West Florence at Northwestern
Northwestern’s road back to the state championship again starts versus West Florence, but this year the second-seeded Trojans will host the Knights at District 3 Stadium. Kyle Richardson’s team won a 40-28 first round meeting last season, but Northwestern’s defense has only allowed more than 20 points once this season. No. 15-seed West Florence’s offense is piloted by talented junior Marquane Goodman, though his numbers (over 1,000 yards passing, five touchdows, nine interceptions) aren’t very impressive, in part dueto the Knights’ focus on running the ball.
Trey Woodberry’s team will need a big night out of Shrine Bowl kicker and future Clemson Tiger Alex Spence. Should West Florence drives bog down, they’ll aim to pin the Trojans deep with Spence’s big leg and make the Trojans work for every point they get. Northwestern has certainly taken advantage of its offensive possessions this season; the Trojans are converting 57 percent of their third downs and have scored on 93 percent of their red zone trips, with touchdowns the result in 84 percent of those visits. Friday’s winner faces either York or Greenwood in round two.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: WF- Trey Woodberry; NW- Kyle Richardson
Records: WF- 6-5; NW- 11-0
Last week: West Florence lost to South Florence 9-3; Northwestern beat Rock Hill 66-19
Last meeting: Northwestern beat West Florence 40-28 (2012)
Points scored/allowed per game: WF- 25.1/20.7; NW- 47.4/14.2
Players to watch: WF- Dexter Fulmore, RB; Romel Hatcher, WR; Marquane Goodman, QB. NW- Quadarious Fair, senior WR; Julian Shockley, sophomore RB; Neil Addickes, senior LB/DB.
Twitter-sized preview: West Florence likely can't stop Northwestern, and will be hard pressed to keep pace in scoring. Trojans should advance to second round.
York at Greenwood
Neither side could have asked for a less desirable first round pairing. Greenwood, the defending Class AAAA Division II state champions and a No. 7 seed this season, lumbered out of the gates thanks in part to an inexperienced roster and a difficult schedule, but the Eagles have won six consecutive to enter the playoffs with a full head of steam. Gene Cathcart’s crew only allowed 55 points during that span, but only one team with a winning record, 6-5 Laurens, was included. Per usual, Greenwood’s offense runs the ball about 80 percent of the time.
Tenth-seeded York has stumbled relatively the last three weeks, losing twice and eking out a win over rival Clover in the regular season finale, while scoring just 35 points in the three games. But the Cougars’ 8-0 start showed what they were capable of, and they’ll look to return to their high-scoring ways this week on the road. Expect the Cougar veterans on the offensive side of the ball, including Herald coverage area leading rusher Ryan Moore, to rise up against a Greenwood team with just eight seniors on the roster. Friday’s winner faces the Northwestern-West Florence winner in the second round.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: Y- Bobby Carroll; G- Gene Cathcart
Records: Y- 9-2; G- 8-3
Last week: York beat Clover 13-10; Greenwood beat Laurens 13-10
Last meeting: York beat Greenwood 28-24 (2005)
Points scored/allowed per game: Y- 37.5/23.5; G- 26.1/15.6
Players to watch: Y- Shuler Littleton, senior OL; Lawrence Adams, senior DL; Markel Castle, senior WR. G- Kaleb Chalmers, junior DB; Octavious Morgan, senior ATH; C.J. Jackson, sophomore QB.
Twitter-sized preview: York needs to operate from a lead. It's imperative to get RB Ryan Moore on the right track so that the offense can maintain balance.
Nation Ford at Stratford
The Falcons will face their second elite high school quarterback this season Friday when they take on fifth-seeded Stratford and Shrine Bowl quarterback Jacob Park. The Georgia commit has thrown for 21 touchdowns and nearly 2,600 yards, but his Knights team enters the postseason with a bit of the shine wiped from its record. Consecutive losses to undefeated South Florence and Goose Creek are by no means reasons to panic, but it did give Nation Ford coach Michael Allen a double-sided blueprint for what parts of the Stratford squad to attack.
Despite boasting a Shrine Bowl quarterback, Stratford’s best asset is its defense, which held four opponents to single digit scoring, and undefeated Goose Creek to just 14 points in a loss last week. No. 12 seed Nation Ford’s biggest weakness this season has been its defense, which has surrendered over 37 points per game on average. The Falcons will need a big game out of senior quarterback Dalton Helms to advance to a possible second round meeting with the winner of Easley and South Florence.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: NF- Michael Allen; S- Ray Stackley
Records: NF- 7-4; S- 9-2
Last week: Nation Ford beat Fort Mill 35-28; Stratford lost to Goose Creek 14-7
Last meeting: Never met
Points scored/allowed per game: NF- 29.3/37.3; S- 29.9/14.4.
Players to watch: NF- Hank Tuipulotu, sophomore ATH; Riley Hilton, senior WR/TE; Josh Jacobs, senior DL. S- Jacob Park, senior QB; Jourdan Johnson, senior RB; Cecil Smith, senior LB.
Twitter-sized preview: If ever the Nation Ford defense showed up this season, Friday night would be ideal. Banged up, inexp., they need to pull one out of the bag.
Rock Hill at Hillcrest
During the first decade of the 2000’s, Hillcrest High School won 29 football games total. In the same span, Rock Hill High School won 17 playoff games. The roles have reversed this season as the No. 2 seed Rams celebrate capturing their first ever Region 1-AAAA football title with a first round home game in the Big 16 playoffs against the 15-seed Bearcats.
Greg Porter’s program is 1-21 all-time in the postseason but the Rams earned their spot in this year’s playoffs with the first 10-win season in school history. Hillcrest played just four games against winning teams, so the jury on them is still out for some. Rock Hill will try and pull the upset in Simpsonville, though whether key offensive cogs Justin Stokes and Jau’Quan Feaster will be able to go Friday is in question after they sat out last week.
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: RH- Joe Montgomery; H- Greg Porter
Records: RH- 4-7; H- 10-1
Last week: Rock Hill lost 66-19 to Northwestern; Hillcrest beat Woodmont 27-14
Last meeting: Rock Hill won 26-7 (2004)
Points scored/allowed per game: RH- 23.3/30.9; H- 41.3/13.4.
Players to watch: RH- DaChon Witherspoon, sophomore WR; Cam Bell, senior DL; Brandon Croutch, DB/ATH. H- Isaiah Lewis, senior WR/DB; Ian Fabian, senior OL.
Twitter-sized preview: Hillcrest will be eager to prove its lofty seeding was not a fluke built on a weak region. Will Rock Hill be ready to pack up, or fight?
Irmo at South Pointe
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: I- Bob Hanna; SP- Strait Herron
Records: I- 6-5; SP- 9-2
Last week: Irmo beat Lugoff-Elgin 38-9; South Pointe beat Lancaster 42-0
Last meeting: South Pointe beat Irmo 21-17 (2013)
Points scored/allowed per game: I- 29.5/25.8; SP- 34.5/13.5.
Players to watch: I- De’Ares Nelson, senior WR; Marquis Taylor, senior LB; Manny Banks, junior WR. SP- Ty Barber, junior LB; Kyle Brandt, senior WR; Devion Williams, junior DB.
Twitter-sized preview: South Pointe wants to be the aggressor and will be defensively unless Irmo can block up front; Stallion offense will have to score a few.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T