IT IS WITH a heavy heart with which I write this column.
Tragedy struck the high school football community with the death of Ronald Rouse, a senior defensive lineman at Hartsville, who died of a heart attack during a game Friday. My thoughts and prayers go to the Rouse family, his friends and coaches.
CLASS 4A, DIV. I
The division is deeper in strength than it has been in several years. Byrnes is the class, scoring 325 points in seven games and allowing 13 points per game.
Northwestern is 5-2 after losses to Byrnes and No. 3 South Point by a combined seven points. The Trojans have scored 313 points. The Trojan defense is not quite as dominating and has one shutout.
The next best team in this division is Dorman. The Cavs are 5-2 with losses to No. 5 Greenwood and Gaffney. They can win with time-of-possession football, and have a defense that has allowed 13 points per game in their wins.
Dutch Fork is 4-3 and has been impressive even in its losses. Five of its seven games were against teams with winning records and three have been against ranked opponents. Offensively, this team can play with anyone in the state but their defense will be suspect when they get past the first round of the playoffs.
Stratford and Wando are each unbeaten and have to be considered contenders. Stratford has allowed 10 points per game, but has played one team with a winning record. Wando has not played a winning team.
CLASS 4A, DIV. II
The top team is the defending champs, Goose Creek. The Gators are unbeaten and averaging 50 points per game and has allowed 11.5.
Defending 3A champions South Pointe is unbeaten, with wins over Northwestern and Blythewood. The Stallions have showcased one of the best defensive fronts and are a big second-half time.
Greenwood is unbeaten after seven games, but has played two teams with winning records.
York moved up from 3A and has stormed through their schedule unbeaten. They could be the sleeper in this division.
The cream of the crop is Daniel. The Lions allow six points per game, and in six straight wins they’ve given up three points per game with two shutouts.
A.C. FloraThe second best in the upstate is A.C. Flora. Its defense can be weak at times, but its secondary is strong.
Blue Ridge might be third-best in the Upstate, though Belton-Honea Path, Greer and Greenville could be playoff spoilers.
In the Lower State, Hartsville is the clear favorite at 454 yards rushing per game. It still has a tough region schedule remaining.
Strom Thurmond is second in the Lower State with a balanced attack.
Socastee has been impressive, running the option well and looking good in a win over Myrtle Beach last week.
Look for Manning, Marlboro County and Swansea to be contenders. Myrtle Beach has to be mentioned but its defense is suspect.
There are three teams in this division that I feel are clearly the favorites: Abbeville (6-1), coming off a win over Newberry; Dillon, with an offensive line that averages 250 pounds per player; and Timberland, which has one loss, and that was to Berkeley by one point.
Johnsonville is No. 2 in the polls, but I think they are the top team in the class. It is fundamentally sound and allows 11 points per game.
Christ Church has seven wins and has allowed eight points per game while averaging 38.
Allendale-Fairfax is 7-0 behind a powerful ground game and strong defense. It has given up 66 points in seven games, 30 in one of them.