High School Football

Top storylines for every high school football team in the Midlands for this season

Midlands football players share their go-to pregame rituals

Midlands high school football players talk about their pregame rituals as a team and individually.
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Midlands high school football players talk about their pregame rituals as a team and individually.

Here’s what to watch for with every Midlands high school football team as the 2019 season sets started. The regular season begins the weekend of Aug. 23.

Class 5A

Blythewood: How will transfer quarterback Josh Strickland help the Bengals offense?

Blythewood has a talented group returning led by WR/TE Joshua Burrell, the state’s top ranked prospect for 2021. But the arrival of Strickland from Gilbert should help the passing game, which averaged just 87.8 yards per game last season.

Chapin: Offensive line will be a big factor in Eagles success

Chapin took some lumps last year with a young roster. But the Eagles return 17 starters and have one of the best offensive lines in the Midlands with Division I prospects Thornton Gentry, Chase Seigert and Josh Taylor.

Dutch Fork: Another title on horizon for Silver Foxes?

Dutch Fork looks to add its name to the S.C. high school record books as it goes for its fourth title in a row. Others to accomplish that feat are Abbeville (2015-18), South Pointe (2014-17) Woodruff (1976-79), Byrnes (2003-06) and Dillon (2013-16). The Silver Foxes lost a bunch from last year, including RB Ron Hoff as well as key players on the offensive and defensive line. But QB Ty Olenchuk and WR Jalin Hyatt are back hungry for another state title. Dutch Forks begins the season on a 25-game winning streak in a nationally televised opener with Mallard Creek (N.C.).

Irmo: Brand era begins for Yellow Jackets

The arrival of Aaron Brand from Vance High School in Charlotte has created a buzz (no pun intended) for the Yellow Jackets, but will it translate to wins in season No. 1? Irmo returns just one starter from last year’s team.

Lexington: Questions at QB for Wildcats

Lexington lost dual threat QB Cal Herndon to an ACL injury in the spring and replacing him will be a big question mark for the Wildcats. Elijah Ogden looks to replace Herndon, who had more than 1,700 yards and 18 TDs.

Lugoff-Elgin: Parker Clements ready for big season

The Demons might take their lumps in their second year of moving up to Class 5A, but offensive lineman Parker Clements is one worth watching. He is one of the top linemen in the state and has several Division I offers.

River Bluff: Braden Walker has lofty goals for senior year

Braden Walker rushed for 1,487 yards last season but said at WACH Fox Media that he has bigger goals this year: 2,000 yards. The Gators are counting on Walker for big season as they look to build on last year’s 9-2 record.

Spring Valley: Vikings look to air it out with new offense

Spring Valley has scrapped its flexbone offense and will move to the spread under new offensive coordinator Dan Morgan. The Vikings are breaking in a new quarterback and have plenty of talented receivers ready for the change in offense.

White Knoll: QB Aveon Smith eyes another big year

Aveon Smith put up big numbers last season and is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the Midlands. As a junior, the Miami (Ohio) commit threw for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards. The Timberwolves return several key players and look to be part of a wide-open race behind Dutch Fork in Region 5-5A.

Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts and quarterback Ty Olenchuk discusses the impact of Jon Hall as the team's top running back.

Class 4A

AC Flora: Coach Curtis is back with the Falcons

Former AC Flora assistant Dustin Curtis returns to the school and takes over head coaching duties after Collin Drafts took a job in Florida. Curtis will have a lot of holes to fill but the Falcons hope to continue momentum from last year’s region title-winning team.

Airport: A healthy Bruce Staley will be big for the Eagles

Running back Bruce Staley missed all of last season with an ACL injury. But Staley is back healthy and his return along with Nanders Lawrence give Airport two big-time playmakers on offense.

Brookland-Cayce: Replacing QB Reed Charpia is no easy task

For the first time in four years, Reed Charpia won’t be at QB for the Bearcats. The dual-threat QB had more than 3,800 yards of offense last year. Malachi Brown will get the first crack to replace him. Will Way returns at running back and should help Brown with the offensive workload.

Dreher: Young talent is key for the Blue Devils

Dreher coach Treigh Sullivan likes his group of underclassmen, and they will get a shot to prove themselves this year. The Blue Devils might start as many as six sophomores as they look to improve on last year’s 5-5 mark.

Lower Richland: Diamond Hornets hope to continue upward trend

Lower Richland has won 12 games the past two seasons, two more than combined in the previous five years. The Diamond Hornets return QB Jamison Ganzy and several key starters on offense and defense.

Richland Northeast: New coach Richardson hopes to energize proud program

William Richardson takes over as the new coach at Richland Northeast. The Cavs won just one game last season and scored just 35 points. Richardson hopes this year’s team could lay the foundation for the future of the program.

Ridge View: Big holes to fill on offense for Blazers

QB JaVon Anderson and WR Walyn Napper were a dynamic 1-2 punch for Ridge View last year. Now they’re gone, and replacing them won’t be easy. Junior Andre Washington will get the shot to replace Anderson at QB, while Cincere Scott assumes the role as the team’s top receiver along with Caleb Rayner and Jordan Smith. The Blazers could have one of the top defenses in the Midlands.

Westwood: Quinn takes over talented roster

Former offensive coordinator Matt Quinn is back as team’s head coach and inherited a talented roster which includes Division I commits Ahmon Green and Christian Horn. Quinn has had a productive summer with the team and hopes it translates on the field. Westwood made it to the second round of playoffs last year.

Will Richardson is the new head coach at Richland Northeast High School.

