WHILE I ENJOY every week of football during the season, this is my favorite week: semifinals week.
Championship week is exciting, too, but the games lose something when they leave the small towns and packed stadiums and move to USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium, were two-thirds of the seats will be empty.
Home-field advantage is still at play in the semifinals. Last season, of the 14 semifinal matchups, 10 of the home teams won. That may have more to do with the higher seed being better, but it is still a larger element of excitement to be playing in your own full house.
In the semifinals, it is your last chance as a team to set yourself from the rest. If you lose, you become one of a couple hundred teams that fell short of its goal. If you get to the finals and lose, you can say you were among the two best teams in the state.
Byrnes at Gaffney: The Indians have beaten the Rebels this season. Look for them to slow the game and pound the middle.
White Knoll at Dutch Fork: The Timberwolves’ dream season could be over as they take on a fast-paced Dutch Fork offense.
Northwestern at Goose Creek: The Gators struggled with a Bluffton pass attack last week and this week faces an even more explosive offense. If they get by the SCHSL today, they will have their hands full.
Greenwood at South Pointe: The Greenwood Eagles will travel to face a South Pointe defense that is more fierce than any they have seen this season, anchored by all-state defensive lineman Zeke Rodney.
Union County at Daniel: While the Yellow Jackets are hot with the 3A’s best quarterback, Keiston Smith, the Lions defense is forcing teams to play on their own side of the field.
Strom Thurmond at Hartsville: Perhaps the best matchup in the state. Hartsville continues to roll with a powerful ground game. But can the Rebels’ offense exploit the back third of the Red Foxes defense, which seems to be vulnerable at times?
Newberry at Fairfield Central: Newberry is playing excellent on both sides of the ball but the Griffins are getting better each week.
Dillon at Timberland: A rematch of last season’s semifinal match up, the Wildcats are rolling behing the rushing of Joe Blue. Timberland continues to play strong defensively.
Abbeville at Chesnee: This may be one of those games where the visitor gets the edge. Abbeville is a
powerhouse on offense with quarterback Kelly Bryant. The Eagles, however, are explosive on offense and will challenge the Panthers’ defense.
Bishop England at Silver Bluff: Each of these teams is strong on both sides of the football but the difference I see is in the strength of schedule, which gives Silver Bluff an edge.
We’ll look at the finals of 1A on Thursday.