D.J. Reeder and the No. 1-ranked Christ Church Cavaliers will travel to take on 2A No. 2 Gray Collegiate to open the 2023 season. (Jessica Carpenter Photo)
1A No. 1 Christ Church at 2A No. 2 Gray Collegiate
Series Record: The all-time series is tied 1-1.
Last Meeting: Gray Collegiate won 33-0 in the 2020 playoffs.
Location: Gray Collegiate Academy, 3833 Leaphart Rd, West Columbia, SC 29169
Who to watch for Christ Church: RB Dashun Reeder, WR Jackson Repp, LB Jake Good
Who to watch for Gray: RB B.J. Montgomery, CB Justin Pauling, LB Kaine Williams
About the Cavaliers: After winning four consecutive state titles from 2011-14, Christ Church returned to Class A last season and returned to the mountaintop. The Cavaliers went 14-1 capped by a state championship win thanks in large part to a prolific offense that piled up 639 points. That offense was led by Reeder, who had one of the most phenomenal seasons in state history. Reeder rushed for 2,157 yards, averaged 9.6 yards per carry and ran for 42 touchdowns. Christ Church wasn’t exactly bad in the air either as Repp, a junior, had 905 yards receiving, averaged 22.1 yards per catch and caught 12 touchdowns. Good led the team in tackles with 98, including 74 solo stops.
About the War Eagles: Gray followed up its 2021 Class AA state championship season with an 8-4 mark in 2022. Friday’s season opener will also mark the debut of the War Eagles’ first on-campus stadium. Montgomery led Gray in rushing with 912 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Williams led the defense with 144 tackles, while Pauling had a team-high three interceptions.
Hillcrest at Laurens
Series Record: Laurens leads the all time series 34-16-2.
Last Meeting: Hillcrest won 41-7 last season. While the Raiders hold a big series lead in this old rivalry, the Rams have won seven of the last eight meetings.
Radio/TV/Internet: Laurens – WLBG 860 AM, wlbg.com/listenlive. Hillcrest – facebook.com/HHSRamAthletics (Facebook Live stream).
Location: K.C. Hanna Stadium, 5058 US-76, Laurens, SC 29360
Who to watch for Hillcrest: WR/CB/KR/PR Avery McFadden, QB Kalab Sutton, LB Tyson Moses
Who to watch for Laurens: QB Nate Fowler, WR Josh Goodwin.
About the Rams: Hillcrest is coming off a 9-2 season in 2022, which saw those two losses come by a combined four points. The Rams have a new coach and new quarterback this year. Bennett Judy, who rewrote Hillcrest’s record book on his way to being named Region I-5A’s Male Athlete of the Year for all sports, is now taking snaps at Western Carolina. Meanwhile, former Western Carolina quarterback Bennett Swygert has taken over as head coach. Kalab Sutton, who threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for eight more as a sophomore at Easley last season, has transferred in. McFadden, who had eight touchdown catches, four kick returns for touchdowns and a punt return for a score last season, is a big-play threat at all times.
About the Raiders: After going 1-6 in non-region play in 2022, Laurens ended up with the top playoff seed out of Region II-4A after sharing the region championship with Greer and Riverside. The Raiders once again face a loaded non-region schedule. After Hillcrest, Laurens hosts Clinton and Belton-Honea Path. That trio went a combined 32-5 last season. The Raiders then wrap up non-region play with road trips to Chapman, Union County and T.L. Hanna.
J.L. Mann at Eastside
Series Record: Mann leads the all-time series 16-9-1
Last Meeting: Mann won 56-14 last season.
Location: John Carlisle Stadium, 1300 Brushy Creek Rd, Taylors, SC 29687
Who to watch for Mann: QB Ethan Anderson, WR Mikel McClellan, LB/DE Jacari Bennett
Who to watch for Eastside: RB Kalvin Banks, LB Zane Saunders
About the Patriots: Mann is looking to build off a 7-5 record in 2022 – it’s first winning season since 2008. The Patriots, who had won a total of just 10 games over a nine-year stretch from 2012-20, also won their first playoff game since 2009. Anderson got things rolling for Mann out of the gate in 2022 when he passed for a single game, school-record 448 yards and accounted for six touchdowns in this season-opening matchup. Bennett, who’s committed to Buffalo, was the Region I-5A Defensive Player of the Year last season.
About the Eagles: After going 2-8 in 2022, Eastside will try to get things on track behind Banks, who was a workhorse running back as a junior last season. He averaged 159.5 rushing yards and 29 carries per game last season, while running for 20 touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 69 yards and had 255 yards on kick returns.
3A No. 3 Daniel at Greer
Series Record: Daniel leads the all-time series 15-11
Last Meeting: Daniel won 51-21 last season.
