Coaches and players around the Dutch Fork football program are not pleased with the end results through the first nine weeks of the regular season.
Most outsiders probably look at the 7-2 record and No. 2 ranking in the latest South Carolina Prep Media Poll and believe things are going smoothly. But the defending Class 4A, Division I champions feel like they haven’t played up to their potential.
Despite that feeling, the Silver Foxes travel to undefeated Westwood (9-0, 3-0) Friday night, with the winner claiming the Region 4-4A title.
Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts hopes it’s the wake-up call he’s been looking for.
“I’m not satisfied with this team,” Knotts said. “I look at them as a bunch of underachievers, and that doesn’t seem to bother them. We need to get the mindset that we’re the hunter rather than the hunted, and we haven’t done that at any time during this season. We’ve only played two pretty decent games. That’s just the bottom line. But I do think our guys will rise to the occasion. ”
Senior running back and Shrine Bowl selection Matt Colburn, who has 995 yards and 20 touchdowns in 61/2 games because of a lingering ankle injury, has noticed the sometimes lackadaisical approach.
“We’ve acknowledged we were hunting to beat the Byrnes of the world, but now everybody is out to get us,” Colburn said. “We’re trying to continue to have great effort and play our game and to our expectations and standards.”
Shrine Bowl safety Lane Ecton agrees Dutch Fork hasn’t played each week with maximum effort.
“Teams have been preparing harder than us, which needs to change,” Ecton said. “It’s on the seniors to get everybody to take it serious.”
Westwood is in its first season of 4A competition after competing on the Class 3A level the first two seasons of varsity football. The Redhawks went 1-9 that first year and 7-5 last year before steamrolling opponents this season.
It’s caught the attention of Dutch Fork.
“They’re not undefeated by chance,” Knotts said. “They’re well-coached and athletic. You can also tell how hungry they are. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”
Dutch Fork is averaging 44.7 points per game and has not scored fewer than 25 points in a game this year. Westwood hasn’t allowed more than 18 points in a game and holds opponents to an average of 7.3 points per game. The Redhawks have held seven of their nine opponents to one touchdown or less.
Colburn and quarterback Tate Fant will be the key components if the Silver Foxes are going to be successful.
“They’re sound and are really big,” Colburn said of the Westwood defense. “They can run and are fast. It’s going to be a challenge, no doubt, but if we give great effort, complete our assignments and do our job accordingly, I think we can come out on top.”
The Westwood offense also has been impressive. Led by quarterback Nick Leveretter, running back Andrew Plante and North-South receiver Adonus Lee, the Redhawks are averaging more than 36 points per game.
Dutch Fork’s goal is to put together 48 minutes of its best football.
“I will put it out there – we’re a state championship team, but we’re not playing like one,” Knotts said. “It’s not something I’m proud of, because it starts with me. (The players) keep telling me to wait until playoff time, and I think that is a dangerous way to live. If they don’t turn it on (Friday night), then it’s just not meant to be, so we’ll see.”