The two biggest questions in high school football still persist this season.
First, and most obviously: Who’s going to stop Abbeville?
Secondly: Can Saluda finally beat Southside Christian?
These storylines are getting a little old; however, this past Friday updated both of them in exciting ways.
As for Abbeville, the answer seems to be a simple: “no one.” But the Panthers will face their toughest test yet with a trip to West Columbia to face Gray Collegiate in the third round.
Abbeville claimed another blowout second round win against Andrew Jackson. Though Andrew Jackson entered the game with the state’s top defense and a 10-1 record, it was apparent that the school’s schedule wasn’t nearly as tough as Abbeville’s.
Gray Collegiate enters the third round with blowout wins against Fox Creek and St. Joseph’s in the first two rounds. A 28-26 win against Lamar is Gray Collegiate’s closest game this season.
The War Eagles have an explosive offense, but only one shutout this season, which came against Eau Claire. Abbeville has three shutouts and three more games in which it has allowed only one touchdown.
Meanwhile, in the Lower State bracket, last year’s finalist, Barnwell, has eased through the first two rounds of the playoffs and appears just as strong as last year’s team.
Oceanside Collegiate is another threat in the Lower State. The Landsharks were fined $16,500 and forfeited four games for violating a South Carolina High School League rule preventing players who played junior varsity on Thursday from playing varsity the following Friday.
As a result, Oceanside supposedly has a tougher path in the playoffs, as it technically finished fourth in its region. The Landsharks won 56-36 in the first round and 28-0 in the second round.
Saluda had a convincing win against Buford in Friday’s second round. It seemed the cold, rainy weather might make the Tigers’ passing game more difficult, but Saluda’s strength in other areas made up for it.
Noah Bell threw two touchdown passes in the second half to make the fourth quarter completely trivial.
Saluda did struggle with several false start penalties and poor run defense in the second half. Saluda coach Stewart Young said his staff made schematic changes, and they showed in the second half.
Now, Saluda faces Southside Christian yet again in the second round. Southside Christian quarterback J.W. Hertzberg was out with a strained left MCL for the Sabres’ 23-7 win against Batesburg-Leesville in the second round.
A win for Saluda would certainly be the school’s biggest win in the past few years and could set up a Lakelands rematch with Abbeville in the Upper State finals.