Summerville at Sumter
In his first season at Sumter, coach Reggie Kennedy’s team recovered from a 1-4 start and enters the Class 4A Division I semifinal with a 9-5 record. The Gamecocks, a No. 7 seed in the tournament, average 29 points per game, and have won six in a row.
Gamecocks kicker Vincent Watkins proved he can be a difference-maker. He converted the game-winner in Sumter’s second-round upset of No. 2 seed Hillcrest. Against the No. 3 seeded Green Wave, the Gamecocks will need a complete game.
Summerville (12-2) also advanced thanks to a late field goal against Boiling Springs.
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The Green Wave’s assertive defense, led by playmakers Jamal Lucas and Kawuan Cox, could give Sumter quarterback James Barnes trouble. The Gamecocks’ front line must give Barnes time to deliver the ball, and receivers Marquise Moore and Kyjon Tyler will have to shake coverage.
Quarterback Sawyer Bridges guides the Green Wave offense, which averages 30 points per game, and is a threat on the ground and through the air. Receiver William Luck is sturdy and reliable for Summerville, and the Gamecocks’ defensive backfield, led by all-star Erick Wright, will have to work to shut him down.
Fairfield Central at Cheraw
The Fairfield Central Griffins (13-0) can match the Braves strength for strength on offense.
In this Class 2A Division I semifinal, Fairfield Central will look for quarterback DeAndre Belton to be as accurate as ever. He will be charged with guiding the Griffins over and through a Cheraw defense that allows 249 yards per game.
Belton has thrown for 1,586 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Kewaun Squirewell, Javaris Cook and Tyren White are his primary targets.
With leading rusher Larry Bell combined with the ground gains of Belton and Joshua Young, the Griffins average 368.8 yards per game.
The efficient offense of the Braves (8-4) averages 269 yards per game, grinding out 149 yards on the ground. The Griffins’ defense will key on Khalil Newton, who gets most of the carries for the Braves, and averages 7.5 yards per carry. Mark Bowman is a solid short-yardage runner.
Quarterback Robert Pitts gives the Braves balance with an average of 120 passing yards. But he will see pressure from Griffins sack-leaders Devin Simmons and Khalil Keitt.
Taking care of the ball is key for Fairfield Central, as Cheraw has a plus-5 turnover margin and the tools to make takeaways count.
Batesburg-Leesville at Chesnee
The Chesnee Eagles (12-1) has a strong offensive front that clears the way for an average of 257 yards in the rushing game and protects quarterback Darrius Proctor, who has thrown for 2,004 yards and 22 touchdowns. Proctor leads the Eagles’ ground game with 1,472 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Keeping him out the end zone will go a long toward tipping the advantage in the Panthers’ favor.
The Eagles have outscored their opponents by a 26-point margin, and their average of 48 points per game bests Batesburg-Leesville by 10 points. Both defenses have allowed 22 points per game.
But the Panthers can put a damper on Chesnee’s offense with its bend-don’t-break defense. The Panthers’ secondary, led by Ray Norris and Jacquarius Hair, can get their hands on some Proctor passes and give Batesburg-Leesville a leg up.
The Panthers’ offense, spearheaded by Jac’Quiel Chandler under center, focuses on the rushing attack, but can take to the air with Jacob Lanning as the main target. Running backs Terrance Wilson and Ricky Smith each are good for about 100 yards per game and can run routes that give the Panthers options in the passing game.
Dutch Fork at Byrnes
Against the big offense of Byrnes, Dutch Fork (11-3) needs to play a complete, mistake-free game.
Averaging 527 yards and eight touchdowns per game, the Rebels have the shock-and-awe offense that does not need any aid. The Rebels make big plays for long yards — notching an average 200 yards more than their opponents despite holding the ball for fewer than 20 minutes per game.
With quarterback Shuler Bentley under center and Shaedon Meadors lining up wide, the Rebels do a lot of work in little time with their passing game. Tavin Richardson and Greg McHam together average 120 yards. The Silver Foxes will try to break up Bentley’s passing game to limit the Rebels’ production.
Byrnes averages 381 passing yards; the Silver Foxes have held opponents to fewer than 150 yards.
To accomplish that against Byrnes, Dutch Fork will have to be strong on fourth down, when the Rebels convert on 78 percent of their attempts.
And the Silver Fox offense — which produces 481 yards and 42 points per game — must capitalize on every trip inside the red zone.
Quarterback Derek Olenchuk leads the offense with more than 260 yards per game passing and a 75 percent completion rate. Running back Matt Colburn delivers more than 180 yards per game and leads the team in scoring.
Akilah Imani Nelson