High School Football

Analysis: What we learned, Week 6 game balls and next week’s top football matchups

Here are five things that stood out from Week 6 in Midlands high school football:

Lexington continues to impress

Lexington was down to its third-string quarterback and had plenty of questions before the season began in August.

But two months later, Lexington is 6-1 after Friday’s 45-27 win over White Knoll. The Wildcats caught a break when White Knoll’s Aveon Smith went down with an injury, but their ability to overcome obstacles has been fun to watch.

Starting QB Cal Herndon was lost to an ACL injury in spring. Elijah Ogden has stepped in at QB and has been very efficient, completing over 70 percent of his passes coming into Friday’s game. The Wildcats have a 1-2 punch at running back in Ahmaad Bynem-Scott and Taylor Mathias and have a knack for big plays on special teams and defense.

Dutch Fork still is the class of the region, but if Lexington can beat Chapin and River Bluff, the Wildcats can finish second in the region and be home for a playoff game.

Smith’s status might determine White Knoll’s fate

White Knoll’s postseason chances might hinge on the health of star quarterback Aveon Smith.

The Miami of Ohio commit left Friday’s game with a knee injury in the third quarter and the Timberwolves’ offense struggled without him. Smith said after the game that he thought he hyperextended his knee and was going to have it checked out again Saturday.

If Smith is out for any period of time down the stretch, White Knoll’s chances down the stretch will be hampered.

Irmo making strides under Brand

Aaron Brand has had some ups and downs in his first season coaching at Irmo.

But Friday’s last-second 27-26 win over Spring Valley should give the Yellow Jackets (3-4) confidence for the second half of the season. Irmo scored the game-winning TD with 33 seconds left to win its region opener.

While the Yellow Jackets don’t resemble teams Brand has worked with in Charlotte at Vance, Mallard Creek or Independence, you can tell he has a plan and a vision in place.

Irmo has three games left, including unbeaten Sumter, and one win should get them in the postseason. A 2-1 mark might earn the Yellow Jackets a home playoff game.

Heathwood turnaround

Heathwood Hall is in the midst of its best season in a decade.

Danny Lewis has helped turn things around in his second season after coming from South Carolina State. The Highlanders (5-2) already surpassed last year’s win total after the 34-28 win over Porter-Gaud.

Heathwood has four games left, including matchups with Hammond and First Baptist, but is all but assured of its first winning season since going 12-1 in 2009.

Twice as nice

Gray Collegiate proved last year’s win over Lamar was no fluke.

The War Eagles held off the Silver Foxes, the top ranked team in Class A, in the 28-26 victory to win for the second straight year.

At 3-3, Gray Collegiate should dominate its Region 3-2A competition and has talent on both sides of the ball to make a run in the 2A playoffs.

Game balls

Ty Olenchuk, QB, Dutch Fork: Tied school record with six touchdown passes in a game and went over 7,000 passing yards in his career with 311-yard effort against Chapin. Olenchuk has 7,209 yards passing and needs 831 yards to surpass brother Derek Olenchuk as the school’s all-time passing yards leader.

Airport coaching staff/players: Didn’t have coach Kirk Burnett Friday night but gutted out a last-second 24-21 win over Midland Valley.

Fairfield Central running game: Rushed for 435 yards in Thursday’s win over Keenan.

Jamison Ganzy, QB, Lower Richland: Accounted for six touchdowns as Lower Richland won for first time since Week 0 by defeating Dreher.

Az’hane Salaam, DB, Heathwood Hall: Had two interceptions in fourth quarter, including one at the 2-yard line in Heathwood’s win over Porter-Gaud

5 Games to Watch Next Week

River Bluff at Dutch Fork: It’s a battle of unbeatens and top two teams in the Midlands Top 10. The winner is in driver’s seat in Region 5-5A.

Camden at Fairfield Central: Fairfield Central looked good in region opener and hopes to hand Camden first loss of season.

Blythewood at Irmo: Irmo is coming off its biggest win of the year against Spring Valley and gets a Blythewood team that is healthy and coming off a bye.

Chapin at White Knoll: Loser of game drops to 0-2 region and chance of automatic playoff berth becomes slim.

Heathwood Hall at Ben Lippen: Heathwood Hall has won three straight and gets a Ben Lippen team coming off a big come-from-behind win over Wilson Hall.

How Midlands Top 10 Fared

1. Dutch Fork (6-0-1) def. Chapin, 55-10. Up next: vs. River Bluff

2. River Bluff (6-0): Off. Up next: at Dutch Fork (Oct. 18)

3. White Knoll (5-1): Lost to Lexington, 45-27. Up next: vs. Chapin

4. (tie) Camden (6-0): Off Up next: at Fairfield Central

4. (tie) AC Flora (6-0): Def. Crestwood, 49-7. Up next: at Lakewood

6. Gilbert (6-1): Def. Swansea, 47-0. Up next: vs. Strom Thurmond (Oct. 18)

7. Westwood (4-2): Lost to South Pointe, 31-20. Up next: At York

8. Hammond (5-2): Def. Augusta Christian, 47-0. Up next: vs. Porter-Gaud

9. Lexington (6-1): Def. White Knoll, 45-27. Up next: Off week

10. Airport (4-2): Def. Midland Valley, 24-21. Up next: at North Augusta

This week’s schedule

All games start at 7:30 p.m.

AC Flora at Lakewood

Airport at North Augusta

Blythewood at Irmo

CA Johnson at Calhoun County

Camden at Fairfield Central

Cardinal Newman at Laurence Manning

Chapin at White Knoll

Chesterfield at North Central

Clinton at Mid-Carolina

Emerald at Newberry

Gray Collegiate at Columbia

Heathwood Hall at Ben Lippen

Keenan at Chester

Laurens Academy at Richard Winn

Lower Richland at Crestwood

Lugoff-Elgin at Spring Valley

Newberry Academy at Clarendon Hall

Ninety-Six at Saluda

Orangeburg-Wilkinson at Dreher

Pelion at Edisto

Porter-Gaud at Hammond

Richland Northeast at Ridge View

River Bluff at Dutch Fork

Silver Bluff at Batesburg-Leesville

South Aiken at Brookland-Cayce

St. John’s Christian at Northside Christian

Swansea at Strom Thurmond

Westwood at York

WW King at Calhoun

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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.