With the first of half of the season complete and region play underway, I thought it would be good time to look back at what stood out in the first half of the high school season in the Midlands.
Here are some first-half awards:
Best Team: Dutch Fork
This was the easiest one to do. No team, not only in the Midlands, but statewide, has come close to performing like Dutch Fork has the first five games.
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Other than the canceled game against Mallard Creek, the Silver Foxes have been a juggernaut. Dutch Fork is averaging 64 points a game and has given up just 42 points. Of those 42 points, only seven have come against the first-team defense. The other scores came against reserves or Northwestern returning an interception 99 yards for a score.
If Dutch Fork keeps up this pace and steamrolls to its third straight title, discussions can begin on where they rank among the state’s all-time great teams.
Biggest Surprise: River Bluff
While no one is surprised about Dutch Fork’s start, many might be about River Bluff’s 5-0 start.
Second-year coach Blair Hardin has turned things around after last year’s one-win campaign. River Bluff has one of the area’s best running attacks, averaging 309 yards per game.
The Gators handed Gilbert its first home loss in three seasons and now will try to carry their success into region play beginning Friday against Dutch Fork
Also considered: A.C. Flora, Blythewood
Offensive Player of Year
Dutch Fork’s Ty Olenchuk and Brookland-Cayce’s Reed Charpia
This was tough to pick, but these two have been big reasons for their teams’ success this season.
Charpia and Olenchuk each broke school single-game passing records earlier this year and rank one and three, respectively in passing yards in the Midlands.
Charpia has completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,868 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has run for 12 scores.
Olenchuk has completed 73.8 percent of his passes for 1,400 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 107 attempts.
Also considered: Dutch Fork’s Gage Zirke, Newberry’s Ahamore Wilmore, River Bluff’s Braden Walker, White Knoll’s Aveon Smith and Brookland-Cayce’s Joe Pradubsri
Defensive Player of Year
Jordan Burch, Hammond
Burch, one of the state’s top prospects for the class of 2020, has delivered so far during his junior season.
The defensive end has 36 tackles, six sacks, seven tackles for loss, caused two fumbles and blocked one kick. Burch’s numbers might be even better but he hasn’t played many full games with Hammond up big most times.
Also considered: Westwood’s Cam Smith, Spring Valley’s Jalen Geiger, Cardinal Newman’s Dima Daley, Eau Claire’s Ron Davis, Gilbert’s Darrius Bell, Lexington’s Logan Crip
Coach of Year
River Bluff’s Blair Harden and A.C. Flora’s Collin Drafts
It was mentioned what Hardin has done in his second year, but A.C. Flora’s Collin Drafts also has turned things around in his second year with the Falcons.
After a 13-game losing streak to start his coaching tenure, Drafts’ Flora squad has rattled off three straight wins and will be in the mix for the Region 6-4A championship.
Also considered: Dutch Fork’s Tom Knotts, Hammond’s Erik Kimrey, Camden’s Brian Rimpf, Westwood’s Dustin Curtis, North Central’s Tyronne Drakeford
Best Region: Region 3-4A
Before the start of the season, we knew this region made up of South Pointe, Westwood, York, Ridge View, Lancaster and Richland Northeast would be, and it hasn’t disappointed.
Four-time defending champion South Pointe has lost once but still will be a state title contender. The Stallions and Westwood are both ranked in this week’s Class 4A poll. Ridge View and York also have been ranked at some point. Lancaster is off to a surprising 5-1 start.
Brookland-Cayce vs. North Augusta and A.C. Flora vs. Chapin
These games stood out because of their down-to-the-wire finishes.
Down 34-14 in the third quarter, Brookland-Cayce rallied for a 41-34 victory Sept. 28 in the region opener for both teams.
The A.C. Flora and Chapin game also had a thrilling finish. Flora led 21-7 before Chapin took a 25-21 lead with 2:39 left. But the Falcons marched down the field, and Matthew Jamison hit RJ Mobley with the game-winning score with 26 seconds left for the 28-25 win.
Jalin Hyatt’s one-handed catch against Spring Valley
There have been many outstanding plays during the first half, but Dutch Fork receiver Jalin Hyatt tops the list.
The junior made a one-handed catch on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Ty Olenchuk in the first quarter of the Silver Foxes’ game with Spring Valley on Aug. 24.
Hyatt’s catch made No. 7 on SportCenter’s Top 10 plays that night.