Baxter’s Blitz

Baxter: Region 5-3A is strong at the top

scvarsity@ sc.rr.comApril 27, 2014 

I CONTINUE TO look at Midlands area football teams and speculate on their spring preparations for the 2014 season. Today, the focus is Region 5-3A.

Columbia will have a lot to address in spring drills, including breaking in a new system under a new coach. Graduation of talent, along with transfers of key players, will leave holes on both sides of the football, forcing the Capitals into a rebuilding season.

Eau Claire lost key players to graduation but returns Tierell Brown at running back to lead the charge on offense. Rising senior Jordan Thompson will help on both sides of the football at quarterback and free safety. The Shamrocks’ challenge will be adding depth and trying to fill holes in the trenches.

Fairfield Central took a big hit to graduation in key spots. The Griffins will be looking for a new quarterback, and that is the biggest hole they will have to fill. The team was able to build depth over the past two seasons, and the defense should be strong again this season. Shadarius Hopkins can play on both sides of the football for the Griffins and will be a leader.

Keenan returns a king’s ransom of talent to the roster, including the state’s interception leader in Kendrick Gathers, who doubles as a receiver on offense. The Raiders will build their line around three-year starter Justice Worley on offense and around defensive end Tank Williams on defense. Look for quarterback Deion Trezevant to lead the offense again.

Mid-Carolina struggled through a down season. While they played with some youth, they have a lot of areas of concern in skills and in the trenches. This is a strong region at the top, and the Rebels have a tall task to win more than one game in region play.

Newberry is coming back strong with skills players, including quarterback Yafari Werts. Omar Sims returns to the backfield on offense, but the Bulldogs lost talent on the line and will have to fill that void. Defensively, rising senior Khalil Sheppard returns at strong safety, but a lot of talent was lost in the front seven, and that will need to be addressed.

Pelion returns the region’s top player in wide receiver/defensive back Freddie Phillips, but getting him the ball on offense will be the focus this spring. One quarterback candidate could be rising junior Daniel Hawkins, who saw time there, at wide receiver and on defense last season. The Panthers’ offensive line will be an area of focus, but Colt Bedenbaugh does return to anchor that unit.

Early Projection for Region 3-2A:

1. Fairfield Central; 2. Keenan; 3. Newberry; 4. Pelion; 5. Columbia; 6. Mid-Carolina; 7. Eau Claire

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