Class 3A

Camden: Talented Jaffari Pearson takes the reigns at QB

Camden showed a five-game improvement in Brian Rimpf’s second season, which included a second-round playoff loss to Chapman. Jaffari Pearson takes over at QB. He’s the nephew of former Camden standout QB Richie Williams. Key for the Bulldogs will be replacing nine starters on defense.

Fairfield Central: Motivated Griffins eye another deep run

If last year’s 2-9 record wasn’t motivation enough for Fairfield Central, the Griffins will be playing for their late teammate CJ Simmons. The two-sport standout died in an ATV accident. Fairfield has dedicated its season to Simmons and has plenty of key players returning, including quarterback Stephon Gadsen and running back Will Barber.

Gilbert: It’s Jy Tolen’s time for Indians at QB

After splitting QB duties last season with Josh Strickland, Jy Tolen will be the team’s starter this year. Tolen should benefit from additions of two transfers on offense: Alec Holt (out-of-state) and Jamais Holloway (White Knoll).

Keenan: Raiders look to bounce back

Keenan went 1-9 last season but returns several players on the defensive/offensive lines, including John Campbell, Myles Branick, Treston Black and Jaden Allen.

Mid-Carolina: Rebels look to bounce back in year two for Coach Arnout

Mid-Carolina won just one game last year in Chris Arnoult’s first season but look to turn things around in year two. Rebels are switching to a more run-oriented approach this season.

Newberry: Ahamore Wilmore to carry Bulldogs’ offensive load

It is no secret Phil Strickland loves to run the football, and he has his workhorse Ahamore Wiilmore back for another season. Wilmore led the Midlands with 1,921 yards and 21 TDs.

Pelion: New offense for Panthers in 2019

Pelion is switching to the flexbone offense as they look break through under Dann Holland. The Panthers have won three games each of the past two seasons.

Swansea: New coach, QB for Tigers

Brent Wilder is back at Swansea to coach his alma mater. He will have a new quarterback as Pryce Whitten moves over from Pelion to be the Tigers’ signal caller.

Bolden Stadium in Columbia was renovated ahead of this football season. Here is the new look for 2019.

Class 2A

Batesburg-Leesville: Panthers try to rebound

Batesburg-Leesville won five games a year ago, its lowest total since 2012, and hopes to rebound from that. The Panthers will count on another big season from two-way standout Keshoun Williams.

CA Johnson: New stadium, big line return for Hornets

After playing all of its games on the road last season, CA Johnson will have its home field back as renovations to Bolden Stadium should be complete by early September. The Hornets won two games season and made the playoffs and return its entire offensive line from last season.

Columbia: New stadium, plenty of question marks for Caps

Columbia, like CA Johnson, will get the benefit of playing in the remodeled Bolden Stadium. The Caps won four games last year, their most since 2013, but must replace most of its production from 2018.

Eau Claire: Shamrocks carry momentum into season

Eau Claire won four games for the first time since 2010 in Michael Kelly’s first season. The Shamrocks return leading rusher Shytrell ONeal and several key pieces as they look continue last season’s momentum

Gray Collegiate: Plenty of weapons at Hunter Helms’ disposal

Holy Cross commit and Gray QB Hunter Helms has plenty of playmakers around him for his senior year. Transfers Omarion Dollison and Trenton Higgins should catch plenty of passes along with returnee Nykeim Smith. KZ Adams had 1,000 yards rushing as a freshman. The War Eagles also are bigger up front than recent years as they look to build on the school’s first region title.

North Central: Knights look to seize last year’s momentum

North Central had one of its best seasons in 20 years, winning eight games and making it to the second round of playoffs. But many players are gone from that squad. One player to watch will be Hunter Haven.

Saluda: Noah Bell putting up big numbers for Saluda

Noah Bell is back for his senior season and is one of the top passers in the state. Bell threw for 2,840 yards and 35 TDs last season.

We mic'd up Hammond football coach Erik Kimrey during the Skyhawks' game Friday, Sept. 11, against Cardinal Newman. Listen in to the sounds of a coach leading his team.

SCISA: Class 3A

Ben Lippen: Will Taylor big threat at QB for Falcons

Will Taylor assumed starting quarterback duties midway through the year in 2018 and put up more than 1,000 yards of offense. Taylor also returns kicks and is committed to Clemson for baseball.

Cardinal Newman: Running backs could be key for Cardinals

Cardinal Newman won seven games last season and made it to the SCISA 3A semifinals in the playoffs. The Cardinals lost a lot because of graduation but return their two two running backs in Shayne Monsanto and Jalen Montgomery, who combined for almost 1,400 yards last season.

Hammond: Titles, talent aplenty for Skyhawks

Hammond is going after its third straight title and has high-profile prospects in Jordan Burch and South Carolina commit Alex Huntley. Burch is ranked as No. 2 prospect in the country by 247Sports as everyone waits for him to announce his college choice. The Skyhawks carry a 25-game winning streak into its nationally televised season opener against Southern Columbia (Pennsylvania).

Heathwood Hall: Highlanders look to turn the corner

Heathwood Hall won four games in 2018, the most since 2009, and made the playoffs in Danny Lewis’ first year. The Highlanders have three of its stars back in quarterback Alex Lewis and Rondarius and Ronnie Porter.

SCISA: 8-man

Northside Christian: Crusaders are back in eight-man after one season in 11-man.

Richard Winn: Crusaders need to overcome early-season injuries including QB Zack Taylor and WR Jimmy McKeown, but hope to have both back at some point this year.

WW King: Team won just one game last season.

Newberry Academy: Team fielding 8-man team after splitting with Greenwood Academy last season.

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The State and Island Packet. He has covered high school sports in South Carolina for 16 years and is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.