Baxter’s Blitz

Playoff picture entertains favorites, sleepers

scvarsity@sc.rr.comOctober 15, 2012 

IN CLASS 4A, Gaffney went from “down and out” to the team most likely to win the Region 2-4A crown after knocking off Byrnes 22-18 on Friday night in a defensive showcase for the Indians.

With Riverside, Boiling Springs and Spartanburg remaining on the schedule, the Indians should run the table through the regular season. Meanwhile, if Dorman can beat Byrnes in two weeks, the Rebels will have gone from being No. 3 in the nation to No. 3 in their own region.

Wando flexed its muscles against previously unbeaten Stratford to reach 8-0 for the first time. Wando quarterback Christian Hart shined, passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Next comes the big test. Unbeaten Wando will take on No. 1 Goose Creek this coming week in what will be one of the biggest games in the Southeast.

Dutch Fork’s Jordan Berry scored two special teams touchdowns and put on an offensive showcase in the wake of his snubbing by the Shrine Bowl selection process. With the loss by White Knoll to North Augusta, the final regular season matchup between the Foxes and Jackets becomes the game of the year in this region.

The Blythewood Bengals are roaring in Region 4-4A after holding off Richland Northeast, 21-20. The Bengals are 2-0 in region play with wins over Spring Valley and RNE, and appear to be in the driver’s seat for the region crown. The real race will be for the region’s No. 2 spot.

Region III is owned by South Pointe, which is the only remaining unbeaten team in region play.

Region 1 has Greenwood as the favorite, but Easley and Laurens remain on the Eagles’ schedule. Easley, which lost to Laurens, is playing good football, as is Laurens. Laurens is still unbeaten in region play and, along with Greenwood, controls its destiny. If Easley upsets Greenwood and the Eagles knock off Laurens in the final regular season game, it would throw this region into a three-way tie.

CLASS 3A

Hartsville knocked off No. 4 Manning and remains unbeaten in the top spot. Strom Thurmond rolled over a very good Swansea team and has to be considered one of the top two teams in the Lower State. D.W. Daniel gave up the most points it has allowed all season to Emerald, but did what it needed to do to win.

Which teams outside of those three have shots at making a run?

I like A.C. Flora in the Upstate. This team can score in multiple ways with a solid ground game and a back who can make big plays in Avin Pollard. Quarterback Jake Lewis is the most improved player in Class 3A this season. He wasn’t a quarterback last season, but solidly stepped into that roll. Defensively, Flora doesn’t require its kids to do a lot of thinking. The Falcons are very physical at linebacker and defensive back. I would love to see this team face off with Daniel. If Flora wins the region, it could get a great first-round matchup against a team like Clinton or Union County.

Socastee will be scary in the playoffs. It will win its region and play an at-large No. 4 seed. It will be home through three rounds if it wins and the third-round game could be against Hartsville.

CLASS 2A

One top 10 team in this classification lost this past week — Crescent — and the favorites seem to creating separation. Abbeville thunders through opponents with a powerful ground game led by sophomore quarterback Kelly Bryant.

Fairfield Central will be a challenge for all comers in the playoffs. They might not have the entire package needed to win the title, but it has the talent to beat any team.

CLASS 1A

With two divisions, come two favorites. Christ Church and Johnsonville are my picks. If we were in just one division, I’d give Johnsonville a slight edge, despite Christ Church being No. 1 in the SCVarsty.com Top 10 polls.

Both teams are at least 10 points better than any team they will face in the playoffs.

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