Lou Bezjak

After a week off, how rest of prep football season shapes up

Ridge View's Damani Staley
Ridge View's Damani Staley jblake@thestate.com

With most of the Midlands football teams off last week because of Hurricane Matthew, it is good time to look back at the first two months and look ahead to the stretch run of the season.

Postseason awards watch

Here are the front runners for The State’s postseason awards:

Offensive Player of Year: Catriez Cook, Gilbert

Cook has been the centerpiece for one of the biggest surprises this season. The senior has rushed for 1,080 yards and 15 total TDs.

Honorable mention: Jordyn Adams (Blythewood), Corbett Glick (Hammond), Xzavion Gordon (Chapin), Bobby Irby (Dutch Fork), Anthony Salters (Dreher) and Bryce Thompson (Ben Lippen)

Defensive Player of Year: Damani Staley, Ridge View

Staley had 22 sacks a year ago and has nine through six games this season to go along with 50 tackles.

Honorable mention: Zhadrian Burgess (Batesburg-Leesville), Micah Byrd (Blythewood), Da’Prince Haynes (Spring Valley), Dylan McNatt (Gilbert) and Octavious Pringle (Brookland-Cayce)

Coach of Year: Chad Leaphart, Gilbert

The Indians have doubled their win total of three from last year and are off to their best start since 1986 in Leaphart’s first season.

Honorable mention: Demetrius Davis (Fairfield Central), Tom Knotts (Dutch Fork) and Perry Parks (Ridge View)

Game of Year: Blythewood at Ridge View and Spring Valley at Richland Northeast (4 OT)

Hard to pick between these two games but both had dramatic finishes. Ridge View scored the final 16 points in the last 3:23 and forced a fumbled with 58 seconds remaining to set up Nick Lawyer’s 26-yard field goal as time expired in the 23-21 win.

Spring Valley trailed 21-10 with less than seven minutes remaining before rallying to win in four overtimes. The Vikings blocked an extra point in the fourth overtime and scored on the next possession for the win.

Honorable mention: Chapin at Mid-Carolina and Brookland-Cayce at Airport

Breaking down region races

A look at how some of the region races stack up for Midlands teams:

Region 5-5A: Dutch Fork has been the class of the region and No. 1 team in the state since beating Fort Dorchester. After the Silver Foxes, the rest of the region is jumbled with spots 2-6 separated by just one game. Thursday’s Lexington at Blythewood game should bring some clarity to top half of the region. White Knoll, Spring Valley and Irmo are in the mix for the five guaranteed playoff spots from the region.

Region 3-4A: South Pointe appears to be the team to beat in this region but the rest of it, including Ridge View, Richland Northeast and Westwood, is wide open. Friday’s Richland Northeast at Ridge View game has big implications because the loser will fall to 0-2 in the region.

Region 4-4A: Airport started off region play with a win against Midland Valley and can improve to 2-0 with a win over Aiken this week. If that happens, that will set up the Eagles nicely because they still have to play South Aiken and North Augusta to finish the season.

Region 5-4A: Chapin and A.C. Flora each began region play with victories and their rescheduled game for Nov. 4 at Spirit Communications Park might decide the region title. Dreher hosts Orangeburg-Wilkinson this week with the winner having the inside track for the third spot in the region.

Region 6-4A: Lugoff-Elgin hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010 but Demons are off to 1-0 start with a win over Lakewood. The Demons still have a matchup with winless Darlington next week in addition to games against Hartsville and Crestwood, so chances of making the postseason are within L-E’s grasp.

Region 3-3A: This is definitely will be fun to watch with Broome (2-0) leading, but Newberry and three other teams are at 1-1.

Region 4-3A: The winner of this region will come from Chester, Fairfield Central or Camden. Fairfield gets Chester in two weeks and closes the season against Camden.

Region 5-3A: The top three teams in the region, Gilbert, Strom Thurmond and Brookland-Cayce, are a combined 15-3 and will play each other over the next few weeks. Gilbert goes to Strom Thurmond on Friday and closes the season against Brookland-Cayce, which plays Strom Thurmond on Oct. 28.

Region 5-2A: This is one of the most competitive regions in 2A with all six teams at least .500 or better. Batesburg-Leesville faces Bamberg-Ehrhardt in battle of unbeaten teams. B-L closes season against Barnwell.

SCISA 3A: Hammond has a shot to win the region with games against region co-leader Pinewood Prep and Wilson Hall remaining. But with its game against Porter-Gaud not being made up, it might need some help to win the region title. Ben Lippen might not win the region but will be a factor in the postseason.