Class 4A Division II
Northwestern Trojans vs. Stratford Knights
Coaches: Ray Stackley, Stratford; Kyle Richardson, Northwestern
Records: Stratford, 12-2; Northwestern, 14-0
Key players: Northwestern quarterback Mason Rudolph, Stratford quarterback Jacob Park
Outlook: The Trojans average 47 points per game, compared to 31 for Stratford, but the defenses are evenly matched, each allowing two touchdowns per game. Georgia signee Jacob Park is strong from the pocket, completing 225 of 422 passes with 13 interceptions. He has passed for 3,340 yards and 29 touchdowns. Park has strong options at receiver. Senior Thad Thompson is good for 22.5 yards per catch and has hauled in 12 touchdowns; Tyree Scroggins has 787 yards and eight touchdowns. Mason Rudolph leads Northwestern with 288.6 passing yards per game and has posted 58 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Leading receivers Dupree Hart and Quadarious Fair split the receptions.
Defense and special teams will decide this title match.
Northwestern has six blocked kicks and six kick-return touchdowns, led by Jaquavio Mackey and Hart. Knights kicker Tyler Tekac has a 45-yard field goal range, averages 38 yards per punt and is 53-of-55 on extra points.
Stratford’s defensive scoring could prove an advantage. Stratford has five defensive touchdowns — with linebackers TJ Deveaux and Cecil Smith converting opponents’ turnovers.
Daniel Lions vs. Myrtle Beach Seahawks
Coaches: Randy Robinson, Daniel; Mickey Wilson, Myrtle Beach
Records: Daniel, 16-0; Myrtle Beach, 12-4
Key players: Daniel running back Jae’lon Oglesby, Myrtle Beach quarterback Arnold Drayton
Outlook: Linebackers Malik Pryor and Calvin Vereen lead a Myrtle Beach defense that has allowed opponents 23 points per game.
To stop the undefeated Lions, the Seahawks will have to slow Daniel’s rushing game. The Lions average 271 yards on the ground, led by Oglesby, who averages 9.7 yards per carry. Daniel consistently outgains opponents, as its defense is steadfast against both running and passing attacks.
The Seahawks are a balanced squad, but their offensive line will be challenged by a defense that allows 73 rushing yards per game and has produced 32 sacks and 17 interceptions. Drayton’s accuracy — at 141-285-12 for the season — is key, and turnovers could prove a killer. Daniel has a plus-12 turnover margin.
Class 4A Division I
Sumter Gamecocks vs. Dutch Fork Silver Foxes
Coaches: Reggie Kennedy, Sumter; Tom Knotts, Dutch Fork
Records: Sumter, 10-5; Dutch Fork, 13-3
Key players: Dutch Fork running back Matt Colburn
Outlook: Dutch Fork’s game plan runs through Colburn, who will get his usual 20-30 carries. The key for Dutch Fork is opening up the box for Colburn with a strong air attack piloted by Derek Olenchuk. Olenchuk has been efficient, with 36 touchdowns, a 71 percent completion rate and six interceptions. Leading receiver Deion Frasier accounts for 73.2 yards per game, and the Silver Foxes’ passing game is good for 240 yards on average.
The Silver Foxes are skilled at moving the ball, especially in third down and red-zone situations. For Sumter, the team of quarterback James Barnes and leading receiver Ky’Jon Tyler is tasked with driving the offensive production. Barnes is 163-307-9 for 2,258 yards and 25 touchdowns. Tyler averages 16.7 yards per catch with 18 touchdowns. The Gamecocks’ leading rushers, Quintein Anderson and Russell Jenkins, average about 80 yards per game together. The Gamecock offense will have to capitalize on Dutch Fork turnovers, and the Silver Foxes must play a complete game and set the tone early.
Akilah Imani Nelson