Baxter: Hope springs for Midlands’ teams

05/06/2013 12:40 AM

05/06/2013 12:41 AM

SPRING PRACTICE is underway, and I wanted to take a look at a few of the teams in the Midlands area and how they could end up in their regions for the upcoming season. Today, we’ll focus on Region 4 and 5 in Class 4A.

Region 4-4A became very competitive last season, and 2013 should see more of the same with Spring Valley and Irmo standing out as the early favorites.

Spring Valley returns solid skills players on both sides, but one missing piece is at quarterback. Lack of consistency at that position hurt the Vikings last season, and they may turn to a sophomore. Defensively, they may be the best in the region.

Irmo returns the region’s best quarterback. The Yellow Jackets have a good core of skill players, but they will need to fill voids left on the defensive front if they want to win the region.

Blythewood again will be under the direction of a new coach, but Dan Morgan has been there as an assistant, so the transition might not be too bad. The Bengals have the athletes to compete for the region crown if they can find a quarterback.

Richland Northeast struggled in region play last season and probably will do so again this year. The Cavaliers lost key players to graduation, but they should be OK in the trenches. It will be difficult for them to finish higher than fourth in the region.

Ridge View is in the same boat as the Cavs. The Blazers lost their defensive ends to Presbyterian College and will battle with RNE for the fourth spot in region.

Lugoff-Elgin struggled tremendously last season, but their improvement might not show up in the standings. The Demons return a good quarterback who will have to mature quickly. With the graduation losses at Ridge View and RNE, the Demons could see a win or two in region play.

Region 5-4A is going to be a two-team race between Dutch Fork and North Augusta. The third spot is going to be competitive, and this could be the year South Aiken breaks through.

The Silver Foxes return experience at quarterback and outstanding talent at running back. But don’t make light of the loss of wide receiver Jordan Berry, who was a large percentage of production for this team. Defensively, they will be strong, with two of the top defensive backs in the region. With the returning talent, they have to be the favorite.

North Augusta is never flashy; it just wins. The Yellow Jackets return a very good quarterback with strong supporting personnel on offense. Defensively, there are holes to fill, but depth has not been a problem.

The third spot is going to be an interesting fight with new coaches at White Knoll and Lexington.

White Knoll will undergo the biggest change, transitioning from a ground-based offense to a more wide-open attack.

Lexington brings in a new coach, but the Wildcats have a very good quarterback and some solid offensive personnel to go with him. Defensively, they will need work, but this team should still be good enough to finish as high as second in the region.

South Aiken could be in the mix with Lexington and White Knoll. If the Thoroughbreds can keep their quarterback healthy, it gives them a chance because of their talent at the skills positions. Defensively, they should be solid in the secondary and will have a good defensive front.

Aiken being in last place is becoming a habit, and that is not good for the Hornets’ rich tradition. The Hornets are still without a coach. I look for them to struggle putting the pieces together and finish no higher than fifth.

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