High School Football

5 top Midlands high school football storylines — and this week’s Week 12 predictions

Watch: Newberry’s Ahmad Willis pulls down tipped pass for TD

Newberry's Ahmad Willis catches a tipped pass in the second quarter against Fairfield Central on Sept 12, 2018.
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Newberry's Ahmad Willis catches a tipped pass in the second quarter against Fairfield Central on Sept 12, 2018.

The South Carolina High School League playoffs are finally here and it’s semifinal week for the SCISA postseason.

Here is a look at five things to watch for this week’s games:

Walker’s status still in question

River Bluff might be without one of its best players when it opens the playoffs Friday at home against Conway.

On Thursday, Gators coach Blair Hardin said running back Braden Walker has a “50-50 chance” of playing. Walker injured his ankle late in the game against Lexington on Oct. 25. River Bluff was off last week and there was hope extra rest would help.

Walker is second in the Midlands with 1,487 yards and 16 touchdowns. If Walker can’t go, that would mean more carries for Antonio Gantt. The senior has 806 yards and 11 TDs this year.

River Bluff defeated Lexington, 35-21, on Oct. 25. It was River Bluff's first win in five tries against Lexington.

Dutch Fork begins playoff journey

Dutch Fork will begin the playoffs at home against South Florence and is looking for its third straight Class 5A championship.

The Silver Foxes have won 20 games in a row and haven’t lost a first-round playoff game since Tom Knotts took over in 2010. Prior to Knotts’ arrival, the Silver Foxes hadn’t won a playoff game since 2005.

It’s the first time since 2003 Dutch Fork has played South Florence. The Silver Foxes lead the all-time series, 4-2.

Dutch Fork quarterback Ty Olenchuk and receiver Gage Zirke set school records in 66-28 win over Northwestern on Sept. 21, 2018.

Streaks look to be snapped in first round

River Bluff is hosting a playoff game for the first time Friday. Here is a look at other firsts, streaks on the line this week:

Ridge View is hosting a playoff game on campus for the first time when it hosts Travelers Rest.

CA Johnson and Columbia are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Irmo is looking for its first playoff win since 2012 when it travels to Berkeley.

Camden is looking for its first playoff victory since 2009 when it travels to Seneca.

North Central is looking for its first playoff win since 1998 when it hosts St. Joseph’s.

Dreher is looking for its first playoff win since 1994, when it defeated Cheraw. The Blue Devils travel to Myrtle Beach in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

Gray Collegiate is looking for its playoff win. The War Eagles are 0-2 in their playoff history.

Hammond eyes another title berth

Hammond can earn a spot in another SCISA 3A state championship Friday with a win over rival Cardinal Newman.

The Skyhawks, who have won 23 in a row, will be seeking their 12th title appearance in 15 seasons. Hammond has won nine titles in that span.

Cardinal Newman hasn’t won a state title since 1990, when it was in the Palmetto Athletic Conference. The Cardinals have won seven games this season, their largest win total since 1998.

It will be the second Hammond-Cardinal Newman meeting this season. The teams played on Oct. 19 with Hammond winning, 62-27.

Hammond coach Erik Kimrey talks about his team's 63-27 win over Cardinal Newman on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018

Newberry, Fairfield Central begin playoffs on road

Newberry and Fairfield Central have had their share of deep playoff runs in the past decade.

But the two 3A programs begin this postseason as underdogs and on the road. The Bulldogs will travel to Southside while the Griffins are at Pendleton.

Newberry hasn’t lost a first-round game since 2009 when it lost to Keenan. It also was 2009 when Fairfield last lost in the first round, when Clinton defeated the Griffins.

Midlands Top 10

1. Dutch Fork (8-0)

2. Hammond (11-0)

3. River Bluff (8-1)

4. A.C. Flora (8-2)

5. Airport (7-3)

6. Spring Valley (7-3)

7. Blythewood (6-3)

8. Ridge View (6-3)

9. Gilbert (6-3)

10. Brookland-Cayce (6-4)

This Week’s Picks

Class 5A Playoffs

Conway at River Bluff

Bezjak: River Bluff

Dearing: River Bluff

Irmo at Berkeley

Bezjak: Berkeley

Dearing: Berkeley

Lexington Carolina Forest (At Coastal Carolina)

Bezjak: Lexington

Dearing: Carolina Forest

Nation Ford at Blythewood

Bezjak: Blythewood

Dearing: Blythewood

Spring Valley at Sumter

Bezjak: Sumter

Dearing: Sumter

South Florence at Dutch Fork

Bezjak: Dutch Fork

Dearing: Dutch Fork

Class 4A Playoffs

Brookland-Cayce at Beaufort

Bezjak: Brookland-Cayce

Dearing: Brookland-Cayce

Colleton County at Lower Richland

Bezjak: Lower Richland

Dearing: Lower Richland

Dreher at Myrtle Beach

Bezjak: Myrtle Beach

Dearing: Myrtle Beach

Lancaster at AC Flora

Bezjak: AC Flora

Dearing: AC Flora

Marlboro County at Airport

Bezjak: Airport

Dearing: Marlboro County

Travelers Rest at Ridge View

Bezjak: Ridge View

Dearing: Ridge View

Westwood at Belton Honea Path

Bezjak: Belton Honea Path

Dearing: Belton Honea Path

Class 3A Playoffs

Camden at Seneca

Bezjak: Camden

Dearing: Camden

Fairfield Central at Pendleton

Bezjak: Pendleton

Dearing: Pendleton

Georgetown at Gilbert

Bezjak: Gilbert

Dearing: Gilbert

Newberry at Southside

Bezjak: Southside

Dearing: Southside

Pelion at Hanahan

Bezjak: Hanahan

Dearing: Hanahan

Swansea at Manning

Bezjak: Manning

Dearing: Manning

Class 2A Playoffs

Batesburg-Leesville at Columbia (At Keenan)

Bezjak: Batesburg-Leesville

Dearing: Batesburg-Leesville

CA Johnson at Buford

Bezjak: Buford

Dearing: Buford

Latta at Gray Collegiate (At Benedict)

Bezjak: Gray Collegiate

Dearing: Gray Collegiate

Saluda at Blacksburg

Bezjak: Saluda

Dearing: Saluda

St. Joseph’s at North Central

Bezjak: North Central

Dearing: North Central


Cardinal Newman at Hammond

Bezjak: Hammond

Dearing: Hammond

This season’s records

Bezjak: 210-54

Dearing: 200-64