Here are five things that stood out from Week 7 in Midlands high school football:
It’s Dutch Fork and then everyone else
Can anyone in the Midlands slow down Dutch Fork? Quite simply — no.
The three-time defending Class 5A champions proved yet again they are not only the class of the Midlands but the favorites to win another state title with Friday’s 48-14 win over River Bluff.
River Bluff came into the game unbeaten, although it wasn’t against strong competition outside of Gilbert. The Gators have a lot of momentum in Blair Hardin’s third year but Friday night showed how high Dutch Fork has set the bar for everyone else in Region 5-5A and in the area.
Spring Valley is the only Midlands team to come within 15 points of Dutch Fork in the last four years, and I don’t see that changing in its final two games against Lexington and White Knoll. The Silver Foxes are just on another level in all phases — offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
Things should get a little tougher later in the playoffs, but it is going to take a big effort to slow the Dutch Fork train down.
The other unbeaten
Other than Dutch Fork, A.C. Flora is the only other undefeated team in the Columbia area.
The Falcons are 7-0 after Friday’s win over Lakewood and the next two weeks will determine if they will repeat as Region 6-4A champs.
A.C. Flora travels to Orangeburg-Wilkinson on Friday before hosting a suddenly hot Lower Richland team, which is 2-0 in the region.
Fairfield gets swagger back
Fairfield Central coach Demetrius Davis questioned himself for putting his team through such a tough non-conference schedule.
The 3A Griffins played 5A Blythewood, 4A Westwood and strong John Creek from Georgia in their non-conference schedule and went 2-4. After a region-opening win over Keenan, the Griffins pulled one of the biggest surprises of the weekend with a 21-20 win over unbeaten Camden.
“I was kind of down on myself and our non-region and we never got any confidence because we played so many good people,” Davis said. “But this kind of gave us our confidence and swagger back.”
The Griffins picked up the win without quarterback Stephon Gadson, who injured his wrist against Westwood. FC has gone with QB by committee since the injury: Jacob McManus is a more traditional quarterback with Montavius Thompson, Will Barber and Chris Suber running the Wildcat formation.
Fairfield is off this week before taking on defending state champion Chester in a game that might decide the region title.
Airport, Chapin living on the edge
If you go to an Airport or Chapin game this year, you might want to stay until the end.
The teams have had a flair for the dramatic.
Airport has lived on the edge the past two weeks and won on a pair of Haden Rimer field goals in the final seconds.
Four of Chapin’s seven games have been decided by seven points or less and the Eagles are 3-1 in those contests. On Friday, Chapin scored on Roger Pedroni’s run with 27 seconds left in a 38-35 win over White Knoll.
Pedroni has accounted for all three of the game-winning scores in the final minute wins, rushing for two TDs and throwing another.
The Way for Brookland-Cayce
Brookland-Cayce has ridden the legs of junior running back Will Way for its three-game winning streak and 2-0 start in Region 5-A.
Way ran for 268 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s 35-20 win over South Aiken. It was Way’s third straight game of at least 190 yards rushing. During that span, he has 661 yards on the ground.
Marcus Alston, DB, Fairfield Central - Blocked game-winning field goal attempt to help Fairfield defeat Camden, 21-20.
Fred Archie, WR and Jamison Ganzy, QB, Lower Richland - Archie threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 141 and a score in the win over Lakewood. Archie caught six passes for 244 yards and four TDs.
Ronnie Porter, RB, Heathwood Hall - One of the most underrated players in the Midlands had another big game. Porter rushed for 212 yards and two scores in the win over Ben Lippen and went over the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
Hunter Helms, QB, Gray Collegiate - For the second straight week, a Midlands quarterback throws for more than 300 yards despite just playing a half. Helms went for 369 yards and five TDs in the win over Columbia.
Demoni Jones, DL, Brookland-Cayce - Had four sacks in win over South Aiken.
5 Games to Watch Next Week
Dutch Fork at Lexington: Lexington will be next team to try to slow down the Dutch Fork train.
Laurence Manning at Hammond: Might be possible SCISA 3A championship preview. LMA comes in at 7-0 while Hammond has been steamrolling competition after 1-2 start.
Ridge View at Westwood: Big matchup between Richland 2 rivals. Ridge View can take control of region with a win over Westwood and South Pointe in the next two weeks.
Strom Thurmond at Gilbert: Matchup of two top-10 teams in Class 3A. Winner of this one is in the driver’s seat to win Region 5-3A title.
Sumter at Blythewood: This one should decide Region 4-5A title. Blythewood is coming off its two highest scoring games of season while Sumter is one of the six unbeaten teams left in Class 5A.
How Midlands Top 10 Fared
1. Dutch Fork (7-0-1): Def. River Bluff, 48-14. Up next: at Lexington
2. River Bluff (7-1): Lost to Dutch Fork, 48-14. Up next: at Chapin
3. AC Flora (7-0): Def. Lakewood, 34-14. Up next: at Orangeburg-Wilkinson
4. Camden (7-1): Lost to Fairfield Central, 21-20. Up next: vs. Chester
5. Gilbert (6-1): Off. Up next: vs. Strom Thurmond
6. Lexington (6-1): Off. Up next: vs. Dutch Fork.
7. Hammond (6-2): Def. Porter-Gaud, 57-6. Up next: vs. Laurence Manning
8. White Knoll (5-2): Lost to Chapin, 38-35. Up next: vs. Spring Valley
9. Blythewood (5-2): Def. Irmo, 42-35. Up next: vs. Sumter
10. Airport (5-2): Def. North Augusta, 30-29. Up next: at Aiken
This week’s schedule
All games start at 7:30 p.m.
AC Flora at Orangeburg-Wilkinson
Airport at Aiken
Batesburg-Leesville at Ninety-Six
Brookland-Cayce at Midland Valley
Calhoun County at Gray Collegiate (Location: TBA)
Cardinal Newman at Wilson Hall
Chester at Camden
Crestwood at Dreher at Memorial Stadium
Dutch Fork at Lexington
Eau Claire at CA Johnson at Bolden Stadium
First Baptist at Heathwood Hall
Indian Land at Keenan
Irmo at Lugoff-Elgin
Lakewood at Lower Richland
Laurence Manning at Hammond
Newberry at Clinton
Newberry Academy at W.W. King
North Central at Lee Central
Northside Christian at Andrew Jackson
Pelion at Swansea
Richard Winn at Calhoun Academy
Ridge View at Westwood
River Bluff at Chapin
South Pointe at Richland Northeast at Harry Parone Stadium
Spring Valley at White Knoll
Strom Thurmond at Gilbert
Sumter at Blythewood
Union County at Mid-Carolina