Playoffs set: Let the bracket watching begin

  • Thursday, November 7, 2013

The high school football playoffs are a double-edged sword.

It is the time of year every player and coach covets, yet all will end the season with a loss and disappointment.

Except one.

This time last year Cross made its historic run through the Class A Div. II playoff bracket on the way to the Trojans’ first ever state championship.

A year before that Timberland won its first state championship.

In 2009 Berkeley won its fifth state championship in school history.

As Thanksgiving draws near these three schools will vie for that ultimate prize, another state title and a ring.

Berkeley (5-5, 3-2) the third seed in Region 8AAA, will travel to Myrtle Beach (6-4, 4-1), the second seed out of Region 7AAA. The Seahawks upset favorite North Myrtle Beach to upend the brackets and the Stags downed Hilton Head to get the favorable slots, that being on the opposite end of the Lower State bracket from undefeated Socastee (10-0, 5-0).

Coach Jeff Cruce is optimistic about his team’s chances.

“We’re excited about it being November,” he said. “It’s playoff time. This is the season we’ve all been waiting for – this is why we play in September and October. Everything that’s happened up to this point gets wiped clean. You win you move on.

“You can’t break it down anymore simply than that.”

Berkeley will ride on the strong shoulders of its defense, anchored by defensive backs Branden Williams and Josh Simmons. On offense, the Stags will rely on what Berkeley fans hope are the two good legs of quarterback Joseph Dress who has been hampered by a bum ankle for the past month.

Injuries, especially in the trenches, have hit Berkeley hard.

“Injuries have decimated our offensive line with Owen Wrenn and Sterling Fiddie being out for the past two weeks,” Cruce said. “Over the course of the season five of our starters have been out, but you play the hand you’re dealt.”

The Timberland Wolves (8-2, 5-0) will use their first round bye and try to heal a little.

Injuries have hit the Wolves hard as well.

Tight end and defensive end Wyatt Craig is out for the season with a broken collarbone and quarterback Matt Gabel missed the region championship clinching 50-0 win over Lee Central with a concussion.

“It’s not a serious concussion as concussions go,” Craig said. “If we were playing Friday night Matt could play and be fine. He’ll be ready to go when we play next week.

“Ryan Hood though, stepped in and did a good job in his place against Lee Central.”

The 7AA region championship was Timberland’s eighth title in nine years.

“The one year we didn’t win the region was in 2011 when Bishop England won,” Craig said. “But we went on to win the state championship that year, too.”

So, coincidentally, did the Bishops.

Going into the Class AA playoffs, Craig likes where his team is.

“After the loss to Berkeley everybody gave up ... even some of our fans,” he said. “Since then we have jelled as a team. They’ve all stepped up and done some things and as a team they really seem to like each other.”

Timberland has won five straight since the 31-13 loss to Berkeley and will face the winner of the Aynor/Mullins game at home on Nov. 15.

Cross (5-5, 3-1) opens defense of its 2012 Class A Div. II state championship as the number one seed in the Lower State bracket and will face Lincoln at home on Friday.

Coach Shaun Wright said his team plans to take one week and game at a time.

“We are very fortunate to have the number one seed going into the playoffs,” he said. This season has been very challenging to say the least but we are where we want to be with an opportunity to play four more weeks.”

The Trojans take on Region 6A foe Lincoln in the opening round, a team Cross beat handily 56-8 in the regular season.

“We truly understand the meaning of playing and coaching like its your last,” Wright said. “Playing a team twice in one year is always challenging but we will be ready to go come Friday. Every week it’s a one shot deal so we have to be sharp in our preparations.”

Kickoff for all Friday night games is at 7:30 p.m.

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