Lexington coach Josh Stepp said his team didn’t play one of its better games in the first matchup with White Knoll.
The Wildcats will get a second crack at the Timberwolves on Friday in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. It’s the second time in the past three years the Lexington County rivals have met in the postseason. Lexington won 35-21 in 2014, but the Timberwolves defeated the Wildcats 17-14 on Oct. 28.
“We made some major mistakes (against White Knoll) that we are ready to fix, and we are ready to come out and get our revenge this week,” Lexington defensive back Eric Ricker said.
Lexington pulled off one of the biggest surprises in the first round when it defeated Region 6-5A champion Sumter 29-28 on Chase Crouch’s 2-point conversion to Trey Norman in overtime.
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The Wildcats (6-5), who made it to the state championship last season, have had their share of ups and downs this year. They lost three games decided by six points or less and lost 32-20 to Blythewood, in which Lexington fumbled at the 1-yard line on a controversial final play and it was returned for a touchdown.
In addition to the losses on the field, Stepp dismissed three starters, including 1,000-yard rusher Dai’Quan Wells, in recent weeks because of violation of team rules.
“Some of the stuff we have went through, it would torn other teams apart. But this is a close team,” Stepp said. “We talk about being a family.
“We told people it would shock a lot of people if we won the game, but it wouldn’t shock us because we believe in what we do. It showed Friday. … For our kids to go on the road at a No. 1 seed and in a tough environment and to play way we did, tt speaks to the character of the kids and the coaching staff.”
Like Lexington, White Knoll (7-4) also went on the road to win its postseason opener. The Timberwolves overcame three turnovers, including one late in the fourth quarter ,in beating Wando 21-13. It was the Timberwolves’ first playoff victory since winning two postseason games in 2012, and only the third in school history.
“Making the playoffs is not something they are used to here, but this is the third year we have done it,” said White Knoll coach Dean Howell, who’s led the Timberwolves to four consecutive winning seasons since he took over in 2012. “We keep talking about taking the next step, and the next step is winning one of those games.”
The strength of White Knoll is its defense. The Timberwolves rank ninth in Class 5A in scoring defense, giving up 18.1 points a game. White Knoll’s defense came up big late against Wando late in the fourth quarter last week. The Warriors had five chances to score from inside Timberwolves’ 10-yard line, and got as close the 2-yard line before being stopped on fourth down with 27 seconds left.
The Timberwolves’ defense also delivered in the first matchup against Lexington. White Knoll stopped the Wildcats at the 1-yard line to end the first half, and Brandon Serio picked off Crouch at the 11-yard line with less than two minutes to go to seal the win.
“We are just ready to go,” White Knoll linebacker Joe Beckett said. “It’s a big rivalry and lot of intensity on the field. They are ready to get a second chance at us for when we beat them the first time. But it is going to be a fun game.”