By Thomas Grant Jr.
The town of Irmo’s two high school football teams make their respective home debuts Friday.
Fresh off a dominating win over fellow Lexington/Richland School District Five member Chapin, 10th-ranked Irmo High welcomes Lancaster to W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
At the same time about 7.2 miles away, defending Class 5A champion Dutch Fork looks to rebound from its worst loss in the Tom Knotts era against 10th-ranked Spartanburg (0-1).
The now-third-ranked Silver Foxes were routed 48-17 by nationally ranked Colquitt County out of Georgia.
“We’re struggling,” Knotts said. We got it handed to us Saturday against a great football team. Colquitt’s really comparable to St. Francis (who defeated Dutch Fork 20-7 last year) and we went in there thinking that we were better than we are, and we found out we’ve got a lot of work to do. A lot of room to improve.
“All of us got beat up, (offense, defense), coaches, special teams, everybody. We’re going to do better this week.”
The Silver Foxes not only had their 42-game road winning streak dating back to 2015 but starting quarterback Jon Hunt suffered a broken collarbone and will miss six weeks.
They also lost an offensive lineman and have two starting wide receivers nursing leg injuries.
Dutch Fork now looks to avoid its first 0-2 start under Knotts since 2015 which was also the last time it lost back-to-back games.
“The football Gods aren’t with us right now,” Knotts said. “But we’ve had our time in the sun and we’re going to stay in the sun, and we’re going to bounce back and find a way to be there in the end. The thing is not to implode and get better every week.”
This week it’s a familiar foe in the Vikings. The two teams met twice last season, both games won by Dutch Fork on the road (27-25) and at home (63-14) in the playoffs.
Spartanburg is coming off a 16-14 loss to South Pointe.
“They’ve also had good athletes,” Knotts said. “They’re always really strong. They’ve got great facilities up there to work in. They’re coming here to us, so we’ve got to defend home field and looking forward to a great matchup.
“I know we blew them out the last game. That probably sits in their crawl a little bit. But we’re probably not what we were. They were probably not what they were. So, we’ll see what happens Friday night.”
Lancaster (0-1) at Irmo (1-0)
The statistics only told part of the story of the Yellow Jackets’ 49-3 win over Chapin.
As expected, the team’s new offensive trio of quarterback A.J. Brand and transfers running back Jaden Allen-Hendrix and wide receiver Donovan Murph flexed its muscle. Brand threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns, one to Murph, who had four receptions for 71 yards, and rushed for 120 yards and a score.
Allen-Hendrix provided the explosive punch on the ground with 257 yards and two scores.
The Yellow Jackets had third rusher to surpass the century mark with Anton Jones (eight carries, 108 yards).
“We’re big at quarterback, we’re big at running back and we’re big at wide receiver and we’re aggressive on defense,” Brand said. “I don’t think any of that will change. I think teams have got to scheme around that format of ours and eight times out of 10 that format is normally successful and we have speed, too.
“As big as Hendrix is, as big as A.J. as, they both can run. As big as Murph is, he’s 190, he can run, too. And then you have Anton Jones and Terin Bowman, and those guys can run too.”
For all the success of the players at the skilled positions, Brand believes the game was won upfront on both sides of the football. He gave his defensive line top honors for their performance in holding Chapin without a touchdown and praised the offensive line with their dominant play.
Despite the Bruins bringing a 7-game losing streak to Irmo, Brand believes a similar effort will be needed to remain undefeated on the season.
S.C Prep Football Media Poll
1. Summerville (8)
2. Byrnes (5)
3. Dutch Fork (6)
5. Fort Dorchester
6. Sumter (2)
7. TL Hanna
Others receiving votes: Dorman, River Bluff, Cane Bay, JL Mann, White Knoll, Carolina Forest, Nation Ford
1. Greenville (11)
2. South Florence (3)
3. Northwestern (4)
4. South Pointe (2)
5. Hartsville (1)
6. James Island
8. Catawba Ridge
10. (tie) Irmo
10. (tie) Ridge View
Others receiving votes: West Florence, Indian Land, North Augusta