QUESTION: Can you give me your picks for the winners for the state championships, and why?
ANSWER: That is a tough call; when you get to this point, everyone is good and everyone deserves to be there. I’ll take a stab at it, though.
In Class 2A Div. I: We have a rematch of last season with Fairfield Central and Dillon. I like the Griffins’ chances, as they are a little better than they were last year. Dillon, while strong on defense, is not as strong in the trenches. I’m going with the Griffins in a close one.
In Class 2A Div. II: Batesburg-Leesville will play Silver Bluff in a battle of storied programs. Each is battle-tested against tough competition. I like the offensive skills that the Panthers bring to the game with the flexbone, and believe Jerry Brown is a master at coaching that scheme. The Panthers have been my sleeper since Week 3 and I’m going with them.
In Class 3A: Myrtle Beach has gotten better during the season and has quality wins in the playoffs. I believe it got lucky in the turnover battle against Marlboro County last week, and I believe Daniel will be the best defense they’ve seen. I also like Daniel’s offense with a solid quarterback in Andy McCall and the state’s best running back, Jae’lon Oglesby. I’m going with the Lions.
In Class 4A Div. II: The state’s best team, Northwestern, will take on Stratford. Northwestern’s Mason Rudolph and Stratford’s Jacob Park are two Shrine Bowl quarterbacks. I like Northwestern’s defense, which could make the difference.
In Class 4A Div. I: Dutch Fork takes on Sumter. Each pulled off upsets to get to the final. Both coaches — Tom Knotts of Dutch Fork and Reggie Kennedy of Sumter — are among the best in the state. Sumter has speed and a gifted wide receiver in Ky’Jon Tyler. But Dutch Fork has the complete package — size, speed, and coaching. Its line is talented, its defense is aggressive, and its quarterback, Derek Olenchuk, is a field general. I like the Foxes.
QUESTION: Who do you think will win Mr. Football next week?
ANSWER: I don’t know, because you never can tell why the committee votes the way they do on these things. A better question would be about the kids who didn’t make the top five finalists. Of the candidates — Donnell Stanley, OL, Latta; Christian Miller, LB, Spring Valley; Jae’lon Oglesby, RB, Daniel; Mason Rudolph, QB, Northwestern; and Jacob Park, QB, Stratford — I would think a skill player is going to have an advantage, usually a quarterback, so it would be between Park and Rudolph. Rudolph has led the Trojans to an unbeaten season thus far, has led them to the state title game for the second time in his two years as starter. He also got a signature win against Byrnes. I would think that Rudolph has the edge.