The high school football regular season was a little wacky, to say the least. With two hurricanes and another major rain event that interrupted play and moved games to different days of the week, it seems like there were two seasons wrapped into one.
Nonetheless, those teams that survived the madness to earn berths in the state playoffs are looking ahead, not backward. On Friday night, nearly two dozen Lowcountry teams will hit the field in search of playoff glory.
For those schools in the S.C. High School League, Friday marks the first round of playoff competition, albeit a week later than originally planned. In the SCISA ranks, only two area schools remain after starting the playoffs last week.
That lone SCISA contest certainly has major importance as Porter-Gaud visits First Baptist for the second time in three weeks. First Baptist won the earlier meeting, 38-16, but Friday night’s clash is for a much bigger prize. The winner advances to the Class AAA state championship game, which will be played Nov. 17 at Benedict College.
First Baptist is seeking a third consecutive trip to a championship game. The Hurricanes won the last two SCISA Class AA titles before moving up in classification this season. The move up did little to slow down the progress of the program as the Hurricanes lost just once during the regular season – a 28-21 setback to defending AAA state champion Hammond School.
Hurricanes running back Michel Dukes is closing in on a third consecutive 2,000-yard rushing season.
Porter-Gaud is 9-2, also losing to Hammond. The Cyclones were impressive in a first-round win over Heathwood Hall last week, building a 35-7 halftime lead and cruising to a 49-21 victory.
“I think we played the best we have all year,” head coach Rick Reetz said. “We will have to duplicate that and more (against First Baptist). We know what’s ahead, and it’s a challenge, but we are excited about the opportunity.”
In the SCHSL playoffs, three matchups in Class AAAAA are rematches of games played during the regular season. West Ashley will visit Cane Bay for a second time in a battle of 5-5 teams. West Ashley won the season opener against Cane Bay, 25-22, with a late field goal. West Ashley is looking for its first-ever playoff win.
Stratford will be at Summerville on Friday with Summerville owning a 55-17 win over the Knights earlier this season. The Green Wave enter the playoffs as the Region 8-AAAAA champions after knocking off Fort Dorchester, ending the Patriots’ 33-game winning streak against Lowcountry competition.
Speaking of Fort Dorchester, the Patriots had last week off and will host Wando for a second time this season. Wando gave Fort Dorchester a battle before losing, 17-3, but has improved on offense over the last month of the season.
Fort Dorchester junior quarterback De’Andrae Sabb has accounted for more than 2,300 offensive yards and 28 touchdowns.
Other AAAAA playoff games involving local teams include Ashley Ridge visiting Region 6-AAAAA champion West Florence. West Florence running back Ailym Ford has topped 2,000 rushing yards and is a finalist for the SC Mr. Football Award.
Berkeley, the Region-7-AAAAA champion, will host Irmo, the third-place team from Region 4. Of note, should Berkeley and Summerville win their first two playoff games, they would meet for a second time this season.
In Class AAAA, Colleton County (3-7) is at Lower Richland. Hanahan opens the Class AAA playoffs as the Region 7 champion and will host Pelion, while Bishop England travels to Strom Thurmond.
Timberland, Burke and Oceanside Collegiate hosts first-round games in Class AA. Timberland takes on Kingstree while Burke entertains Calhoun County. In its first-ever playoff game, Oceanside Collegiate will host Whale Branch.
Also in AA, Garrett Tech visits Carver’s Bay and Woodland will travel to 9-1 Mullins.
In Class A, Military Magnet will host Branchville and St. John’s hosts Charleston Math & Science. CMS, with a 1-8 record, is making its first-ever playoff appearance. Earlier this season, it lost to the Islanders, 52-0.