By Thomas Grant Jr.
There’s one person on the Lexington football team who knows what to expect Friday night at The Reservation.
Fortunately, it’s head coach Dustin Curtis. Last year as Dorman head coach, his team visited the proud home stadium of Gaffney football for a region game. The host team Indians and then-defending Class 5A champions came away with a 31-14 victory.
“Best home field environment I have ever been in,” he said. “It’s like playing at Lexington or Gilbert, but the home stands are much bigger. They live for Gaffney football, and it shows. It is an awesome experience as a coach and I’m sure for the players.”
Both Curtis and the Wildcats are hoping for a better outcome in their return trip to the Upstate. In Lexington’s lone visit to the former “Reservation” known as William K. Brumbach Stadium, they fell 26-7 in the opening round of the 2007 Class 4A Upper State playoffs.
This time, the two teams square off in Class 5A looking to rebound from regular season ending losses. Gaffney (7-3) was defeated 33-21 by James F. Byrnes while Lexington (7-3) was beaten 38-14 by this year’s defending champion Lexington.
“This group had a heartbreaker at Dutch Fork where it all seemed to slip away with a blocked FG attempt,” Curtis said. “But we were right in every loss and each game is a new day, different match-up, and different opportunity to get better. Our hope is that we are locked in and understand the opportunity in front of us. Neither team won their respective regions but had hopes to, so this is a fresh start for both of us to try and make the best playoff run we can make.”
Gaffney will be led by a quarterback with state championship experience in Riley Staton. The senior won a Class 2A title with Gray Collegiate in 2021 and has thrown for 2,274 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games.
He’s spread out the yardage among four wide receivers in Emazon Littlejohn, Jamarcus Smith and Jaiden McDowell, who’s also the team leading rusher with 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Andrew Ruppe has 11 interceptions and defensive lineman Caron Foster had 5.5 sacks.
After managing just one offensive touchdown against Dutch Fork, the Wildcats will look to rebound with quarterback Taiden Mines, running back/linebacker Matthew MacAuley and wide receivers Brandon Cromer, Tyler DeRienzo and tight end Cam Sutton.
Linebackers McAulay, Montrell Byrd and Christian Sexton will look to put pressure on defense. Lexington defensive back Duke Cleary has an interception in three of his last four games.
The game is available through www.nfhsnetwork for a fee to non-subscribers.
Other playoff games involving Lake Murray teams:
Chesnee at Batesburg-Leesville
Darlington at Gilbert
Boiling Springs at Dutch Fork
Chapin at Stratford
River Bluff at Summerville
Saluda at Newberry
Mid-Carolina at Silver Bluff
Cane Bay at White Knoll
WEEK 10 GRIDIRON GIANTS
Tanner Watkins (Batesburg-Leesville) – 202 passing yards, 3 TDs
Cole Price (Batesburg-Leesville) – 9 receptions, 110 yards, 3 TDs
Brady Albro (Chapin) – 299 passing yards, 3 TDs
Anthony Turnbow (Chapin) – 108 rushing yards
Kalen Bostick (Chapin) – 7 receptions, 123 yards, TD
Welden Gunter (Chapin) – 4 receptions, 118 yards, 4 TDs
Trenton Lodge (Dutch Fork) – 100 rushing yards, TD
Trevon Williamson (Gilbert) – 100 rushing yards, TD
Drake Braddock (Gilbert) – 127 passing yards, TD
A.J. Brand (Irmo) – 348 total yards, 5 TDs
Jaden Allen-Hendrix (Irmo) – 145 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Telvin Smith (Irmo) – 7 receptions, 121 yards, TD
Donovan Murph (Irmo) – 5 receptions, 101 yards, 2 TDs
Parker Murray (River Bluff) – 229 yards, 2 TDs
Aaron Griffin (River Bluff) – 7 receptions, 114 yards, 2 TDs
Toriaun Leaphart (River Bluff) – 151 rushing yards
FINAL S.C. PREP FOOTBALL MEDIA POLL
1. Summerville (16) (10-0)
2. TL Hanna (9-1)
3. Byrnes (9-1)
4. White Knoll (10-0)
5. Clover (8-2)
6. JL Mann (8-2)
7. Gaffney (7-3)
8. Ashley Ridge (8-2)
9 Hillcrest (8-2)
10. Fort Dorchester (6-3)
Others receiving votes: Dutch Fork, Lexington, Sumter
1. South Florence (15) (10-0)
2. Northwestern (1) (9-1)
3. Irmo (10-0)
4. James Island (10-0)
5. Midland Valley (10-0)
6. Westside (9-1)
7. Lucy Beckham (8-1)
8. South Pointe (7-3)
9. North Augusta (7-3)
10. Hartsville (7-3)
Others receiving votes: Ridge View, Myrtle Beach, Greenville
1. Daniel (16) (10-0)
2. Belton-Honea Path (10-0)
3. Dillon (9-1)
4. Chapman (9-1)
5. Crestwood (9-1)
6. Clinton (8-2)
7. Chester (8-2)
8. Brookland-Cayce (8-2)
9. Gilbert (9-1)
10. Broome (8-2)
Others receiving votes: Hanahan, Philip Simmons, Pendleton, Loris
Photo courtesy of Lexington High School