High School Football

Pivot: first round playoff matchups + which local school should go farthest?

HS Football Pivot: which local team will go furthest in postseason?

The Herald’s Bret McCormick looks at which local high school football teams will go the furthest in the 2018 SCHSL state playoffs.
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The Herald’s Bret McCormick looks at which local high school football teams will go the furthest in the 2018 SCHSL state playoffs.

Nothing to talk about from last week since there was no local high school football. So, this week’s Pivot is looking forward to this Friday’s first round of the South Carolina state playoffs.

Local teams’ first round matchups

At the 5A level, Rock Hill, Northwestern and Nation Ford are in the first round of the playoffs. Northwestern (3-6), the No. 2 seed from Region 3-5A, plays Thursday night at District Three Stadium against Boiling Springs (5-5), the No. 4 team from Region 2-5A. Rock Hill (7-2), the winners of Region 3-5A, play Friday night against Laurens (4-6), which finished fifth in Region 1-5A. Region 3-5A third place finisher Nation Ford (5-5) travels to Blythewood (6-3), which finished second in Region 4-5A.

South Pointe and York finished first and second in Region 3-4A and both play at home Friday. South Pointe (9-1) hosts Walhalla (7-3), which earned an at-large bid thanks to seven regular season wins. York (5-4) hosts Orangeburg-Wilkinson (4-5), the No. 4 seed from Region 4-4A. Lancaster (6-4) finished fourth in Region 3-4A and hits the road to face a sizzling A.C. Flora (8-2) team, which has won eight straight games and finished atop Region 4-4A.

Chester (10-0) opens the 3A playoffs at home for the third straight season. The Region 4-3A champs host Liberty (5-5), which finished fourth in Region 1-3A. Indian Land surged to the regular season finish line with three straight wins and the reward is a home game Friday against Crescent (6-4), the No. 3 seed from Region 1-3A.

Listen in on Chester coach Victor Floyd’s pregame talk before the Cyclones’ matchup with rival Fairfield Central, as well as highlights and action from the game.

Making history

Here are some historical storylines to watch this Friday, with the help of SCFootballHistory.com:

  • Indian Land will try to win its first playoff game since 2005.
  • Rock Hill will try to win its first playoff game since 2008.
  • Northwestern is playing a seventh home playoff game out of its last eight. The eighth game in that run was the 2015 state title game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
  • South Pointe goes for its 21st straight win in the postseason, a product of four straight state titles. The Stallions will try to become the state’s first public school team to win five consecutive state championships.

South Pointe started fast and never looked back, beating Hartsville Dec. 2, 2017 to win the Stallions' fourth straight South Carolina high school football state championship. Check out highlights from the game.

Most interesting first round matchup locally?

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of daylight between Blythewood and Nation Ford.

The Falcons make the trip down I-77 to face the Bengals, who bounced back from a 3-7 season last year to go 6-3 in the 2018 regular season under first-year coach Jason Seidel. Blythewood lost standout QB Quinton Patten earlier in the season to an ACL injury, but has progressed under his replacement, King Ford. Seidel, the school’s third head coach in three years, said in preseason that he thought his team would surprise people and they have thus far.

Nation Ford has a well-stocked cupboard of athletes, led by Petey Tuipulotu. Against Chapin Oct. 23, Tuipulotu had nine catches for 141 yards and a pair of TDs on offense, and chipped in eight tackles on defense. Middle linebacker Michael Peterson is in the thick of the action almost every play, and the Falcons can boast the best rushing attack in school history, headlined by junior running back Nathan Mahaffey. He’s getting quality running lanes from an offensive line featuring J’Quon Carter, Robert Campbell, Sam Rygol, Devin Hodges and Aronde Smith.

Which local teams could make a run?

Let’s go ahead and start with 4A South Pointe, knowing the four-time defending state champs have as good a shot as any team in our area. If the Stallions handle Walhalla in the first round, they would likely host Daniel in the second round. The Lions only lost once in the regular season. Greenville, who the Stallions barely beat earlier in the season, and A.C. Flora would be likely third round opponents. South Pointe would hit the road for the Upper State championship if it advanced that far.

The most obvious obstacle for 10-0 Chester in the 3A Upper State bracket is Chapman. The Panthers, who have played in the last two state title games, bashed the Cyclones 55-25 in last year’s second round, but the two teams wouldn’t meet this year until the Upper State championship game. Provided the higher-seeded teams won in the first round, the Cyclones would get a tough second round test at home against Woodruff, a top-10 team most of the year.

Not sure that Indian Land and Rock Hill will do much damage this season -- if the Bearcats advance they’ll likely face Gaffney in the second round -- but a key for both programs would be a first round playoff win. That would certainly equal important progress for two schools that are in the midst of interesting and positive changes.

York also has a home playoff game in the first round, but would almost certainly face 9-1 Greer in the second round on the road, a very tough challenge.