Baxter’s Blitz looks at the five biggest shockers in the Midlands, as well as my candidates for the Midlands Coach of the Year
1. Gilbert Indians’ success – There is little doubt that anyone, including the Gilbert faithful, had hopes of the Indians being unbeaten and in the top five in the state after eight games, but that is where they are. Coach Chad Leaphart has done wonders in his first year. Senior running back Catriez Cook leads the way.
2. Ridge View Blazers contending – I think we all felt this team would be improved this season, but few would have predicted them to have had the success they’ve enjoyed. Except for the loss to No. 1 South Pointe, this team has proven to be a contender in the Upstate 4A.
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3. Brookland-Cayce Bearcats contending – We predicted the Bearcats to be a contender in the region, but this team has surpassed expectations. They can be a player in the Lower State 3A, but there are two powerhouses awaiting them in Strom Thurmond and Gilbert.
4. Lexington Wildcats missing the mark – The Wildcats had high hopes of being a region contender, but struggles on defense, as well as inconsistency on offense, have put them in a must-win situation.
5. Irmo Yellow Jackets still down – There were several in the Midlands who felt Irmo would be back in Reggie Kennedy’s third year as the coach, but they’ve failed to return. With a 3-6 record overall, they have managed a 2-2 mark in region play, but have two tough remaining region games. This is not the team we expected.
COACH OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES
1. Chad Leaphart, Gilbert – This is a no-brainer. He rebuilt Swansea’s program and has come home to Gilbert. In his first season, he has the Indians unbeaten and a major Lower State contender in 3A.
2. Tom Knotts, Dutch Fork – Knotts lost a wealth of talent to graduation, but has managed to put together a team that has gotten better each weak, and is not only unbeaten, but is No. 1 in Class 5A.
3. Perry Parks, Ridge View – Parks has managed to get the Blazers in contention for a nice playoff run and a probable region runner-up spot in the tough Upstate Region 3-4A.
4. Erik Kimrey, Hammond – Kimrey has managed to do it again, taking a team from the ashes of attrition from graduation to being one of the top contenders in SCISA 3A. Except for a loss to Ben Lippen, where they suffered five turnovers, this team is solid.
5. Rusty Charpia, Brookland-Cayce – The Bearcats lost a lot of talent to graduation and also had attrition in their coaching staff, but Charpia has the Bearcats in a position to win the region and be a force in the Lower State 3A playoffs. Two huge games coming up will decide the region crown.