Hammond and Wilson Hall square off in the Class 3A SCISA championship game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium on the Benedict College campus.
The Skyhawks (10-3) upset Orangeburg Prep 28-26 in the semifinals last week to reach SCISA finals for the eighth year in a row. Hammond's run of six straight championships came to an end last season. The Barons from Sumter (12-0) have yet to stumble and are favored to secure their first SCISA championship in 10 years.
Hammond has won eight in a row after getting off to a 2-3 start, which included a 42-14 loss to Wilson Hall on Sept. 20. Erik Kimreys team made changes on both sides of the ball in the wake of that stinging defeat, and has not faltered since.
On offense, the emphasis shifted to the running game with the healthy return of junior quarterback Nick Garrett and the decision that running back T.J. Brady was the go-to man on the attack.
Brady enters the finale with 1,813 yards and 30 touchdowns on the books. Garrett, who has been shelved the equivalent of five full games because of injuries, has posted 521 yards rushing and seven TDs. Garrett returned last week after sitting out all or parts of the previous three games, and was vital in the win over OP running for 93 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries while going 4-for-4 passing for 82 yards and one TD.
Senior Davis King, a pure pocket passer, has been used to good effect in passing situations and as a change of pace.
The big change was on defense and a shift to a 3-4 alignment. He reason was create more opportunities for Hammonds best athletes to make plays. The key men in the now look have been senior nose guard Patrick Kneece and inside linebackers DAndre Lee-Smith and Doak Fisher.
Reversing the regular season loss to Wilson Hall will be a bit more challenging for the Skyhawks.
The Barons have wonderful balance on offense.
Quarterback William Kinney is 107-for-153 passing for 1,933 and 18 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Kinney also is second on the team with 817 yards rushing and 14 TDs. RB Jay Goodson has 1,097 yards and 17 TDs to date to go along with 28 catches for 458 yards and six other scores. Receivers Parker McDuffie (29-232-1) and Devin Singleton (23-676-8) are reliable targets in the passing game.
Saturday marks the 13th meeting of the teams since Hammonds rise to power in 2006. The Skyhawks have a 10-2 edge in the series during the span, including a 5-0 edge in the postseason. Wilson Halls win two months ago ended an eight-game losing streak against the Skyhawks.
Hammond beat the Barons in the 2008 and 2011 championship games, and in the semifinals in 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Wilson Hall is 0-3 in state title bouts since whipping Heathwood Hall 34-21 in 2003.