Three things we know
Byrnes and Northwestern will be an offensive showcase.
The top two teams in Class 4A are on a collision course for Friday’s showdown at Northwestern. The Trojans have quality wins against Gaffney, Charlotte Catholic and South Aiken and have looked impressive. They are averaging 51 points per game behind quarterback Mason Rudolph. Byrnes quarterback Shuler Bentley threw for a state-record nine touchdowns and ran for another as the Rebels punished Woodruff 82-49 Friday night. Byrnes owns a win against Apopka, Fla., but the Rebels’ defense has allowed 42.5 points per game. A shootout can be expected.
Dutch Fork is a contender in Class 4A
After making a run to the Class 4A Division I title game a year ago, the Silver Foxes haven’t missed a beat with two blowout wins to open the season. Last year, Tom Knotts relied on an high-scoring offense and hoped the defense could do enough to hold on. This defense is loaded with experience and has held opponents to 9.5 points and 238.5 yards per game. That will be put to the test over the next three weeks with Rock Hill, Dorman and Goose Creek on the horizon.
Gilbert is better
The Indians were 4-7 last year but are 2-1 with a nail-biting 28-21 loss to highly touted Saluda in the season opener. Quarterback Mitch Spires has directed the offense with precision, and Region 5-3A looks to be wide open behind Strom Thurmond. The past two weeks, Gilbert has beaten A.C. Flora and Mid-Carolina behind an offense that averaged 39 points. The Indians might not lose again until region play begins.
Three things we don’t know
Has Brookland-Cayce turned the corner?
The Bearcats are undefeated this late in the season for the first time since 2004. They have a blow-out win against C.A. Johnson and last minute victories against Airport and Batesburg-Leesville. Quarterback Zeke Walker manages the game well, and B-C has a stable of running backs and two outstanding receivers. The Bearcats need to tighten up on defense to sustain their early-season success. Chapin, Dreher and Strom Thurmond are the next three opponents, so we should know by October if the Bearcats will be challengers or pretenders.
What is wrong with Hammond?
The Skyhawks have been shut out the past two weeks and are 1-2. It’s the first time Hammond has lost consecutive games since 2005 and the first time the Skyhawks have been under .500 since 2002. They managed 135 yards of offense, with 5 rushing yards on 12 attempts. The Skyhawks have yet to find an identity on offense, but when the playoffs roll around, don’t be surprised if they are rolling again..
How good is White Knoll?
The Timberwolves are 3-0 in coach Dean Howell’s first season after a 21-17 win against Airport. They beat A.C. Flora 14-8 in the season-opener before crushing an out-manned Mid-Carolina the week after. Howell will be looking for a more explosive offense over the next three weeks and he hopes they will be hitting stride once region play begins.
Three top performers
Shuler Bentley, Byrnes quarterback
He threw for 530 yards and nine touchdowns, both school records. The nine touchdown passes is a new state record. He also added a 19-yard TD run in the Rebels’ 82-49 victory against Woodruff.
Zeke Walker, Brookland-Cayce quarterback
He threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more. His 26-yard TD with 26 seconds remaining proved the difference in the Bearcats’ 44-37 win against Batesburg-Leesville
Derek Olenchuck, Dutch Fork quarterback
He was 15-for-20 for 272 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-13 victory against Fort Mill
Three to watch
Spring Valley at Lexington
The Vikings have two blowout wins, and the Wildcats will be their first real challenge. Lexington has wins against Ridge View and Blythewood and would like to make it a sweep of three Richland District 2 teams.
Rock Hill at Dutch Fork
The Silver Foxes have run roughshod the first two weeks, but the Bearcats offer a traditional power that is lurking outside of the Top 10. It will be Dutch Fork’s first home game and the Silver Foxes will look to prove they deserve to be in the discussion of the top teams in the state.
Irmo at Greenwood
The Yellow Jackets have lost two games by a combined six points, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier against the defending Class 4A Division II state champs on the road.
What they’re saying
“We lost to a better football team,” Hammond coach Erik Kimrey said after the Skyhawks dropped a 20-0 game to Orangeburg Prep
“We had three big plays, and that was the difference. They moved the ball up and down the field at will. Our big plays were the difference. It’s as simple as that.” Summerville coach John McKissick after the Green Wave got a 77-yd TD catch and 76-yard punt return from USC commit Darin Smalls in a 43-20 win against Berkeley.
“I guess you could say the sun is shining on the Bearcats right now,” Brookland-Cayce coach Rusty Charpia said after the Bearcats improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2004.