High School Football

HS Football 411: everything you need to know for 2018 Week Zero action

Northwestern at South Pointe

Last meeting: South Pointe won 39-7 (2017)

Key players: N: LB Jaylon Baird, WR Jamario Holley (South Carolina commit), DL John Odom, OL Tre Sims. SP: LB/DB Savion White, DE Dorian Manning, ATH Marice Whitlock, QB Tahleek Steele.

Need to know: These two schools have evenly split 14 previous meetings. South Pointe rolled in last season’s game -- the 32-point deficit was the biggest in the young history of the rivalry -- but this year’s game feels like it should be much closer. Both teams had slow starts during the Football City USA Kickoff, though Northwestern -- missing both of its starting cornerbacks, Fentrell Cypress and D’Arthur Ratchford -- snapped out of its slumber eventually. South Pointe, which starts 2018 ranked No. 1 in 4A football, lacked offensive fluidity -- no surprise there with a new QB -- against Byrnes, and don’t be surprised if the Stallions lean more heavily on Joe Ervin and the run game against the Trojans, who aren’t overly big up front on defense. Ervin, the Coastal Carolina commit, is a top-notch fallback plan.

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Bret McCormick and Jimmy Wallace discuss the opening night of the 2018 high school football season:

READ: The Herald’s 2018 high school football preview

READ: Who are the top college football recruits in The Herald’s coverage area?

Clover at York

Last meeting: York won 21-10 (2017)

Key players: C: RB David Hall, LB Shon Brown, LB Hayden Johnson, DB Jay Falls. Y: QB Tanner McKinney, WR Ethan Mitchell, DL J.Q. Guinn, OL Ashton Shannon.

Need to know: Who will start at QB for Clover? Four kids scrapped for the job during the last five months, but it’s unclear if any of the quartet has clearly emerged as the starter. Blue Eagles coach Brian Lane said he’ll announce the starter Friday before the game. Big advantage for York in that category. Senior QB Tanner McKinney should be ready for the kind of rivalry environment both teams will encounter Friday night. The Blue Eagles need their defense, returning almost every contributor from last season, including standout linebackers Hayden Johnson and Shon Brown, to step up while the offense searches for a groove. York has won six of the last seven in this rivalry, which plays its 106th game Friday.

READ: Drone has revolutionzed the way York coaches and players watch practice film

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Nation Ford at Spartanburg

Last meeting: never played

Key players: NF: TE Nathan Lovette, RB Nathan Mahaffey, DL Ashten Schaufert, QB Carson Carruthers. S: DB Jaylon Girdner, RB Mike Wannamaker, WR Moe Wedman (Navy commit), OL Payton Ruff.

Need to know: This is as tough a season-opener as Nation Ford could schedule. The Falcons head to Wofford College’s Gibbs Stadium to take on a No. 6-ranked Vikings team that has big plans in 2018. Spartanburg will ride 6-foot, 220-pound running back Zykamren Robinson, who has a slew of college football offers, including South Carolina. The Vikings will probably be the most well-rounded team the Falcons face in the regular season. Nation Ford’s offensive line needs to give rookie QB starter Carson Carruthers as much decision-making time as possible in his debut. The Falcons have skilled play-makers on the perimeter, none more than senior Dewuan McCullum. The Texas-San Antonio commit had an injury-hit junior season and will be eager to make a bang in the 2018 opener.

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Rock Hill at Sumter

Last meeting: Sumter won 10-7 (2015)

Key players: RH: RB Narii Gaither, OL Carson Murray, DL Logan Hicks, DB Nick Ervin. S: OT Zion Nelson (Appalachian State commit), DB Melvin Lundy, OL Tayvian Gass (Wofford commit), RB Jonathan Henry.

Need to know: Rock Hill ran the ball well against Myers Park in the Football City USA Kickoff with senior Narii Gaither, but the Bearcats’ passing game looked unsurprisingly sloppy for a scrimmage. Myers Park was a good tune-up for Sumter, which, like the Mustangs, should be pretty big on both sides of the football. Mark Barnes’ teams at Crest, in Shelby, N.C., were always physically relentless and strong and he’s carried those focuses to Sumter. The Gamecocks won nine games last season. Rock Hill’s defense -- lacking some size in the front seven -- will have to make gang-tackling second nature this season. The Bearcat front should get plenty of help from safeties Anthony Jackson and Nick Ervin, who both like to smack ball-carriers.

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Chester at Aiken

Last meeting: never played

Key players: C: OL Wyatt Tunall (Appalachian State commit), DT Quay Evans, WR Terrence Mills, LB Octaveion Minter. A: QB Kory Wallace, RB/DB Jeremiah Green, LB Maison Hall.

Need to know: This game was originally supposed to be played at Newberry College, but that fell through, according to Cyclones coach Victor Floyd, because Aiken couldn’t get enough support staff committed to work the game. So, it’s a true road game now for Chester, against an Aiken squad that was 0-10 last season and last won a game in November, 2016. Fighting Green Hornets coach J.W. Montgomery overhauled his coaching staff during the offseason. The challenge for Aiken: stopping the Chester run game, which should be a dominant focal point of Floyd’s offensive play-calling in 2018. The Cyclones have three ball-carriers, including thousand-yard rusher Pha’Leak Brown, and have more size in the defensive front seven than they’ve had in a long time.

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Lancaster at Indian Land

Last meeting: Lancaster won 21-7 (2017)

Key players: L: OL Fred Reid, WR Christian Woodard, QB Kemarkio Cloud, DB Zyon Duncan. IL: ATH A.J. Jefferson, LB Robby Csuhta, OL Nick Yarborough, DB Dorian Williams (Coastal Carolina commit).

Need to know: Lancaster is no slouch, but may be Indian Land’s easiest non-region game. The Bruins’ size up front will test Indian Land in a big way. If Lancaster can wear down the Warriors with QB Kemarkio Cloud and running backs Asonta Clark and Nygel Moore, and a very experienced offensive line, it could be a tough night for the hosts. Indian Land starts rookie QB, senior Grayson Barber, but Lancaster was cleaned out on the defensive line by graduation and position switches. There may be some blitzing from the Bruins to see if they can rock Barber’s boat early in the game. This is only the second time these two schools have met (after last year), but this has the makings for a very good rivalry in the coming years.

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Fort Mill at River Bluff

Last meeting: River Bluff won 35-14 (2015)

Key players: FM: RB Sebastian Lach, DB Cam Saunders, OL Nick Brown, DL Mel Plankenhorn. RB: DE Noah Johnson, LB Camden Gray, OL A.J. Farchione, RB Antonio Gantt.

Need to know: River Bluff won just two games last season in coach Blair Hardin’s debut year as the Gators’ head coach. He returns 11 starters, including both running backs, but the Gators’ strength is defense. They run an option offense, so Fort Mill will need to be defensively disciplined in its first game under new coach Rob McNeely. Yellow Jacket ball-carrier Sebastian Lach showed some exciting flashes during the preseason and the Yellow Jackets could use a big game (and season) from the senior. Fort Mill’s non-region schedule is such that the Yellow Jackets could get on a roll before region play. A win Friday night in River Bluff’s beautiful stadium would be a great way to get the momentum rolling.

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