Radio/TV/Internet: WCCP 105.5 FM/97.5 FM, WAHT 1560 AM, theroarfm.com/listen. Greer – WGYT 92.1 FM, yellowjacketsports.net
Location: Dooley Field, 301 Chandler Rd, Greer, SC 29651
Who to watch for Daniel: OL Watson Young, RB Ja’kari Bennett, LB Spencer Conn
Who to watch for Greer: RB LaDainnian Martin, WR Chase Byrd
About the Lions: Daniel won its first 12 games of the 2022 season, all by at least 21 points, before its season ended in heartbreaking fashion. The Lions’ hopes of a third consecutive state championship ended when Powdersville scored on a very close two-point conversion with eight seconds left for a 36-35 final in the state quarterfinals. After winning just two games in 2018, Daniel’s gone 58-4 ever since. Perhaps no opposing player has been scouted more this week than Young, who’s committed to Appalachian State. Young’s uncle, Will, is Greer’s head coach. A good bit of firepower from Daniel’s offense has graduated, but leading rusher Bennett is back. The 5-foot-5, 160-pound senior ran for 655 yards and eight touchdowns in 2022, and averaged 12.1 (yes, you read that correctly) yards per carry.
About the Yellow Jackets: Despite suffering just its fourth losing season this century at 4-7 in 2022, Greer did manage to earn a share of the Region II-4A title by going 3-1 in region play. The Yellow Jackets will again be battle-tested by the time region play arrives. In addition to Daniel, Greer also hosts Byrnes and Westside in non-region play with a road trip to Hillcrest next week. Those four opponents combined for 40 wins last year. The offense will be led by Martin, a junior who received offers from Tennessee and Louisville prior to last season, rushed for 1,290 yards and 17 touchdowns, while averaging seven yards per carry in 2022. Byrd caught 57 passes for 884 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Wade Hampton at Seneca
Series Record: Seneca leads the all-time series 2-1
Last Meeting: Seneca won 42-19 last season.
Location: Tom Bass Field, 100 Bobcat Ridge, Seneca, SC 29678
Who to watch for Wade Hampton: CB/WR/QB Jamarion Mckinney, DL/LB Za’Nias Rosemond.
Who to watch for Seneca: ATH Rafael Little.
About the Generals: Wade Hampton ended a 25-game losing streak with a victory in the second week of play in 2022, then added three more wins along the way to finish 4-7. To build off those first tastes of success, the Generals have a lot of shoes to fill. Quarterback Cooper Tankersley, who threw for 1,809 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 1,014 yards and eight more scores, was a senior last season as was 1,484-yard rusher Nigel Bruster. Wade Hampton also graduated its two leading receivers and three leading tacklers. Mckinney, who had 40 tackles and two interceptions as a freshman last year, could make an impact on the other side of the ball as well this season.
About the Bobcats: After snapping a three-year skid of losing records by going 6-5 in 2021, Seneca took another step forward last season by going 9-3. That’s the most wins for the Bobcats since going 12-1 in 2015. To keep moving forward, Seneca must find a way to replace its best offensive and defensive player from a year ago in Cade Eavenson. The Anderson signee had 1,478 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on offense last season and 114 tackles and six interceptions on defense.
Riverside at Travelers Rest
Series Record: Riverside leads the all-time series 13-11
Last Meeting: Riverside won 61-20 last year.
Location: Chico Bolin Stadium, 301 N Main St, Travelers Rest, SC 29690
Who to watch for Riverside: RB Mikkel Skinner, DL Marcus Downs, CB Somad Eaddy
Who to watch for Travelers Rest: WR/DE Drew McKibben, LB Lucas Tankersley, CB Ji Wiggins
About the Warriors: After recording its first winning season since 2007 in Matt Rochester’s first year as head coach in 2021, Riverside had a little step back overall but a step forward in Region II-4A. While the Warriors went 4-7 overall, they earned a share of the league title going 3-1 in region play. They finished one missed two-point conversion away from their first outright region title in 32 years in a 49-48 overtime loss to Greer in last season’s final week of the regular season. Much of Riverside’s offensive firepower has graduated, but Skinner is back after leading the team in rushing with 582 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
About the Devildogs: Like Riverside, Travelers Rest also went 4-7 last season in Michael Lancaster’s first as head coach. While the record wasn’t what the Devildogs wanted, there were plenty of fireworks on Fridays as they scored 31 points per game. The problem was they allowed 36 per game. At 6-foot-5, 208 pounds, McKibben provides a big target for quarterbacks on offense and a big distraction for quarterbacks on defense.
Palmetto at Woodmont
Series Record: Palmetto leads the all-time series 23-11-1
Last Meeting: Palmetto won 27-14 last season.
Location: Whitt Memorial Field, 2831 W Georgia Rd, Piedmont, SC 29673
Who to watch for Palmetto: LB/RB Tyce Garner, LB Landon Mayberry, LB Logan Mayberry
Who to watch for Woodmont: RB/TE Tre Broughton, OL/DL Kameron Wallace, CB Jordan Wilson
About the Mustangs: Palmetto is coming off a 2-8 season in 2022, the lowest number of wins in a season since 1991. After 10 years as head coach, Doug Shaw stepped down in February and has been replaced by former Clemson offensive lineman Ryan Norton. Norton, who played for Shaw at Mauldin High, most recently served as offensive coordinator at Powdersville. Garner, a T.L. Hanna transfer, should make an impact on both sides of the ball for the Mustangs. Logan Mayberry led Palmetto with 15.5 tackles for loss last season, while twin brother Landon was second with 9.5.
