TRADITIONALLY, week zero has been reserved for jamborees across the state. But a few years ago, teams began scheduling games for this week, and would often try to find a team that was a sure win for the upcoming season.
Well, so much for tune-up games this week. Several of the top-ranked teams in the state have tough opponents for their season openers on Friday night.
Here’s a look at the top tickets for this week.
1. IRMO AT SOUTH POINTE
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Impact of Game: The Yellow Jackets can ill afford to start slowly like they did in 2011 when they travel to play the South Pointe Stallions, the defending 3A champions who are now a member of Class 4A.
Players To Watch: The two quarterbacks will be fun to watch in this game. Irmo’s Grant Davitte, who finished second overall in the 2012 QB1 Challenge, will be executing the Pistol offense for the Jackets this year, opening up their offense a bit. South Pointe quarterback Devin Pearson is one of the top players at his position in the senior class.
2. NORTHWESTERN AT GAFFNEY
Impact of game: Gaffney is ranked No. 3 and Northwestern No. 5 in the preseason scvarsity.com polls. A loss by either team could tumble them down a few spots, though I doubt it would take them completely out of the rankings. Also, every game in 4A is an impact game in terms of the points system for the playoffs.
Players to watch: Gaffney first-year starting quarterback Luke Lancaster will be taking on a huge pressure job. He can throw to wide receiver Shaquille Davidson, scvarsity.com’s top 2014 player. Northwestern has 5-foot-4, 150-pound wide receiver Dupree Hart, who is not only the smallest man on the field but one of the most dangerous.
3. CENTRAL (PAGELAND) AT DILLON
Impact of game: These two are familiar with each other and have met for a couple of state title match-ups. But Central decided to not renew the contract of a coach who averaged 10 wins per year after last season to “go in another direction” and now will face a powerhouse Dillon. Only an upset by Central could make an impact here. A loss could set, or reinforce, the tone for the Central Eagles for the rest of the season.
Players to watch: Dillon has a mammoth line, led by D.J. Park and Bryce King, along with running back Jabo Lee and Class of 2014 stud linebacker Joe Blue.
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Three games to keep an eye on being played by South Carolina teams against teams from outside of the state:
• 4A No. 1 Byrnes is on the road to take on Oscar Smith (Virginia). The Rebels are ranked No. 7 nationally and O.S. is ranked No. 19.
4A No.6 Dutch Fork will travel to Kentucky to take on St. Xavier, which played in the Kentucky semifinals last season.
• 3A No. 6 Strom Thurmond will host East Christian Academy from Maryland, which is nationally ranked at No. 77 by Rivals.com.
Baxter’s Blitz, which appears in The State on Mondays and Thursdays, is written by Jim Baxter, the owner of scvarsity.com. Read his columns on midlandspreps.com