Here are five observations or things that stood out in the 10th week of high school football in the Midlands
Second-year turnarounds for River Bluff, AC Flora
It would be hard to imagine two of the best turnaround seasons across the state happened right here in the Midlands with AC Flora and River Bluff.
AC Flora captured the Region 4-4A title Friday night with an impressive win over Dreher, The region title comes a season after going 0-10 in Collin Drafts’ first year. The Falcons began the year by losing two straight but have won seven in a row, third longest winning streak in the Midlands, heading to the playoffs in two weeks.
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River Bluff won just two games in Blair Hardin’s first year but are 8-1 in year two and just beat rival Lexington, 35-21, on Thursday for the first time. The Gators will host a first-round playoff game for the first time.
River Bluff’s Braden Walker and Lexington’s Akeem Nicholas showed why they are two of the top backs in the Midlands.
Walker rushed for 176 yards and two TDs in the win over Lexington while Nicholas had a career-high 259 yards. Both backs have rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season with Walker second in the Midlands in rushing.
If both keep up this pace, it will help their teams as they begin the playoffs in two weeks. Walker left Thursday’s game with ankle injury but RB coach Blair Hardin said it is just a sprain and he should be ready for the playoffs.
Get rid of the coin toss
Shortly after Spring Valley’s 10-3 win over Blythewood on Friday night, athletic directors from SV, Irmo and Blythewood gathered in a hallway for a coin toss to determine the final two automatic playoff qualifiers from Region 4-5A.
Blythewood and Irmo won the coin toss and earn the playoff spots with the Bengals getting a home game and Irmo a road game.
Spring Valley should get an at-large berth, especially if it beats Chapin this week to finish at 7-3. But it isn’t the point. A coin flip never should decide a team’s playoff fate. There are different ways to break ties based on results on the field such as points allowed or a points system in region.
I hope the only coin flip we see in the future is the one to determine who gets the ball first.
Another close call for Ben Lippen
Ben Lippen has had its share of close losses this season.
Three of the Falcons’ six defeats were by seven points or less including two by one point. But Ben Lippen was on the right end of a close game as it rallied for a 34-27 win over Cardinal Newman.
The Falcons rallied from 15 points down and scored the game-winning TD with 1:40 left.
The second installment of Brookland-Cayce and Airport is getting special treatment with the two teams facing off Sunday at 4 p.m.
B-C coach Rusty Charpia thought playing on Sunday would give them the chance of having the best crowd.
The game carries big meaning for both teams. If B-C wins, it wins the Region 5-4A title and is at home for the first round of the playoffs. A B-C loss and it will be the fourth seed from the region and on the road in the first round.
If Airport wins, it ties for the region title with North Augusta and gets a home playoff game. An Eagles’ loss and they are the third seed but still host a first-round game.
Javon Anderson, Ridge View – Threw for 328 yards and school-record six touchdowns and rushed for 62 yards in win over Lancaster.
Rico Dorsey, RB, Ben Lippen – Rushed for 185 yards and a TD and threw a two-point conversion in win over Cardinal Newman.
Hunter Helms, Gray Collegiate – Passed for nearly 400 yards and five TDs against CA Johnson.
Jackson Muschamp, Hammond – Threw for 300 yards and three scores in win over Heathwood.
Akeem Nicholas, RB, Lexington – Rushed for 249 yards and a TD in loss to River Bluff.
Ty Olenchuk, QB, Dutch Fork – Was 14-of-16 for 294 yards and tied school-record with six touchdowns despite not playing the second half.
Kyser Samuel, DB/WR Gray Collegiate – Had three interceptions in win over CA Johnson.
Braden Walker, RB, River Bluff – Rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns in win over Lexington.
Projected SCHSL playoff matchups
There are still some things left to figure out but here is what we know about first round of the SCHSL playoffs
Nation Ford at Blythewood
Spring Valley at Sumter (If SV gets at-large)
St. James/South Florence at Dutch Fork
Irmo at Berkeley
Conway/West Florence/Carolina Forest at River Bluff
Lexington at Conway/West Florence/Carolina Forest
Travelers Rest at Ridge View
Lancaster at AC Flora
Westwood at Belton Honea Path (If Westwood gets at-large)
Colleton County at Lower Richland
Dreher at Myrtle Beach/Hartsville
North Myrtle Beach/Wilson/Marlboro County at Airport
Brookland-Cayce at Beaufort
Newberry at Southside
Camden at Seneca
Fairfield Central at Pendleton
Georgetown/Waccamaw/Bishop England at Gilbert
Swansea at Manning
Pelion at Hanahan
CA Johnson at Buford
Batesburg-Leesville at Columbia
St. Joseph’s at North Central
Region 7 fifth-place at Gray Collegiate (Gray know opponent until next week’s games over)
How Midlands Top 10 Fared
1. Dutch Fork (8-0) – Defeated White Knoll, 62-0
2. Hammond (10-0) – Defeated Heathwood Hall, 42-7
3. River Bluff (7-1) – Defeated Lexington, 35-21
4. Blythewood (6-2) – Lost to Spring Valley, 10-3
5. A.C. Flora (7-2) – Defeated Dreher, 55-14
6. Irmo (5-4) – Lost to Sumter, 27-9
7. Brookland-Cayce (6-4) – Lost to Airport, 38-27
8. Airport (7-3) – Defeated Brookland-Cayce, 38-27
9. Lexington (5-4) Lost to River Bluff, 35-21
10. Ridge View (6-3) – Defeated Lancaster, 45-20
This week’s schedule
Lexington at Batesburg-Leesville, 7 p.m.
CA Johnson at Pelion, 7 p.m.
Richland Northeast at AC Flora
Calhoun County at Swansea
Chapin at Spring Valley
Columbia at Fox Creek
McCormick at Eau Claire (at Keenan HS), 7 p.m.
South Aiken at Westwood
Ben Lippen at First Baptist
Heathwood Hall at Porter-Gaud
Laurence Manning at Cardinal Newman
Wilson Hall at Hammond
Richard Winn at Beaufort Academy