Seven area teams officially begin their hopeful pursuit of a coveted state title this week as the first round of the playoffs for Class AAA, AA and A commence.
Some teams (Socastee, Carvers Bay) have significantly better chances than others (Andrews, Waccamaw). Still, as the postseason kicks off this week, the teams still playing know they have a shot.
There's also a regular-season game at Carolina Forest that will greatly determine where Conway stands when the Class AAAA playoffs start next week. The Panther have been eliminated, but there's a strong possibility that with a victory, the Tigers win the Region VI-AAAA title. It would probably put Conway at home in the playoffs for the first time since before star quarterback Mykal Moody's career began.
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On to this week's picks:
CONWAY (5-5, 2-1) AT CAROLINA FOREST (1-9, 0-3): Let's face it, Carolina Forest is struggling, and while the Panthers' first season in Class AAAA resulted in a 0-11 season, this one might be more painful. Carolina Forest had high hopes of gaining enough points to earn a playoff bid for the first time in the state's largest class. Instead, the Panthers are left playing spoiler. That may not be enough motivation to overcome what is a sizable talent disadvantage this season against Conway. Prediction: Conway 44, Carolina Forest 25
HEMINGWAY (5-5) AT CARVERS BAY (9-1): Carvers Bay coach Nate Thompson's team couldn't have positioned itself better for the Class A, Division I playoffs. The Bears have the No. 1 seed in the Lower State and have home-field advantage through the state semifinals. And while this game might have looked like another classic match-up, Carvers Bay's 32-7 win over the Tigers earlier this year took some of the luster off this rivalry. Expect something similar this week. Prediction: Carvers Bay 30, Hemingway 13
ANDREWS (2-8) AT MULLINS (3-7): An Andrews offense that had some potential prior to the season has flatlined down the stretch. The Yellow Jackets have scored just 18 points combined in their last three games, including a shutout loss to state powerhouse Timberland. That could be cured some by playing a team in Mullins that has allowed more than 28 points per game this season. However, Andrews' defense is also in a funk. Prediction: Mullins 25, Andrews 21
KINGSTREE (1-9) AT AYNOR (7-3): Aynor not only earned a home playoff game; the Blue Jackets were also rewarded by getting a first-round match-up against Kingstree. The Jaguars have struggled like few others in the state the last three seasons. And there's no reason to believe they will miraculously turn things around against a team that can overwhelm solid teams with its power running game. Prediction: Aynor 41, Kingstree 10
WACCMAW (3-7) AT BATTERY CREEK (5-5): Waccamaw has not exactly played well against teams with strong running games this season. One by one, opponents like North Myrtle Beach, Timmonsville, Loris, Aynor and Dilon all put up hefty rushing totals. That's bad news for the Warriors, who this week face off against a Battery Creek team that is starting to perfect the triple option. Prediction: Battery Creek 36, Waccamaw 20.
GEORGETOWN (6-4) AT MARLBORO COUNTY (7-3): Georgetown can take some solace in that three of its four losses came to teams that eventually won their regions - or in the case of the season-opening loss to Conway, to a team that still may. However, it was the pair of defeats to Region VII-AAA teams Socastee and Myrtle Beach that has coach Bradley Adams' team heading on the road. Marlboro County, also nicknamed the Bulldogs, are ready for a shootout. Good thing; that's exactly what these teams may produce. Prediction: Marlboro County 39, Georgetown 36
CRESTWOOD (6-4) AT SOCASTEE (10-0): This is wear Socastee's offense become a big advantage. Teams rarely face teams in back-to-back weeks who runs similar schemes. And no one in the state is running the triple option like the Braves this season. At some point, opposing teams have to be able to mimic it in practice and, there may not be another quarterback who runs as quickly and effectively as Hunter Renfrow. Prediction: Socastee 35, Crestwood 14
MANNING (7-3) AT MYRTLE BEACH (9-1): Our game of the week should be a good one. Myrtle Beach hasn't been a No. 2 see in the playoffs since Mickey Wilson took over. And if the Seahawks win this one, they may not see Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium again this season. Don't think for one minute that this year's seniors want to make the most of it. The home-field advantage will add a nice touch to a team that is coming off consecutive shutouts. Prediction: Myrtle Beach 24, Manning 10
Last week: 10-0