Series record: Gaffney leads 2-1. Each meeting has been deep in the playoffs. The Indians won state championships against Dutch Fork in 2012 and 2021. The Silver Foxes beat Gaffney 51-28 in last season’s Class 5A Upper State final.
Last week: Gaffney won at Clover 24-12; Dutch Fork won at T.L. Hanna 31-28
Location: Dutch Fork High, 1400 Old Tamah Rd, Irmo
Who to watch for Gaffney: RB Jaiden McDowell, WR Emazon Littlejohn, DL Jarriel Jeffries
Who to watch for Dutch Fork: RB Maurice Anderson, DE Josh Smith, S Peyton Betts
What’s at stake: The winner will host either Hillcrest or J.L. Mann in the Upper State championship next Friday.
How they got here: Last Friday, Gaffney quarterback Riley Staton threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in the win at Clover. McDowell rushed for 87 yards on 15 carries and caught four passes for 46 yards. Lineman Caron Foster led a Gaffney defense that recovered three fumbles as he had four tackles-for-loss, including two sacks.
Stanton has thrown for 2,683 yards with 28 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. McDowell has rushed for 1,282 yards and 13 touchdowns and has caught 44 passes for 547 yards and four scores. Stanton’s top two targets are Littlejohn (56 receptions, 862 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Jamarcus Smith (44 receptions, 741 yards, six touchdowns).
After a slow start this season, Dutch Fork has won five consecutive games. The return of senior quarterback Jon Hunt from injury helped that turnaround, but backup sophomore Ethan Offing led the way in last Friday’s thrilling win at Hanna. On a night when Anderson, Dutch Fork’s leading rusher, was held to 14 yards, Offing ran for 137 yards and passed for 123.
Offing’s two-yard touchdown run with 8:11 left gave the Silver Foxes a 31-28 lead. Hanna’s ensuing drive took nearly all the remaining time off the clock. The Yellow Jackets’ potential game-tying field goal in the final seconds was blocked by Elgin Sessions in the final seconds.
Hillcrest (10-2) at J.L. Mann (10-2)
Series record: The series is tied 15-15. J.L. Mann evened the series when it scored a touchdown with 9.3 seconds left to pull out a 42-35 win at Hillcrest in the final week of the regular season. That snapped the Rams’ nine-game winning streak in the series.
Last week: Hillcrest won at Byrnes 27-24 in overtime; J.L. Mann beat Spartanburg 17-7
Radio/TV/Internet: Hillcrest – facebook.com/HHSRamAthletics (Facebook Live stream)
Location: Slaton Field, 158 Ridge Rd, Greenville
Who to watch for Hillcrest: WR Avery McFadden, RB Thomas Stanley, LB Tyson Moses
Who to watch for Mann: WR Mikel McClellan, QB Ethan Anderson, DE Jacari Bennett
What’s at stake: The winner will play at Dutch Fork or Gaffney in next Friday’s Upper State championship.
How they got here: The winner of this rematch from a classic three weeks ago will double its third round playoff win total. The Patriots’ lone third round win came in 1984 when they were the state runner-up in Class 3A. The Rams’ lone third round win was by the 2014 Class 4A Division I state champions.
Hillcrest rallied from a 24-10 third quarter deficit to record its third win over Byrnes in school history last Friday. Mr. Football finalist Avery McFadden caught a 48-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and then threw a game-tying touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. After Byrnes missed a field goal to begin overtime, Anthony Grudko nailed a 28-yard field goal to win it.
Hillcrest quarterback Kaleb Sutton, who had not played since suffering an injury in the second quarter of the regular season finale against Mann, threw for 250 yards in his return Friday. McFadden caught five passes for 146 yards.
Mann was limited to 91 yards of total offense against Spartanburg last Friday, but its defense ensured the Patriots’ first ever win over the Vikings. Interception returns for touchdowns by Joel Crespo and Keyshun Henderson in the second quarter helped Mann take a 14-7 lead into halftime. The Patriots held Spartanburg to 158 yards of total offense and shut the Vikings out over the final three quarters.
