Baxter: North Augusta the favorite in revamped Region 5-4A

08/13/2014 10:16 PM

08/13/2014 10:17 PM

REGION 5-4A finished in a flurry last season, with a three-way tie between Dutch Fork (now in Region 4), Lexington, and North Augusta.

It promises to be different this season.

River Bluff, coached by David Bennett, replaces Dutch Fork. The Gators played a mostly junior varsity schedule last year, so they will be jumping into a fire.

Coaching changes at Irmo and North Augusta will affect those programs. North Augusta should be the region favorite with experience at quarterback and a solid group of skills players and offensive linemen.

Lexington is in the second spot but might fall to third or fourth, depending on its quarterback play. The Wildcats struggled with the passing game in summer workouts.

Defensively, the Wildcats are strong in the secondary. If Lexington fills the void at quarterback, it might win the region; if not, they could sink as low as fourth.

Irmo brings in coach Reggie Kennedy, who led Sumter to the state 4A Division I title game in his first year with the Gamecocks.

The Jackets lost a lot to graduation, so predicting them third is a gamble, but there is a tradition at Irmo and Kennedy might work his magic like he did with Sumter last season.

White Knoll could be a pleasant surprise. It has the top region running back in E’mond Brown, but, like Lexington, it will struggle at quarterback. Bringing Bart Miller in as the offensive coordinator was a brilliant move for coach Dean Howell, and it will make a difference.

Defensively, look for the Timberwolves to be physical. Behind the Timberwolves is River Bluff, who will more than likely battle with South Aiken for the fifth spot.

PRESEASON MVP

North Augusta quarterback Tribb Reece is the preseason favorite at MVP. He’s going to put up big numbers and will be a deciding factor in several games down the stretch.

SLEEPER PLAYER

TO WATCH

Watch for Lexington cornerback Nick Graves. He excels at corner, but he is a Div. I-level safety.

SLEEPER TEAM

Definitely Irmo. This team is a sleeper because I don’t know how good it can be.

The Yellow Jackets had a “decent” season last year, but were underachievers and suffered bad breaks in several games. Kennedy took over a similar situation at Sumter, but was opportunistic and got them to the title game.

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