IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for me to not start this notebook with the incredible story of Hartsville capturing the State 3A championship title after overcoming tragedy on their team and in their community.
Hartsville beat Union County, 62-27, Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The death of teammate Ronald Rouse during a regular-season game was the “Win Beneath Our Wings” as their game entrance sign stated. No. 74 was an inspiration to the Red Foxes and coach Jeff Calabrese, as well as the football community of South Carolina.
“These kids are resiliant,” Calabrese said, “and to overcome the emotional adversity they were challenged with is a tribute their character.”
While the running back has been reduced to a co-star in the evolving game, it was a position of vital importance in the Weekend of Champions.
Hartsville’s Trey Samuel and Trey Rogers combined for seven touchdowns and 384 rushing yards. Rogers rushed for 274 yards.
Greenwood’s Ocatvius Morgan rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, and averaged 7.1 yards per carry in the Eagles’ 31-24 win over Northwestern.
Abbeville’s O’Brien Wilson, in a losing effort, rushed for 141 yards. Dutch Fork senior Trey Gregg rushed for 148 yards and a score in the Foxes’ 34-22 loss to Gaffney.
There were several players remembered for big hits:
Bishop England linebacker Zach Richter, who had 10 tackles against Abbeville;
Bishop England teammate DeAngelo Stephenson had several big-time hits on receivers in the secondary;
Gaffney defensive end Jaylen Miller and linebacker Quan Weeks were tough against Dutch Fork;
Greenwood linebacker A.K. Reeder had 15 tackles against the Trojans;
The top offensive unit was Hartsville. The Red Foxes generated 512 yards on 59 plays.
Bishop England had the best defense, giving up 184 yards in a shutout.
Future looks bright
The number of standout underclassmen was impressive.
At the top of this list is Dillon freshman quarterback Avery McCall. I’ve been evaluating players since 1984 and this young man is the best freshman quarterback I’ve seen. His quick release and great footwork, as well as his poise, are rarely seen in a quarterback his age.
Fairfield Central junior quarterback DeAndre Belton is a great athlete playing a dual threat for the Griffins, and will be a key in their success next season.
Northwestern junior quarterback Mason Rudolph demonstrated a cannon for an arm and showed why LSU was impressed enough to be his first offer.
Gaffney junior Shaq Davidson is one of the top targets for the Class of 2014. A quarterback for the Indians, he is a natural wide receiver and I would love to see him play safety.
Teammate running back Hylek Foster, a junior, gives the Indians a strong run option to balance their attack.
Dutch Fork defensive end Lane Ecton, a sophomore, had 10 tackles and two tackles for loss.