A.C. Flora and Belton-Honea Path are almost mirror images of each other.
They both feature high-octane offenses that can score points at an almost video-game pace.
The defenses have given up their fair share of yards and points going into their second round match-up in the Class 3A football playoffs Friday night at Columbia’s Memorial Stadium.
Something has to give.
The Falcons have been on a tear since losing to North Gwinnett (Ga.) on Sept. 1. They have won eight in a row by averaging 51 points per game that included a school record 84 points in a win over Camden.
On the flip side, the defense is allowing an average of 22.1 points per game.
The Bears have a balanced attack that is averaging 41.1 points per game and are giving up 19.8 that included allowing 56 points last week in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We have to try and get a stop,” A.C. Flora coach Dean Howell said. “We get one stop and we’ll try and build on it and get another one. We’ve got some tendencies on them and think we can get our kids in pretty good position. The problem is, even if we’re in position, they have good players and they can make you miss. We’re hoping we can tackle well. If we can tackle them we have a chance.”
Quarterback Jake Lewis runs the controls for the Falcons (10-1). He has a stable of running backs that includes Aven Pollard, Keith Goss, JuWan Simon and R.J. Joyner. They average over 300 yards per game and seven yards per carry, with Lewis leading the way.
Shelton Whittaker and Schroder Carlton are more than capable receivers.
“Everything is working right now,” Lewis said. “From our backs to our wide receivers we have a bunch of upper classmen that has stepped in and taken over this team. We have four running backs that have been outstanding that can get eight yards a carry. When teams have to play the run, I can toss it out to one of our senior receivers that I know will catch the ball and make a play.”
Lewis also credits his offensive line.
“Our offensive line is not the biggest but they are the smartest offensive line,” the senior said. “Being able to combine our offensive line with our skill position players is hard to stop.”
The one thing Howell does not plan on changing is the Falcons’ offensive approach. It was good enough to reach the state semifinals last season.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Howell said. “We’re not really going to change. If they line up a certain way, we’re going to run certain plays. We attack everybody the same way.”
Howell liked the way his defense played down the stretch of the regular season. They had two shutouts in their final four regular season games before allowing 31 points to Pickens last week. Belton-Honea Path (8-3) averages over 200 yards on the ground and 200 yards through the air behind quarterback Matt Williams. The senior has thrown for 2,098 yards and leans on Korey Thompson and Keinan Lewis. Thompson has more than1,500 yards rushing on the season while Lewis, a Shrine Bowl pick at receiver, has 1,118 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“They play smart and have a good offensive line,” A.C. Flora defensive player Donato Pelzer said. “They have a solid backfield and receivers too. I guess you can say in a way they are just like us. It’s a challenge that we have to overcome.”
Howell believes the trend of high school offenses putting on displays that would make Oregon proud is a case of teams putting a huge emphasis on getting their better athletes on the offensive side of the ball. Defenses then must cover the entire field with so many spread offenses run on the high school level.
“They have good players and we have good players,” Howell said. “When you’re trying to play defense against good players, you can put guys in the right spot all you want but if that guy is a better athlete than your guy, he will still make you miss. It boils down to us tackling and not allowing the big play.”