Lou Bezjak

Midlands’ top football teams, players for 2016 taking shape

The State’s Lou Bezjak
The State’s Lou Bezjak tdominick@thestate.com

It’s hard to believe we are already through Week 4 of the high school football season.

Region play began for 5A schools and everyone else will follow suit in the coming weeks. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the things that have stood out in the first five weeks of the season.

Dutch Fork cream of crop in Midlands

After making it to three straight state title appearances, Dutch Fork was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last year. But the Silver Foxes have shown they have the tools to make it back to the championship game.

Dutch Fork is the No. 1 ranked team in 5A and has one of the best wins of any team in the state this year by beating Fort Dorchester two weeks ago. First-year starters Reese Nichols (quarterback) and Ron Hoff (running back) have provided a big lift to go along with WRs Bobby Irby, Austin Connor, Bryson Cannon and Ward Hacklen.

Defensively, Dutch Fork has thrived in the 3-4 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Nick Pelham.

Ridge View living up to the hype

There was a buzz surrounding the Ridge View football team going into the season and so far the Blazers have backed it up on the field.

Ridge View is 5-0 and off to its best start since 2006. With four wins by seven points or less, the Blazers haven’t been blowing teams but know how to come up with the big play or turnover late in the game.

Surprise teams

Gilbert, Dreher and Brookland-Cayce started the year off most people’s radars, but that’s not the case anymore.

Gilbert is 4-0 for first time since 1999 and cracked the top 10 in the Class 3A S.C. Prep Writers poll. The Indians have the area’s top rusher in Catriez Cook and their defense has plenty of playmakers.

Dreher is off to its best start since 2012 and features a strong offensive line and two playmakers in Anthony Salters and Jay Washington.

B-C lost its first game Friday but has quality wins over Lexington and Airport and will be factor in Region 5-3A race.

Spring Valley, RNE are contenders

By running an option offense, Spring Valley and Richland Northeast create matchup problems for opposing teams.

This season, the two teams are more than just matchup nightmares but can be contenders in their region races. The Vikings are off to a 4-1 start and defeated Lexington in their region opener.

RNE is a missed extra point in the fourth overtime against Spring Valley from being unbeaten. The Cavaliers won’t have an easy road in their region with games against Ridge View, South Pointe and Lancaster but shouldn’t be counted out.

Breakout stars

Several players have stood out in the first half and are off to career seasons.

Among them are Gilbert running back Catriez Cook, Blythewood QB Jordyn Adams, Dutch Fork WR, Bobby Irby, Chapin WR Xzavion Gordon, Ben Lippen WR/RB Bryce Thompson, Brookland-Cayce’s Reed Charpia, Ridge View QB Jalen Smith and Dreher WR/RB Anthony Salters.

SCISA battle

Ben Lippen has shown it is ready to be factor for the SCISA 3A title. The Falcons have a roster with Division I talent and snapped Hammond’s 27-game winning streak before losing to Porter-Gaud.

Despite losing, Hammond figures to be in the mix before the season ends. The Skyhawks and their younger players will have plenty of experience by the postseason as they go for their third straight title.

Top performers

A look at some of the top performances from Friday’s games:

▪  Anthony Salters, Dreher – Senior added three more touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving against Calhoun County.

▪  Dutch Fork defense – Held River Bluff to 65 total yards in blowout win.

▪  Quincy Hill, Spring Valley – Viking quarterback rushed for 255 yards and a touchdown in win over Lexington.

▪  Kerryon Richardson, Airport – Senior returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in loss to Orangeburg-Wilkinson.

Ones to watch

Some of the top games in the Midlands next week:

▪  Airport at Richland Northeast – RNE is a missed extra point away from being unbeaten while Eagles look to snap two-game losing streak.

▪  Dreher at Gilbert – Two of the five remaining unbeaten teams meet in final non-region tune-up.

▪  Fairfield Central at A.C. Flora – Griffins continue tough non-region schedule while A.C. Flora is coming off another close loss.

▪  Pinewood Prep at Ben Lippen – Falcons suffered first loss Friday and will be without Bryce Thompson, who will serve a one-game suspension after being ejected against Porter-Gaud.

▪  Spring Valley at White Knoll – Region opener for White Knoll and Spring Valley coming off win over Lexington.