High School Sports

Teams marching closer to championships

State championships are there for the taking for five Herald-area teams, and Great Falls (10-2) is one game away.

If the Red Devils beat Ridge Spring-Monetta (7-5) in the Class A Division II Upper State championship tonight, they will head to Orangeburg next week to play Blackville-Hilda or Lake View at noon in the title game.

The other four area teams have two games left before the state championship round Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in Columbia.

Tonight, Northwestern is on the road against Irmo in the Class AAAA Division I playoffs. Clover travels to Greenwood and South Pointe to Berkeley in Class AAAA Division II. Chester hosts Daniel in the third round of the Class AAA playoffs.

The matchups involving the local teams are about as good as it gets in high school football.

Northwestern is having a dream season. Jimmy Wallace came back as coach this season, and the Trojans were picked to finish in the middle of Region 3-AAAA. They surprised a lot of people, going 11-1 and winning the region title with a 6-0 record.

"It's been a race from the beginning,'' Wallace said. "We had an opportunity to meet with our kids after spring break, two weeks before spring practice. We started in April and haven't stopped yet.

"We worked as hard as we could in August. The opening game didn't come out the way we would have liked, but we've had some things go our way ... a break here, a break there. We've played some good teams and are fortunate to be where we are today.''

Quarterback Will King has shattered the school single-season passing records for yards (2,803) and touchdowns (35). He has good receivers in Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarrett Neely and Labris Adams, who have combined for 2,137 yards and all but two of King's TD passes.

Irmo is no slouch. The Yellow Jackets (10-2) made it to the Division I title game last season and lost to Gaffney. They were also there in 2002 and lost to Rock Hill.

Coach Bob Hanna recently made a change that has helped his team offensively, moving wide receiver Leander Barney, last year's quarterback, back under center.

Perhaps the toughest matchup of the night is South Pointe's game at Berkeley, which has a 7:30 kickoff, not 8 as originally thought.

The Stags are led by running back Andre Ellington, a Shrine Bowl pick who's committed to Clemson. Ellington has run for 1,588 yards and 22 touchdowns.

Berkeley (10-2) will have its hands full with the Stallions, in the playoffs for the first time since opening three years ago. South Pointe (9-3) has a trio of juniors who can light it up.

Quarterback Stephon Gilmore has passed for 1,488 yards and 11 touchdowns and has run for 1,036 and 13 TDs. Tailback Devin Wherry has 226 carries for 1,353 yards and 12 touchdowns. Wide receiver Charles Homes has 30 catches for 900 yards, an average of 30 per reception, and five TDs.

Clover (10-2), in Class AAAA for just the second season, won Region 3-AAAA with a 6-0 record last, but can't seem to get any respect. They lost in the second round last year, so a win tonight against powerful Greenwood (11-1) would boost their status.

Greenwood (11-1) won the Division II state championship last season and is coached by the legendary Shell Dula. He has won state titles in three classifications and is 3-0 at Greenwood in championship games since 1999.

Another team looking for respect is Chester. The Cyclones have not enjoyed regular success in the last 20 seasons, but are coming around under coach Victor Floyd.

The Cyclones (10-2) were 11-2 in 1963 when they won their last state title. They're one victory away from tying the school record for most wins in a season.

Chester is led by quarterback/wide receiver Gene McCaskill, wide receiver/defensive back C.C. Whitlock and defensive back/running back Terrell Springs. Whitlock, who also plays quarterback, will play in the Shrine Bowl, McCaskill and Springs in the North-South Game. All three are major-college recruits.

Daniel (11-1) is back after a couple of down seasons. The Lions have intercepted 27 passes this season, 13 by sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. The state record by an individual in a season is 16.