Two all-Midlands contests highlight the first round of the Class 2A state football playoffs.
Newberry (6-4) at Keenan (8-2)
Game notes: Keenan finished off its second consecutive 8-2 regular-season with a 33-12 rout of Eau Claire. It’s the best two-season showing in school history and the best performance since the Buddy Pough era in the early 1990s … Now, the goal is to bag the first playoff win since 1992 when Pough guided the Raiders to a third-round effort in the Class 3A playoffs … Keenan sports a balanced, at times explosive, offensive attack featuring the running of tough Phillip George, the throwing of veteran quarterback Antonio Perry and the catching staff of Dennis Rowe, Spencer Jasper and Kyari Williams … Newberry is, well Newberry. The Bulldogs run the ball, and run it some more. They turn to the pass only in desperation or in an attempt to catch a sleepy secondary. As usual, they is a bevy of solid runners to do the job, including veteran Montagus Caldwell … Newberry enters the playoffs mire in a two-game losing streak, but the setbacks against Strom Thurmond and M-C were by a combined eight points … Newberry playoff report card in the midern era (since 1970) is 23-22. Keenan, on the other hand, has only four wins in 19 playoffs games since the program debut in 1971.
Columbia (7-3) at Batesburg-Leesville (6-4)
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Game notes: The last time B-L entered the state playoffs with less than seven wins was in 2004, which is also the last time the Panthers were expelled in the first round, ironically by Columbia. The difference this time is Batesburg-Leesville is at home … Both teams have had injury issues. The respective quarterbacks – K.J. Johnson (B-L) and Kevin Davis (Columbia) – have spent time on the shelf. B-L’s biggest problem was the loss to standout linebacker Dametrius Robinson for a large portion of the campaign … Davis returned last week, but the Capitals dropped a 42-27 decision to Central to end up as the No. 3 seed in Region 4-2A … The Panthers ended up as the No. 2 seed in Region 3-2A thanks to Mid-Carolina’s win over Newberry that created a three-way tie for second place. B-L had the tie-breaking edge, even though it lost to Newberry during the conference campaign … The Panthers sport a sparkling 60-23 playoff record in the modern era, while Columbia is 15-19.
Mid-Carolina (6-4) at Central (8-2)
Game notes: Aside from pride and retaining the Hedgepath Trophy for a third straing year, the Rebels did not get any tangible benefit from closing the regular season with a 20-19 win over county rival Newberry. The verdict did ruin the Bulldogs bid to finish second in Region 3-2A and rate a first round home game in the playoffs, but M-C picked up no ground in the final region state seeding process … As a result, Mid-Carolina’s No. 4 status relegates them to a long road trip to Pageland and a date with the 9-1, Region 4-2A champion Central Eagles … Neither team throws the ball very much. The Rebels rely on a rushing attack that features Krishawn Holley (128-838-8), Clarence Turner (95-736-8) and Quin Cureton (84-346-9). Central takes a wishbone approach and employs an army of running backs with no clear standout … The advantage could go to the defense that keeps the other team from controlling the clock. M-C’s defense has had a statistically impressive season, allowing an average of just 187.9 yards and 14.9 points a game. Devin Holland, Jared Homesley, Jendrelle Neal. Kane Summer and Rion Werts have been among the unit leaders … M-C sports a 16-13 playoff record since 1970 and scored its first postseason win last season in 11 years. Central stands at 58-27 in playoff matters and hasn’t lost in the first round since 1995 … The teams have split two previous playoff encounters. The Rebels sent the Eagles packing in the second round on the way to winning the 1985 state championship. Central returned the favor two years later – eliminating the Rebels in the 1987 semifinals.
Eau Claire (1-9) at Strom Thurmond (8-2)
Game notes: Talk about making the most of meager assets. We give you the Eau Claire Shamrocks, who won just one time in 10 outings under first-year coach Ronnie Baker. It wasn’t much. In fact, EC was a bit better at 2-8 a year ago. But lo and below the Shamrocks are a state playoff qualifier, thanks to the magic of the tie-breaking system employed in Region 4-2A … Here’s what happened: Eau Claire did not clinch a playoff spot by winning any games after it posted a 25-20 win over Lee Central in the third round of region play. The only chance EC had to make the cut was for Lee Central to get it’s first region win in the last game of the season against Andrew Jackson, score more than 25 points and allow more than 16. The Stallions fulfilled all the requirements by defeating the Volunteers 26-23. The outcome created a three-way tie for fourth place and lined up the tie-breaking factors in EC’s favor … After the numbers were crunched, the Shamrocks found themselves with a playoff invitation in hand for the first time since 1992 … Expecting the universe to be in such perfect alignment again to produce EC’s first playoff triumph since 1970 this week at Strom Thurmond against the 8-2, Region 3-2A champion Rebels probably is a bit unrealistic.