In that classic three weeks ago that gave Mann home field advantage for this rematch, McFadden and McClellan each had more than 200 yards receiving.
Greenville (9-3) at Northwestern (11-1)
Series record: Northwestern leads 2-0. The Trojans won at Greenville 28-7 in the 2021 regular season. In last year’s Class 4A Upper State final at Sirrine Stadium, Northwestern rallied from a 21-7 deficit to defeat the Red Raiders, 33-28.
Last week: Greenville won at Greer 24-21; Northwestern beat Greenwood 55-7
Location: District Three Stadium, 211 S Cherry Rd , Rock Hill
Who to watch for Greenville: ATH Mazeo Bennett, DL Jayden Wilson-Abrams, DL Bruce Knauber
Who to watch for Northwestern: RB Turbo Richard, QB Finley Polk, DL Andre Pickett
What’s at stake: The winner will play at either Midland Valley or Westside in next Friday’s Upper State championship.
How they got here: The “Battle of the G” between Greenville and Greer last week at historic Dooley Field was another classic in this heated rivalry. Neither team led by more than a touchdown and there were three ties. The last tie was broken when Lang Steck drilled a 27-yard field goal with four seconds left to lift the Red Raiders to victory.
Greenville’s offense was led by Bennett. The South Carolina commitment had seven receptions for 89 yards receiving and rushed four times for 42 yards, including a touchdown. Knauber, a Furman commitment, led the defense with three tackles-for-loss including two sacks.
Since losing to Charlotte private school power Providence Day, 42-35, in the season opener Aug. 19, Northwestern has steamrolled its way to 11 consecutive wins. A 25-point victory at Gaffney was the Trojans’ closest game in that stretch. Northwestern won its first two playoff games by a combined score of 112-7.
Polk has thrown 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season, while Richard averages 98.8 yards rushing per game and 8.5 yards per carry. Richard, a Mr. Football finalist, has rushed for 18 touchdowns, caught two touchdowns and returned two kicks for touchdowns.
Westside (11-1) at Midland Valley (12-0)
Series record: Westside leads 2-1 with all three meetings coming in the first round of the playoffs (1985, 1987, 2022). Last season, the Rams defeated Midland Valley 45-35.
Last week: Westside beat York 49-13; Midland Valley defeated South Pointe 24-17
Radio/TV/Internet: Westside – WANS 1280 AM
Location: Midland Valley High, 227 Mustang Dr, Graniteville
Who to watch for Westside: QB Cutter Woods, WR Joshua Williams, RB Sharode Richardson
Who to watch for Midland Valley: RB Traevon Dunbar, RB Preston Mcnair, LB Andon Hawkins
What’s at stake: The winner will host Northwestern or Greenville in next Friday’s Upper State championship.
How they got here: Richardson ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries, while Marco Evans ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries as Westside crushed York last Friday. The Rams had 499 yards of total offense as Woods completed 11-of-16 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Westside had seven sacks led by Jacsen Waller’s two. Jimmar Boston, an N.C. State commitment who hasn’t played as much on offense this year due to a hand injury, has made big plays on defense this season including an interception last week. Junior Zeke Marshall leads the defense with nine interceptions this season.
Midland Valley has fashioned an unbeaten season by mastering the art of the close win. The Mustangs have won five games decided by seven points of less, including their first two playoff wins.
Mcnair has rushed for 1,066 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, but he’s not Midland Valley’s leading rusher by far. Dunbar has an incredible 2,655 yards rushing and 34 rushing touchdowns this season. Dunbar, who’s averaging 11.3 yards per carry, had 249 yards and three scores last Friday.
Chester (10-2) at Daniel (12-0)
Series record: Daniel leads 5-3. Chester won the first meeting in 1965. The teams didn’t play again until the 2005 playoffs and all seven of those games since 1965 have come in the postseason. They last met in the 2021 Class 3A Upper State final, which Daniel won 41-20.
Last week: Chester won at Chapman 58-24; Daniel defeated Wren 35-21
Location: Singleton Field, 1861 Six Mile Hwy, Central
Who to watch for Chester: RB Elijah Coleman, ATH Reggie Heath, LB Antonio Hopkins
Who to watch for Daniel: RB Ja’Kari Bennett, QB Kolton Chapman, OL Watson Young
What’s at stake: The winner will play either Belton-Honea Path or Clinton in next Friday’s Upper State championship. Daniel would host either one, while Chester would travel to either one.
