Baxter: A look at Region 5-4A’s Midlands teams

April 17, 2014 

HERE’S A LOOK at Region 5-4A Midlands teams as spring football practice gets under way.

Lexington had a stellar season under first-year coach Josh Stepp but has a lot to work. The Wildcats have a huge void at quarterback with the graduation of four-year starter Will Hunter. Rumors of a transfer linger, it hasn’t happened yet. They have rising junior wide receiver Jason Hopper, along with running back Slade Carroll on offense. Defensively, safety/linebacker Jordan Carr returns to lead the secondary.

Irmo moves back to the region, replacing Dutch Fork, which moved to Region 4. The Yellow Jackets will be looking for a quarterback, again. Manny Banks returns at wide receiver and he has looked very good in off-season workouts. Ronnie Jamison gives the Jackets experience at running back, having played behind Shyheim Copeland last season. Defensively, they lost several key players but return Jalen Bell up front and Juwan Freeman at linebacker.

White Knoll second-year coach Dean Howell likely will focus on finding playmakers for the quarterback and running back positions. Calev Grubbs returns at wide receiver. On the front, the Timberwolves lost senior leadership to graduation and will rely on a less experienced group after graduating two players who will move on to college ball.

The River Bluff Gators enter Class 4A for their first year of varsity competition, and will not find it hospitable. They enter in a year during which most of the region is down, but it will be a big step up from the junior varsity schedule they played last season in 3A. They return Brandon Tillman at quarterback but will need to find a cast to surround him. Perhaps their biggest weapon will Diante Petruso at wide receiver. Getting stronger up front will be key for coach David Bennett’s team. Defensively, the Gators will be scrappy but not overpowering. Look for defensive back Paul Leonard to be a key.

Early Projection for Region 4-4A

1. North Augusta; 2. Lexington; 3. Irmo; 4. White Knoll; 5. South Aiken; 6.River Bluff

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