Lou Bezjak

Sizing up the playoffs for Midlands football teams

Ben Lippen defenders work together to take down a Hammond runner during their semi-final game.
Ben Lippen defenders work together to take down a Hammond runner during their semi-final game. online@thestate.com

With Hurricane Matthew extending the high school football season two weeks, we are finally ready to begin the South Carolina High School League postseason this week.

Brackets were released Saturday and here’s a look at teams to watch and outlook for Midlands teams.

Class 5A

Ones to watch: Dutch Fork, Northwestern, Fort Dorchester, Westside, Boiling Springs, Spartanburg, Sumter

Midlands teams in: Blythewood, Dutch Fork, Irmo, Lexington, Spring Valley, White Knoll

Midlands outlook: Dutch Fork has been the No. 1 team in 5A most of the year and is the area’s best chance to make it to the title game. The Silver Foxes biggest stumbling block might come in Lower State final if they face No. 2 Fort Dorchester, a team they beat in September.

Spring Valley exceeded expectations this year and finished second in Region 7-5A to earn a first-round home game. The Vikings’ option offense is a tough matchup.

Blythewood has talent to make a postseason run and one of the area’s best playmakers in Jordyn Adams. The Bengals open up at South Florence, a team they’re familiar with, but a second-round matchup with Fort Dorchester likely looms.

White Knoll and Lexington are capable of road upsets in the first round. The Timberwolves get Wando, while the Wildcats are at Sumter.

Irmo got the at-large spot in Lower State and it’s reward is a trip to Fort Dorchester.

Class 4A

Ones to watch: Belton-Honea Path, Berkeley, Hartsville, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, South Aiken, South Pointe

Midlands teams in: A.C. Flora, Airport, Chapin, Dreher, Lugoff-Elgin Ridge View

Midlands outlook: In the Lower State, Chapin’s one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. The Eagles have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

A.C. Flora caught a bad break when Myrtle Beach lost to Marlboro County, 56-55. That dropped the Seahawks, who have been ranked near the top of 4A most of the year, to third place in Region 7-4A, setting up a trip to the Falcons home.

Lugoff-Elgin’s back in the postseason and hosting a playoff game for first time since 2010. If the Demons beat Beaufort, a trip to Chapin is likely in the second round.

A banged-up Dreher team heads to the Grand Strand for second year in a row, this time to face North Myrtle Beach.

In the Upper State, eight-win Ridge View will open on the road at Wren. The game features two South Carolina commits in Ridge View defensive end Damani Staley and Wren quarterback Jay Urich. A victory makes a rematch with Union County possible in round two.

Airport’s home against Eastside, and the Eagles have the firepower to win a couple playoff games. If the Eagles win, a trip to defending state champion and top-ranked South Pointe awaits.

Class 3A

Ones to watch: Brookland-Cayce, Bluffton, Chapman, Chester, Dillon, Fairfield Central, Gilbert, Newberry

Midlands teams in: Brookland-Cayce, Camden, Fairfield Central, Gilbert, Newberry, Swansea

Midlands outlook: Brookland-Cayce and Gilbert have been two of the area’s surprise teams this year and enter the Lower State playoffs in uncharted territory.

B-C has won nine games for the first time since 2004 and will host Battery Creek in the opening round. If the Bearcats win at home in the first two rounds, a trip No. 2 Bluffton might be on the horizon.

Gilbert’s on the bottom side of the bracket and will host first-year program May River, which is led by former Westwood coach Rodney Summers. The Indians hope to have back Catriez Cook back at full strength, but their path won’t be easy with possible matchups with Timberland in round two and four-time defending state champion Dillon in the third round.

Swansea made it to the playoffs in Greg Wright’s first year and will travel to No. 2 Bluffton.

In the Upper State, Fairfield Central has homefield advantage throughout. The Griffins, coming off a record-setting 70-point performance have a tough opener against Woodruff.

Newberry has made it to back-to-back state championship games in Class 2A and will try to do it in Class 3A.

Camden can put up big numbers on offense and opens up at Chapman.

Class 2A

Ones to watch: Abbeville, Bamberg-Ehrhardt, Barnwell, Batesburg-Leesville Calhoun County, Carvers Bay, Cheraw

Midlands teams in: Batesburg-Leesville, Gray Collegiate, Keenan

Midlands outlook: Batesburg-Leesville stumbled at end of season with back-to-back losses, but can make a deep playoff run in a wide-open Lower State bracket.

In the Upper State, Gray Collegiate’s in the postseason in its first year of eligibility, and Keenan is in the playoffs under first-year coach Sean Gilley.

Class A

Ones to watch: Lamar, Lake View, McBee, Williston-Elko, C.E. Murray, Lewisville Cross

Midlands teams in: None

Ben Lippen gets another shot

Ben Lippen will look to avenge one of its two losses this season next Saturday when it plays Porter-Gaud in the SCISA 3A championship.

P-G defeated Ben Lippen 28-26 on Sept. 16. Ben Lippen played the second half of the game without standout running back Bryce Thompson, who was ejected in the second quarter. The Cyclones lone loss was to Bishop England.

W.W. King goes for perfection

W.W. King, one of two unbeaten teams in the Midlands, will go for a state title next Friday when it faces Andrew Jackson in the SCISA 8-Man Division II championship.

It’s W.W. King’s first title appearance since 2013, while Andrew Jackson is looking for its second title in a row and an undefeated season.

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