Lou Bezjak

Westwood, Lower Richland enjoying turnarounds in coaches’ second seasons

Westwood football coach Dustin Curtis and the Redhawks look to end a two-game losing streak Friday night against Ridge View in a key Region 3-4A contest.
Westwood football coach Dustin Curtis and the Redhawks look to end a two-game losing streak Friday night against Ridge View in a key Region 3-4A contest. online@thestate.com

It wasn’t the debuts Westwood coach Dustin Curtis and Lower Richland’s Rodney Barr hoped for last year.

But things have changed in year No. 2.

Westwood improved its record to 3-1 after a 28-9 win over rival Blythewood on Friday to reclaim the Jeanne Schmidt Memorial Trophy.

After snapping its 19-game losing streak last week, Lower Richland won its second game in a row with a 21-0 win over Richland Northeast. It was only the third win for Diamond Hornets over RNE in past 17 meetings.

“We aren’t going to shy away from wins after all the adversity we faced last year,” Curtis said.

Westwood started 2-1 last year before losing its last seven games.

A key to the Redhawks’ success has been the play of their defense. Westwood forced six turnovers Friday and 11 in its past two games.

“Our kids, just how hard they worked and bought in,” Curtis said. “What a family atmosphere we have here and that is what football is all about.”

LR went winless in Barr’s first season and started this year 0-2 with losses to Crestwood and Spring Valley. But the Diamond Hornets have turned things around. The shutout of RNE was their first in more than 15 years.

Lower Richland has won more than two games in a season twice since 2009.

“I am proud of our young men and coaches for staying the course but we all recognize that we have a lot more to do and have to get better every week,” Barr said.

The unbeatens

After four weeks of football, there are six unbeaten teams left in the Midlands with three in Region 5-5A – Irmo (4-0), Spring Valley (4-0) and White Knoll (3-0).

The other three teams off to perfect starts are Hammond (3-0), Gilbert (4-0) and Newberry (4-0).

Gilbert piling up yards, points

In the past two weeks, Gilbert has gained more than 580 yards in wins over River Bluff and Airport. On the season, Gilbert is averaging 511.5 yards per game and 7 yards per play.

The Indians have outscored their opponents, 173-71.

Former Gamecock coach makes trip to Midlands

Former South Carolina assistant and interim head coach Shawn Elliott was in his old stomping grounds Friday night.

Elliott, in his first season as head coach of Georgia State, took in the Ben Lippen at Hammond matchup and spent most of day recruiting in the Palmetto State during the Panthers’ bye week. Georgia State signed four players from South Carolina in Elliott’s first recruiting class last year, including three from the Midlands.

Elliott has three commits from SC in Class of 2018, including Greer’s Quavian White.

This week’s stars

Quincy Hill and Malik Wesley, Spring Valley – Hill threw for 206 yards, all to Wesley, with three touchdowns and rushed for 78 in win over Sumter.

Cody Temples, Gilbert – Rushed 24 times for 194 yards and touchdown and had an interception on defense.

Lucas Prickett – Caught 10 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns in win over Ben Lippen.

John Ragin, Irmo – Quarterback ran for three touchdowns, including game-winner with 48 seconds left.

Jay Washington, Dreher – Rushed for 161 yards and game-winning TD with 1:48 left against River Bluff. On defense, he had four tackles including two for loss.

Looking ahead

A look at some of the top matchups in the Midlands next week:

Chapin at Brookland-Cayce – Eagles look to snap two-game losing streak, while Bearcats coming off loss to Lexington.

Irmo at Blythewood – Thursday night Region 5-5A opener with Yellow Jackets looking for 5-0 start.

Newberry at Fairfield Central – Two of the top programs in 3A have alternated wins over past four meetings.

North Augusta at White Knoll – Unbeaten Yellow Jackets are one of toughest tests for White Knoll, which looks to go to 4-0.

Porter-Gaud at Ben Lippen – Rematch of last year’s SCISA 3A championship game.

Spring Valley at Lexington – Region 5-5A opener for both teams. Vikings off to best start since 2013 when they went 12-1.