Here are the top 10 preseason Midlands high school football teams, as voted on by a panel at The State. Last year's record is shown in parentheses:
1. Dutch Fork (13-1)
Dutch Fork has won two straight Class 5A titles and will be a favorite to do it again.
Versatile playmaker Bryce Thompson graduated but the Silver Foxes return their share of firepower, including quarterback Ty Olenchuk and Jalin Hyatt. Dutch Fork plays a challenging non-region schedule including matchups with Mallard Creek (NC), Northwestern and Boiling Springs.
2. Hammond (12-0)
The Skyhawks were dominant a year ago, winning their 15th state championship, which was also the ninth for coach Erik Kimrey.
Hammond should be the favorite in SCISA 3A again and has two of the state’s top Class of 2020 prospects in Jordan Burch and Alex Huntley. Jackson Muschamp takes over at quarterback for record-setting Corbett Glick.
3. Spring Valley (11-2)
The Vikings lost a ton of college talent, including Georgia signee Channing Tindall, but should be a contender in new Region 8-5A. Spring Valley has a strong secondary with Kentucky commit Jalen Geiger, Wofford commit Anthony Wilson and Akele Pauling. The biggest question marks will be replacing quarterback Quincy Hill and the top three rushers on offense.
4. Gilbert (12-1)
Gilbert is coming off an unbeaten regular season and the winningest campaign in school history. The Indians return Division I prospect Josh Strickland at quarterback, 1,000-yard rusher Cody Temples and Darrius Bell on defense, among others.
5. Ridge View (7-4)
The Blazers have won 17 games over the past two years, the most in consecutive years for them since 2006-07. Ridge View lost some key players to graduation, but return quarterback Javon Anderson, all-purpose threat Walyn Napper and a strong offensive line.
6. Fairfield Central (9-4)
The Griffins made it to the third round of the playoffs last season and have won 66 games since 2012. Fairfield Central has some question marks at running back but returns quarterback Jacob McManus and Montavius Thompson.
7. Westwood (7-5)
The Redhawks rebounded after a two-win season in Dustin Curtis’ first year and advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year. Division I prospect Cam Smith and T.J. Blanding anchor Westwood’s defense, and the team returns its top two receivers in Christian Horn and Cortes Braham.
8. Brookland-Cayce (9-5)
The Bearcats are coming off back-to-back trips to the Class 3A Lower State championship and return one of the area’s top quarterbacks in Reid Charpia. The biggest challenge will be moving up to Class 4A.
9. Newberry (10-2)
Newberry has some big shoes to fill on offense, especially with the loss of the school’s all-time leading rusher, Amir Abrams. But the Bulldogs have won at least nine games in six straight years under coach Phil Strickland.
10. Lexington (7-4)
The Wildcats dealt with several injuries a year ago, but made it to the playoffs before losing in the first round to Carolina Forest. Lexington’s strength might be on defense, which allowed just 18 points a game last season.
Others receiving votes
Blythewood, Chapin, Lower Richland, Irmo
Key Dates to Remember
First official practice: July 26 (SCISA) July 27 (SCHSL)
First scrimmage: Aug. 2
First games: Aug. 17