The highlight of Week 5’s Midlands slate is the much-anticipated non-league contest between Class 4A heavyweights Dutch Fork and Goose Creek, but SCISA’s Hammond at Cardinal Newman could be just as intriguing:
DUTCH FORK (4-0)
AT GOOSE CREEK (4-0)
After a 42-39 win over Dorman, the Silver Foxes have established themselves as the Midlands’ best chance at a state championship. Goose Creek will be Dutch Fork’s greatest test in the non-league schedule. The Gators are undefeated, coming off a 49-28 victory over Fort Dorchester. Behind quarterback Derek Olenchuk and running back Matt Colburn (295 yards and five touchdowns against Dorman), the Silver Foxes have been a well-oiled machine on offense. But with the game being on the road, Goose Creek could hand Dutch Fork its first loss. The Gators are No. 3 in the Class 4A poll; Dutch Fork is No. 4.
HAMMOND (2-3, 1-2) AT CARDINAL NEWMAN (3-1, 2-1)
Cardinal Newman is having its best start since 2004, beating Augusta Christian for the first time and fresh off a 38-3 rout of Pinewood Prep. On offense, the Cardinals lean on running back Zakki Parker, who tallied two touchdowns against Pinewood Prep. Hammond, one of the top SCISA programs over the past decade, has struggled to start this season. The Skyhawks are using a two-quarterback system as they try to find an identity on offense. Hammond has won 11 in a row against Cardinal Newman, but if there was ever a year to buck that trend, this is it.
AT BLYTHEWOOD (2-2)
The Bengals didn’t get the start they were hoping for, but are on a two-game win streak after victories at Westwood and Lancaster. Sumter had the misfortune of playing both Stratford and North Augusta — two teams ranked in the top 10 for Class 4A — in its non-league schedule. While Blythewood is more comparable competition for the Fighting Gamecocks, the Bengals won this matchup at Sumter last year, 37-22.
GILBERT (3-1) AT BATESBURG-LEESVILLE (2-2)
Batesburg-Leesville is considered one of the better teams in Class 2A, despite the .500 record. The Panthers play all Class 3A teams in their non-league schedule and knocked off Swansea last week, 27-24. The Indians are on a three-game win streak since their loss to Saluda, and quarterback Mitch Spires (four touchdowns last week) and running back Jakayus Leaphart have been a powerful combination for Gilbert. With the game at Batesburg-Leesville, anticipate a close affair.
RIDGE VIEW (2-2)
AT WESTWOOD (1-3)
Though Westwood has two straight losses since its win over Richland Northeast, its 24-14 loss to Spring Valley wasn’t the blowout some may have expected. With an impressive defense, Ridge View has fared well considering its inexperience on offense, particularly in the case of senior quarterback Terrell Fetterson, who entered the season having not played football since his freshman year. The Blazers will lean on running back Walter Napper, who had two touchdowns last week. Though Westwood looks improved from last year, Ridge View should have the edge.