How they got here: Daniel had its closest game and was held to its lowest point total of the season last Friday, but the Lions still led from start to finish in their win over Wren. Chapman threw for 223 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 40 yards and another score. Bennett had 82 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, while Tory Shaw ran 11 times for 77 yards and two scores.
Bennett has rushed for 1,192 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, while averaging 10.3 yards per carry. Chapman has 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions, while rushing for six touchdowns. Daniel is led up front by offensive lineman Watson Young. The Mr. Football finalist has lost one game in his four-year career for the Lions.
The Cyclones left a path of destruction in their win at Chapman last Friday. Heath and Hopkins did the most damage. Heath had seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, an eight-yard rushing touchdown and two interceptions on defense. One of those interceptions was returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
Hopkins, a Shrine Bowl defender, had 13 tackles on defense and ran five times for 94 yards and two touchdowns on offense. Meanwhile, Chester quarterback Trooper Floyd completed 16-of-22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 11 times for 65 yards and a score.
Clinton (10-2) at Belton-Honea Path (12-0)
Series record: Clinton leads 10-8-2. In last season’s second round of the Class 3A playoffs, the Red Devils defeated BHP 28-13.
Last week: Clinton beat Broome 38-7; BHP defeated Pendleton 44-28
Who to watch for Clinton: QB Tushawan Richardson, ATH Kadon Crawford, WR/DB/KR Zay Johnson
Who to watch for BHP: RB Marquise Henderson, RB Shaheem Robbs, QB Noah Thomas
What’s at stake: The winner faces Daniel or Chester in next Friday’s Upper State championship. Either would travel to Daniel or host Chester.
How they got here: Clinton stunningly held Broome’s powerful offensive attack to minus-six yards rushing as the Red Devils cruised to the win last Friday. Aumar Robinson led the effort with eight tackles, including three sacks.
For the first time this season, Richardson got under center and directed a balanced offense that produced 181 yards rushing and five touchdowns, while he completed 10-of-14 passes for 155 yards. Crawford caught six of those passes for 102 yards. Tray Cook ran 11 times for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Like unbeaten Daniel, BHP also got its stiffest challenge in some time last Friday. Pendleton’s powerful offense had 17 first downs, but only one in the fourth quarter as the Bears outscored the Bulldogs 10-0 in the final 12 minutes to pull away for the win.
When leading rushers Marquise Henderson and Shaheem Robbs got banged up last week, Justin Lathon carried the load as he had 30 rushes for 178 yards and four touchdowns. That gave him 488 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Henderson is 53 yards away from being just the second player in school history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He’s averaged 13.3 yards per carry and ran for 32 touchdowns this season. Robbs has 1,129 yards and 13 touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Noah Thomas has thrown for 1,460 yards and 22 touchdowns. Qua Alexander has caught 52 passes for 772 yards and eight scores
For the season, BHP’s offense has piled up 5,228 total yards and scored 81 touchdowns.
Silver Bluff (9-3) at Abbeville (11-1)
Series record: Abbeville leads 8-4. The Panthers have won seven consecutive games in the series, including a 48-7 win in Aiken the last time they met in 2019.
Last week: Silver Bluff won at Fairfield Central 22-21; Abbeville defeated Newberry 41-28
Location: Hite Stadium, 701 Washington St, Abbeville
Who to watch for Silver Bluff: LB Jordan Boyd, DB Malik Mazone, WR Hiszari Gantt
Who to watch for Abbeville: RB Karson Norman, QB Demarcus Leach, FB Altavious Patterson
What’s at stake: The winner plays at either Gray Collegiate or Thurmond in next Friday’s Upper State championship.
How they got here: With Silver Bluff trailing 21-14, Boyd – a Georgia Tech commit – returned an interception seven yards for a touchdown with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game. The Bulldogs ran for the go-ahead two-point conversion and made the one-point lead stand the rest of the way.