About the Wolverines: Woodmont got off to a 3-1 start in 2022 before dropping each of its final six games. Across the sideline from Norton Friday, another young coach will make his head coaching debut. Ty Sutherland, a 2011 Pendleton High graduate who walked on to play at South Carolina, joined Woodmont’s staff under Jet Turner in 2019. He’s served as offensive coordinator under Jeff Murdock for the past three seasons. The Wolverines established a new school record for average points per game in two of those three years.
Fountain Inn at West-Oak
Series Record: West-Oak is 1-0 in the all-time series.
Last Meeting: West-Oak won the inaugural matchup last year 9-6.
Location: West-Oak High School, 130 Warrior Ln, Westminster, SC 29693
Who to watch for Fountain Inn: RB/LB Caden Carnes, QB Jack Criswell, RB/DB/PK Cru Hall
Who to watch for West-Oak: RB/LB Clayton Baxter
About the Fury: After nearly pulling off a win in its varsity football debut in this matchup last year, Fountain Inn had the kind of struggles that would be expected of a first-year team as the Fury went 0-10. The good news about a team made up entirely of underclassmen is that everybody is back, including Cru Hall who made history as the first Fountain Inn player to make the All-Region II-3A team. Hall led the Fury in scoring with three touchdowns and two field goals, and shared the team lead in solo tackles (49) with Carnes.
About the Warriors: In Glen Padgett’s second year as head coach in 2022, West-Oak went 3-7. That’s the most wins the Warriors have had in a season since going 4-6 in 2010.
Carolina at Liberty
Series Record: Carolina leads the all-time series 9-8.
Last Meeting: Liberty won 17-6 last season.
Location: Red Devil Stadium, 124 Red Devil Dr, Liberty, SC 29657
Who to watch for Carolina: DE K.J. Blakely, C/LB Desmond Chapman, WR/CB Anthony Young
Who to watch for Liberty: RB J.J. Hernandez, RB Austin Smith
About the Trojans: Carolina got off to a 2-2 start under first-year head coach Chris Glover in 2022, but could not secure a win the rest of the way to finish 2-8. The Trojans struggled offensively during that six-game skid as they totaled just 25 points in those games.
About the Red Devils: Liberty earned its most wins in a season since 2018 when it went 4-7 last year. After a few particularly down years offensively, the Red Devils also put up the most points they’ve scored since 2018 highlighted by a 44-29 win over Blacksburg and a 49-41 victory over Chesnee which secured them a 3-2 home record.
1A No. 7 St. Joseph’s at Fox Creek
Series Record: St. Joseph’s leads the all-time series 2-0.
Last Meeting: St. Joseph’s won 43-7 last season.
Location: Lions Memorial Field, 619 W Buena Vista Ave, North Augusta, SC 29841
Who to watch for St. Joseph’s: LB Johnny Jaraczewski
About the Knights: St. Joseph’s is coming off the winningest season in school history as it went 11-3 in 2022. That included a 10-0 mark against teams who haven’t won the last two state championships in Class A. After losing to Southside Christian and Christ Church in the regular season, St. Joseph’s ended the Sabres’ hopes of a third consecutive state title with a thrilling 29-28 overtime win in round two of the playoffs. Two weeks later, the Knights could not avenge that other regular season loss as they fell 21-7 at Christ Church in the Upper State championship. Jaraczewski piled up a whopping 159 tackles last season.
About the Predators: Fox Creek went 2-9 last season, posting wins over Pelion and the Georgia School for Innovation and Classics. After having just one losing season from 2010-17, the Predators have not had a winning season since.
1A No. 5 Southside Christian at Commerce (Ga.)
Series Record: Commerce won the only previous meeting between the two schools.
Last Meeting: Commerce took a 21-17 victory a year ago.
Location: Ray Lamb Stadium, 272 Lakeview Dr, Commerce, GA 30529
Who to watch for Southside Christian: OL Guy Hawkins, DL Micah McGowan
About the Sabres: After back-to-back Class A state titles in 2020 and 2021, a 6-5 record looked a little stunning for Southside Christian in 2022. But looks can be deceiving. After an 0-3 start that included losses to Charlotte (N.C.) Latin and Abbeville, the Sabres quickly got on track. It’s only other loss of the regular season was a 14-13 thriller to Christ Church. Southside Christian’s season ended in a home playoff loss in round two also by one point – as St. Joseph’s avenged a regular season loss.
About the Tigers: Commerce is coming off a 6-5 season in 2022. The Tigers’ stadium is named after longtime Georgia high schools coaching legend Ray Lamb, who brought the wishbone offense to Commerce. Lamb is the father of Furman legend and current Anderson coach Bobby Lamb, and grandfather of Gardner-Webb coach Tre Lamb.