big 3A move
The Swansea Tigers made a big leap over the past four seasons, going from winless to winning streak to the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
Now they look to carry that success into the 2012 season as they make another big jump, this time into Class 3A. With Travis Loadholt at running back and Byron Johnson leading the Tigers on both sides of the ball, Swansea has its work cut out.
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Making the move into Region 5-3A along with the Tigers is perennial power Strom Thurmond. And Airport, a team quite adept at offense and fond of region titles, could also be a stumbling block or stepping stone on the Tigers’ path.
2. New coaches
look to improve teams’ fortunes
Two seasons ago, the Batesburg-Leesville Panthers’ roster was gutted by graduation and transfer. This season, the Panthers are retooling with a new coach, Jerry Brown.
Darryl Page, three years removed from his Class 3A title at Wilson, takes the wheel at Lower Richland.
And at Cardinal Newman, Brannon Tidwell heads up a squad that posted two wins in the past three seasons.
3. A.C. Flora
Although they lost star quarterback Stephen Cagle, perhaps the biggest change for the A.C. Flora Falcons, who had the program’s best season on record in 2011, is the loss of key offensive linemen Dequan Miller, Max Reeder and Matt Hall.
Without Cagle’s experience and intellect in the pocket, the strong front that trio created will be sorely missed as the Falcons’ new quarterback gets his footing.
Senior Jack Hudgens may be the only returner on that unit, and depending on its learning curve, it may take a few weeks for the Falcons to return to form on offense.
4. The Skyhawks reloaded
Despite graduation and injury, the Skyhawks always seem to rebound well between seasons, and this year may be no different.
After winning their sixth consecutive state championship, the Skyhawks bid farewell to two of their biggest offensive weapons — running backs Joey DeAngelis and BJ Bennett. But they have lots of talent returning, led by quarterback Jake Nidiffer, receiver Doak Fisher and defensive back Braden Shockley.
Whether or not they match last year’s 15-2 finish or make a run at a seventh title, the Skyhawks once again have the tools for a strong season.
5. Richland Northeast
turns up the A.C.
Traditionally, Richland Northeast has had the benefit of strong running backs. This season, quarterback A.C. Whaley may be the Cavaliers’ star.
The rising senior averaged more than 200 yards per game passing and has the legs to run, too.
With Darius Paulk and Chavarrius Curry-Felix departed, Whaley has the opportunity to shine even brighter.
6. Lexington’s offense remains
in good hands
With the departure of all-around athlete Shaq Roland, the Lexington Wildcats’ offense took a hit. But with junior quarterback Will Hunter at the helm, Lexington still stands to have a huge offense. With two Shrine Bowl receivers — Roland and Jalen Cook — in his sights, Hunter completed 3,389 yards passing last season. This year, Lexington’s receiving corps does not have the big names, but it does have plenty of potential in Curtis Walker.
7. On the
Many of the area’s top receivers moved on to college fields since last season, but several returners are chomping at the bit to fill those gloves.
For A.C. Flora, Schroder Carlton has the chance to make an even bigger impact, after posting 933 yards and 12 touchdowns while sharing receptions with Tenorio Johnson in 2011.
At Columbia, Diante Petruso, Tevin Brown and Paris Jackson are among the Capitals looking to replicate the firepower of departees Casey Gladney, Justin Muller and Brandon Shaw.
8. C.A. Johnson’s maturing talent
Although the Hornets have been far from dominant in Class A, they do put a great array of talented athletes on the field. Among their returners are wide receivers Peter Goodman and Anthony Eaddy, quarterback Michael Knox and senior defensive back Isaiah Crearer.
The Hornets were 3-7 last season and have not won more than four games in season in a decade. Could this be the year that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?
9. Dutch Fork’s
Under coach Tom Knotts, the Silver Foxes have been a fiercely competitive squad through the regular season. But their post-season efforts have fizzled in the early rounds and they have yet to reach the Class 4A semifinals.
Coach Tom Knotts pushes for a state title each season. Despite the loss of running back Brandon Quattlebaum, expect Dutch Fork to be pressing to break through to the third round.
10. And the kicker
Last season, Irmo’s Ben Hinson was a bright spot for the Yellow Jackets on more than one occasion. The presence or absence of strong, accurate kicking can turn a game.
This season, many teams will find themselves in need of a solid boot. Three teams that won’t have to worry: Irmo, which gets Hinson back for one more year; Swansea, which has Arthur Myers; and Lexington, which is doubly blessed in Gray Griffin and Adrian Leon.