High School Football

Analysis: What we learned, Week 4 game balls and next week’s top football matchups

Here are five things that stood out from Week 4 in Midlands high school football:

Smith needs to be on an all-star team

White Knoll coach Dean Howell hasn’t been one to publicly tout his players.

But after the performance his quarterback Aveon Smith had Friday night, it would be hard not to sing his praises. Smith had 450 yards of total offense and accounted for nine touchdowns in the Timberwolves’ win over Gray Collegiate.

Smith, who is committed to play at Miami of Ohio, didn’t make the Shrine Bowl this week, which is tough because of such a talented group of signal callers around the state. But he should be in the North-South game when rosters are released next month. He faces some tough competition with the likes of Dutch Fork’s Ty Olenchuk and Carolina Forest’s Mason Garcia, but Friday’s performance he shows he belongs on the roster in some capacity.

Let the hype begin for Gilbert-River Bluff

There will be a big one next week in Lexington County when Gilbert and River Bluff get together in their final non-region matchup of season.

Hype for the game has been starting for several weeks now, and on paper it could be one of the must-see games of the season. River Bluff is off to a 5-0 start with its 14-7 win over Irmo on Friday, while Gilbert handled Dreher 56-10.

The Gators won last year’s meeting, 42-30 at Gilbert. River Bluff’s The Swamp is always a lively place and should rocking early and often during the game.

Back to basics for Chapin

After losing to Newberry last week, Chapin coach Justin Gentry sent a message to his team this week.

Gentry made his team practice in full pads every day this week even, on its Thursday morning walk-through. That seemed to pay off as the Eagles gutted out a 41-38 overtime win over Spring Valley to improve to 3-1 on the season.

“Last week for us was a gut check,” Gentry said. “We had them in full-gear every day this week. We had to get back to some old-school football and get our minds right. And you saw the fight in the dog the whole night tonight.”

C.A. Johnson’s progress

Two wins in a season might not seem like much for some programs, but it’s a big deal for C.A. Johnson.

The Hornets have struggled in recent years but equaled their win total from a year ago with their second win of the year Friday with a victory over Pelion.

Prior to last year, CAJ had won just five games from 2014-17. The Hornets will have five games to get that third victory, something that hasn’t happened since winning seven in 2013.

Falcons soaring

Coming into the season, A.C. Flora has plenty of question marks. Through the first half of the season, the Falcons are one of the seven unbeaten teams left in the Midlands.

The Falcons graduated most of their key players from last year’s region title team and coach Collin Drafts late in the spring when he took a job back in Florida. But former assistant Dustin Curtis came back to Flora after leading Westwood’s program.

The Falcons are 4-0 after Friday’s win over Richland Northeast and have one of the top tailbacks in Midlands in Matthew Pack, who had his second 200-yard game of the season.

The schedule gets a little tougher, starting with this week’s game against Chapin, but the Falcons have emerged as a favorite in Region 4-4A.

Game balls

Taylor Mathias, RB/LB, Lexington: Ran for three touchdowns, including the go-ahead one in fourth quarter and had game-clinching interception in 20-19 win over Batesburg-Leesville.

Swansea coach Brent Wilder: Picked up first win as Tigers head coach with win over Wade Hampton.

Aveon Smith, QB, White Knoll: When you account for nine touchdowns and more than 400 yards of offense, you get a game ball.

Savion Holmes, LB, Dutch Fork: Recorded three sacks in Silver Foxes’ 49-13 win over Blythewood.

Roger Pedroni, QB, Chapin: Had 302 yards of total offense and accounted for five touchdowns, including the game-winner in OT against Spring Valley. It was Pedroni’s second game-winning TD in last three weeks. He had a game-winning TD pass again Lugoff-Elgin on Sept. 6.

5 Games to Watch Next Week

Gilbert at River Bluff: One of the most anticipated matchups of season. Can River Bluff’s stingy defense slow down Gilbert’s high-powered attack?

Chapin at AC Flora: Always a fun game when two former region foes meet. Should be a lively atmosphere with two of the best student sections around.

First Baptist at Hammond: Rematch of last year’s SCISA 3A title game won by Hammond, which is averaging 52 points over its last two games.

Brookland-Cayce at Newberry: BC had the week off and must try and stop Newberry’s Ahmorae Wilmore, who is coming off back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.

Saluda at Southside Christian: Saluda gets its toughest test in battle of top-10 ranked teams in Class 2A.

How Midlands Top 10 Fared

1. Dutch Fork: Def. Blythewood 49-13. Up next: at Northwestern

2. River Bluff: Def. Irmo, 14-7. Up next: vs. Gilbert

3. Gilbert: Def. Dreher, 56-10. Up next at River Bluff

4. Camden: Def. West Florence, 31-29. Up next: vs. Richland Northeast

5. AC Flora: Def. Richland Northeast, 42-11. Up next: vs. Chapin

6. White Knoll: Def. Gray Collegiate, 68-42. Up next: at Lexington (Oct. 4)

7. Westwood: Def. South Aiken, 36-22. Up next: at Fairfield Central

8. Blythewood: Lost to Dutch Fork, 49-13. Up next: at Beaufort

9. Newberry: Def. Fairfield Central, 20-6. Up next: vs. Brookland-Cayce

10. Hammond: Def. Wilson Hall, 48-7. Up next: vs. First Baptist

This week’s schedule


Augusta Christian at Heathwood Hall

Blythewood at Beaufort

Brookland-Cayce at Newberry

Chapin at AC Flora at Memorial

Clover at Irmo

Columbia at Pelion

Dutch Fork at Northwestern

Eau Claire at Allendale-Fairfax

Edisto at CA Johnson at Benedict College

First Baptist at Hammond

Gilbert at River Bluff

Jefferson Davis at Newberry Academy

Keenan at Ridge View

Laurence Manning at Ben Lippen

Lexington at Spring Valley

Northside Christian at Beaufort Academy

Richard Winn at Clarendon Hall

Richland Northeast at Camden

Rock Hill at Lugoff-Elgin

Saluda at Southside Christian

Silver Bluff at Swansea

Wardlaw at WW King

Westwood at Fairfield Central

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.