Abbeville overcame a lot of adversity to build a 41-7 lead and held off a furious Newberry rally last Friday. Already without two starting defensive backs and with Patterson banged up, Norman left after the first play of the game with a hip injury and didn’t return.
Leach and wingback Jha’Louis Hadden stepped up as they ran for three touchdowns apiece.
Blackville-Hilda (10-2) at Christ Church (10-2)
Series record: Blackville-Hilda has won eight state championships in Class 1A, while Christ Church has won six but the schools have never met on the gridiron.
Last week: Blackville-Hilda beat Wagener-Salley 28-0; Christ Church defeated McBee 43-21
Who to watch for Blackville-Hilda: DB Kaiden Aiken, WR Tamari Daniels, RB Jaquel Holman
Who to watch for Christ Church: RB Dashun Reeder, QB Tucker Hendrix, WR Jackson Repp
What’s at stake: The winner will face either Southside Christian or St. Joseph’s in next Friday’s Upper State championship. Christ Church would host either. Blackville-Hilda would travel to Southside Christian or host St. Joseph’s.
How they got here: Defense and special teams came up huge in Blackville-Hilda’s shutout win last Friday. Aiken had a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown, while Daniels returned a punt 82 yards for a score.
Holman has rushed for 1,610 yards and 26 touchdowns this season to lead the Fighting Hawks’ offense.
Hendrix completed 9-of-12 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns in Christ Church’s victory last Friday. Jackson Repp was the top target as he caught four passes for 182 yards and three scores.
Jake Good led the Cavaliers’ defensive effort with 14 tackles, four tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Patrick McMaster also had 12 tackles, three tackles-for-loss and two sacks.
Hendrix has thrown for 2,147 yards and 33 touchdowns this season, while Reeder has rushed for 1,390 yards and 20 scores. Repp has 49 catches for 1,246 yards and 22 touchdowns.
St. Joseph’s (10-2) at Southside Christian (8-3)
Series record: Southside Christian leads 10-5, including a 35-14 win at St. Joseph’s on Sept. 22. Last year, the Sabres also won the regular season meeting but the Knights pulled out a thrilling 29-28 overtime win in round two of the Class 1A playoffs.
Last week: St. Joseph’s won at Lewisville 7-0; Southside Christian won at Calhoun County 21-7
Who to watch for St. Joseph’s: FB Brayden Johnson, RB Lucas Salgado, LB Johnny Jaraczewski
Who to watch for Southside Christian: WR Ethan Chandler, RB Christian Kaiser, DL Micah McGowin
What’s at stake: The winner will face either Christ Church or Blackville-Hilda in next Friday’s Upper State championship. Southside Christian would travel to Christ Church or host Blackville-Hilda. St. Joseph’s would travel to either.
How they got here: St. Joseph’s came up with an incredible defensive effort to shut out No. 1-ranked Lewisville last Friday. Lewisville entered averaging 394 yards and 51 points per game, but were held to 146 yards in the loss.
Lewisville drove to the Knights’ four-yard line on the opening possession of the game, but settled for a 31-yard field goal that missed. St. Joseph’s drove 80 yards on seven plays on its opening drive, which Johnson capped with a seven-yard touchdown run on third down. That 7-0 lead held up the rest of the night. Jaraczewski led the defense with 10 tackles, while Walker Wolfram had half of the Knights’ four sacks. Johnson finished with 84 yards rushing on 25 carries.
The victory ensured the Knights a trip to round three of the playoffs for the second consecutive season. St. Joseph’s had never played past the second round before last year.
A running game that struggled early on this season came up big for Southside Christian in its victory at Calhoun County. On a night when the Sabres’ talented crew of receivers were limited to 112 yards on five catches, Southside Christian collected 203 yards rushing.
Kaiser led the way with 92 yards on 17 carries while Silas Robertson ran 12 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Kolby Sentelle’s 55-yard touchdown catch, which opened the scoring, accounted for nearly half of the Sabres’ passing yards.
Southside Christian recovered a pair of fumbles to help hold Calhoun County to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Saints were averaging 43.7 points per game entering last Friday.