Lou Bezjak

Unknowns Nichols, Hoff playing big roles for No. 1 Dutch Fork

Dutch Fork running back Ron Hoff fights for yardage against the Bylthewood defense Friday night at Dutch Fork High School.
Dutch Fork running back Ron Hoff fights for yardage against the Bylthewood defense Friday night at Dutch Fork High School. Special to The State

Quarterback and running back were two question marks for Dutch Fork coming into the season. Not anymore.

Senior Reese Nichols has taken the reigns at QB, and freshman Ron Hoff has emerged as the go-to back for No. 1 Dutch Fork, which improved to 6-0 following Friday’s 35-13 win over Blythewood.

“Reese has really picked up his play,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “He was definitely a question mark the first three games. We didn’t know where he was going to throw it or who he was going to throw it to. He has been diligent in his study. He meets me in the morning at 8:30 three days a week for an hour and then another hour in the afternoon. I think he is starting to understand what I want. I’m proud of his progress. He is the key to our success.”

Nichols, also a pitcher on the baseball team, played football up until last year. He decided not to play, a decision he immediately regretted. He emerged as the team’s No. 1 quarterback in the spring after backup Caleb Clark transferred.

Through six games, Nichols has thrown for 989 yards, 11 touchdowns and has been picked off three times.

“I came to the first game last year in the stands and it killed me,” Nichols said. “But it’s been great this year. We’ve got the best coach in the state, so nothing I’m learning is bad.”

While Nichols has solidified the QB spot, Hoff has done the same at running back. The freshman is listed as a linebacker on the roster, but hasn’t played there this year.

Hoff has three 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns Friday against Blythewood.

“We wanted him to play linebacker, but he kept asking us to play running back,” Knotts said. “He has a low center of gravity and runs hard. He’s been the man.”

Rolling the dice

Irmo coach Reggie Kennedy isn’t afraid of taking risks.

In the season opener against Nation Ford, Kennedy went for 2-point conversion in overtime, but was unsuccessful in the 28-27 loss.

The same situation presented itself Friday against White Knoll. After Mason Lassiter’s TD pass got Irmo within 35-34 in double overtime, the Yellow Jackets went for two.

This time it worked, as Lassiter hit Raekwon Heath in Irmo’s 36-35 victory.

“I made the call to go for two. It paid off tonight,” Kennedy said. “We went into an overtime game in the first game of the season. I told my kids we were going to get into another one. We were going to learn from that game, and I was going to be aggressive.”

Much-needed wins

After struggling in non-region play, Airport and A.C. Flora got on the right foot in their region openers.

Led by CJ Wright and Jamir Robinson, Airport rushed for more than 300 yards and built a 30-7 lead before holding on to beat Midland Valley 48-43.

A.C. Flora struggled scoring and closing out games in the non-region portion of the schedule, but did both against Orangeburg-Wilkinson. The Falcons scored a season-high 44 points, including the final 13, in the 44-28 win.

A.C. Flora scored 50 points in its previous four games combined before its region opener.

Rough night for ranked teams

Friday wasn’t a good night for ranked teams from the Midlands Top 10.

Of the nine teams who played, five lost – Ridge View, Blythewood, White Knoll, Richland Northeast and Dreher.

Top performers

Jordyn Adams (Blythewood) – Had 340 all-purpose yards, a TD rushing, passing and return yards in loss to Dutch Fork.

Cooper Beemis, Kale Rhame and Case Barber (Chapin) – Bemis threw for 315 yards and also rushed for TD in win over Dreher. Rhame caught eight passes for 139 yards and a TD, and Barber hauled in eight passes for 137 yards.

Catriez Cook (Gilbert) – Became the first Midlands running back to go over 1,000 yards after rushing for 127 yards and three TDs against Swansea.

Bryce Fields (Gray Collegiate) – Threw for 220 yards and two TDs in win over Keenan.

Corbett Glick and Jack Theodore (Hammond) – Glick threw for 260 yards and four TDs, three going to Theodore, who finished with five catches for 124 yards.

Ron Hoff (Dutch Fork) – Rushed for 170 yards and two TDs in win over Blythewood.

CJ Wright and Jamir Robinson (Airport) – Combined for 245 rushing yards and two TDs in win over Midland Valley.

Ones to watch

A look at next week’s top matchups in the Midlands:

Chapin vs. A.C. Flora – Will be second football game at Spirit Communications Park. Flora only team to beat Chapin in regular season last year.

Dutch Fork at Lexington – No love lost between teams who haven’t met since 2013.

Fairfield Central at Camden – Two of the top teams in Region 4-3A meet in televised game on WACH Fox.

Gilbert at Brookland-Cayce – Gilbert goes for 7-0 start against high-scoring B-C.

Hammond at Porter-Gaud – Skyhawks have won three straight blowouts since loss to Ben Lippen and face over region co-leader P-G.

Irmo at Spring Valley – Irmo coming off double-OT win over White Knoll while Vikings had week off following loss.

Newberry at Broome – Second ranked opponent for Newberry, which beat Woodruff on Friday. Status of Broome running back D’Marco Jackson is in question.

York at Ridge View – Blazers look to bounce back from first loss.