The South Carolina High School League playoffs get underway on Friday and here are some key story lines to watch for Midlands teams.
Can Dutch Fork do it again, and will Silver Foxes have to go on road?
Dutch Fork is looking for its third straight Class 5A title and might have to leave home to do it.
The team might have to hit the road in the third round if West Florence makes it to third round or for the Lower State championship if either region champions Berkeley or Summerville make it. The lower half of the bracket has home field for the title game if one of the top seeds advance.
Dutch Fork hasn’t played a road playoff game since 2015. But the way the Silver Foxes are playing, it might not matter where the game is played. The team is averaging 61.1 points and 573.9 yards of offense a game. The Silver Foxes have punted four times in eight games.
Are surprise teams AC Flora, River Bluff poised for big runs?
A.C. Flora and River Bluff have two of the best stories in the Midlands this season.
The Falcons went from 0-10 last year to 8-2 and winning the Region 4-4A title. Now, Flora hopes to continue that run in the playoffs but doesn’t have any easy draw.
The Falcons get Lancaster, which finished fourth in an ultra-competitive Region 3-4A. If Flora wins that, it faces Greenville-Wren winner. Greenville and Wren have two of the best QBs in the state in Pitt commit Davis Beville (Greenville) and Mr. Football finalist Tyrell Jenkins (Wren).
River Bluff went from 2-8 last year to 8-1 this season with the lone loss to Dutch Fork. The Gators get traditional power Conway in the school’s first home playoff game.
The Gators have a powerful running game led by junior Braden Walker and senior Antonio Gantt.
Rematches on tap for Spring Valley, Lexington
Spring Valley and Lexington will get familiar opponents in their first-round Class 5A playoff games.
The Vikings, who received an at-large berth, face Region 4-5A foe Sumter in the first round. The Gamecocks defeated Spring Valley 38-0 on Oct. 19.
Lexington faces Carolina Forest in the first round for the second straight year. The Wildcats lost at home to the Panthers 34-21 last year. This year’s game is at Carolina Forest.
Dreher gets matchup with USC quarterback commit
Dreher’s first-round playoff matchup isn’t going to be an easy one.
The Blue Devils, the third seed from Region 4-4A, travel to Myrtle Beach. The Seahawks feature South Carolina commit Luke Doty at quarterback.
Doty has thrown for almost 2,000 yards despite playing in just eight games because of the hurricane and flooding.
Airport carries momentum in the postseason
Airport has been one of the hotter teams in the Midlands in the second half of the season.
After a 2-2 start, the Eagles finished the season with five wins in their last six games and shared the Region 5-4A title with North Augusta.
Airport hosts Marlboro County in the first round and could face Myrtle Beach in the second round.
Home sweet home for Blythewood, Ridge View
Ridge View and Blythewood, which share District 2 Stadium, both begin the playoffs at home.
Ridge View will play an on-campus home playoff game for the first time when it faces Travelers Rest in the 4A playoffs. Travelers Rest hasn’t won a playoff game since 1984.
Blythewood is in the playoffs in Jason Seidel’s first season. The Bengals’ defense has been strong most of the season and faces a strong Nation Ford offense.
Life on the road for BC
If Brookland-Cayce is going to make its third straight lower state title game, it will have to come on the road.
The Bearcats, who moved up to Class 4A this year and finished fourth in Region 5-4A, open the playoffs on the road and likely will be away from home in every game in the postseason. B-C starts the playoffs at Beaufort and would likely meet No. 1 Hartsville in the second round.
Westwood, Irmo look for upsets
Westwood and Irmo will try to play spoiler in their first round playoff games.
The fourth-seeded Redhawks take on Belton Honea Path in the first round. As a fourth seed last year, Westwood upset unbeaten North Augusta in the first round.
Westwood has won two straight after a four-game losing streak and recorded its first shutout of the season Friday against South Aiken.
Irmo heads to the Lowcountry for the third straight year in the first round and faces Berkeley in the 5A playoffs. The Yellow Jackets (5-4) haven’t won a playoff game since 2012.
Can Gray make a deep run?
Gray Collegiate won its first region title in school history and now will go for its first playoff win in the four-year history of the school.
The War Eagles host Latta in the first round of the playoffs. The game features college teammates in Gray Collegiate’s Dallaz Corbitt and Latta’s Deonte Stanley. Both are committed to Central Florida. Stanley is the brother of South Carolina offensive lineman Donnell Stanley.
Columbia back in the postseason
Columbia is in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Capitals (4-5) will open the postseason at home against Batesburg-Leesville. Columbia’s last playoff win came in 2013 when it defeated Indian Land.
Midlands Playoff schedule
Nation Ford at Blythewood
Spring Valley at Sumter
South Florence at Dutch Fork
Irmo at Berkeley
Conway at River Bluff
Lexington Carolina Forest
Travelers Rest at Ridge View
Lancaster at AC Flora
Colleton County at Lower Richland
Brookland-Cayce at Beaufort
Marlboro County at Airport
Dreher at Myrtle Beach
Camden at Seneca
Fairfield Central at Pendleton
Newberry at Southside
Swansea at Manning
Georgetown at Gilbert
Pelion at Hanahan
CA Johnson at Buford
Saluda at Blacksburg
St. Joseph’s at North Central
Batesburg-Leesville at Columbia (At Keenan HS)
Latta at Gray Collegiate (Site TBA)
Cardinal Newman at Hammond