against the Eagles.
Beaufort’s strong defensive line will be put to the test, but the run-stoppers led by Eamon Smalls and Alvin Wilson haven’t given up much this season. This will be the biggest challenge the Eagles’ defense has faced, so they probably won’t serve up another shutout, but they will need to come up with some big stops to earn a big road win.
It will also be the biggest challenge yet for Beaufort’s offensive line, which has paved the way for a steady run game headed by Amariee Morris and Jaylin Houseal and given Tyler Haley plenty of time to operate and get the ball downfield. The Eagles haven’t had any trouble points on the board, either, and they moved the ball at will in a 55-0 win over Colleton County last week.
This is the kind of game that will help the Eagles in the playoffs, win or lose, but if they execute the game plan, they should be able to get the best of both worlds. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Beaufort 30, Carolina Forest 24
WK: Beaufort 28, Carolina Forest 24
BL: Beaufort 24, Carolina Forest 22
Battery Creek (2-3) at Whale Branch (5-0), 7:30 p.m.
They say you can throw out the records when rivals get together, and that’s certainly the case when the teams come from different classifications. Sure, the Warriors are undefeated while the Dolphins suffered a three-game losing streak in region play, but this one figures to be at least fairly competitive.
Whale Branch’s defense has been outstanding, pitching three shutouts in five games including a 69-0 win over Charleston Math & Science last week to wrap up a perfect region slate, but the Dolphins definitely have some dangerous weapons on offense. Quarterback Jacove Singleton and running backs Jaeon Allen and Jeremiah Dilbert make up a formidable rushing attack that has flourished against weaker competition but struggled against the cream of a loaded Region 8-3A. The Warriors’ defense will have a tough test, especially against the run, but Whale Branch is solid at every level of the defense, so the Dolphins will need crisp execution on offense to find success.
The same has been true for Battery Creek’s defense, which didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in blowout wins over Academic Magnet and North Charleston but had a difficult time slowing down powerful ground games against Hanahan and Oceanside Collegiate. The Warriors might not rise to the level of those Class 3A powers, but quarterback Jaylen Reeves and running backs Joseph Hicks and Jadon Grant are a handful and will provide a good measuring stick for a young Dolphins defense.
Battery Creek should have a slight edge in terms of depth, so if they can keep it close they might have a shot at a rivalry win on the road, but the Warriors have proven they’re no pushover despite playing the SCHSL’s smallest classification. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Whale Branch 28, Battery Creek 14
WK: Whale Branch 21, Battery Creek 14
BL: Whale Branch 35, Battery Creek 14
JJ: 3-1 last week, 19-2 overall
WK: 4-0 last week, 19-2 overall
BL: 4-0 last week, 20-1 overall