It is mid November, there is a nip in the air, and it is time for South Carolina's high school football teams to win or go home. This Friday night is Week One of the AAAA-I and AAAA-II playoffs and Week Two of the other divisions.
There are several match ups around the state worth laying down a few bucks to watch. We will offer a quick highlight of what is on the menu Friday night.
In Class AAAA-I, known as the "Big 16," nearly every game on the schedule for the night is interesting. In this division you have nationally ranked teams such as Dorman and Byrnes and the legendary John McKissick's Summerville team. The most interesting game to me will be in Summerville as the Gaffney Indians invade the lowcountry for a showdown with the winningest coach in high school history. Both Gaffney and Summerville are steeped in tradition and are year in year out powers. The four hour ride down to Summerville might take something out of the Indians, but a showdown between a legendary coach and legendary team is not one to miss.
In Class AAAA-II, there are interesting match ups as well. T.L. Hanna taking a long trip down to Goose Creeks grabs my attention. The Yellow Jackets, made famous by the movie "Radio" have a proud tradition. However, Goose Creek has a solid program that should turn down the sound of the Yellow Jackets.
In Class AAA, a lower state showdown tops my list of games to watch. South Aiken travels to Marlboro County. Marlboro County was once in the AAAA class, and did well in that class, but have been moved down to AAA. At their home games, it seems like the entire population of Marlboro County turns out. South Aiken is no slouch team, though, so this one will be one to watch.
In Class AA, there are a couple of games in the upstate that are worth watching. One involves two legendary programs with Batesburg-Leesville traveling to Woodruff. Woodruff takes pride in their football, and former coach Willie Varner is on the top ten list of wins of high school coaches in the country. The entire town of Woodruff rallies behind their beloved Wolverines. The same can be said for Batesburg-Leesville. Though some know the town for its dueling barbecue joints, Shealy's and Hite's, the B-L teams get the job done on the field. If smaller level football is your preference, you can't get a better game.
The other AA game that interests me is Mid Carolina at Abbeville. It interests me because I wonder just how good Abbeville is. The Panthers are undefeated and some are calling them the best complete team in the state right now. However, I think Mid Carolina might present them with some problems. How Abbeville deals with those problems will show just how good they are.
Moving on to Class A-I, the most intriguing game is Ninety-Six at Chesterfield. You know Chesterfield's coach, former Gamecock standout Steve Tanneyhill. Tanneyhill has built an impressive program at Chesterfield and it will line up against a Ninety-Six team that lost only to Abbeville at home and Ware Shoals on the road. It would surprise me if there were not a lot of points scored in this one. Both teams have big play offenses.
Class A-II brings us four games that all have promise to be great ones. In the upper state, Williston-Elko travels to Christ Church and Great Falls travels to Ware Shoals. Those games are right out of a novel. Christ Church has had several solid regular seasons, but has failed to make a deep playoff run. Ware Shoals and Great Falls are two little towns with a proud history that have both fallen on hard economic times. Both Ware Shoals and Great Falls produced All-Americans at Clemson. Ware Shoals gave Clemson Jerry Butler. Great Falls gave Clemson Banks McFadden, a two sport All-American. Both towns are old mill towns.
In the lower state A-II, traditional power Timmonsville travels to Scott's Branch and Lake View travels to Blackville-Hilda. Again, those games are good showdowns between proud communities who are passionate about their teams.
In short, despite the calls for a rainy cool night Friday, the games in the South Carolina High School League will be worth going to watch. There is going to be a lot of hard hitting, passion, and gamesmanship on display.