Redhawks Could Turn Sluggish Season Around Against Chapin

Westwood’s Adonus Lee (5) tries to slip a tackle during last week’s loss to Ridge View. Diamond Williams (6) and Miquelle Canady assist on the play.

First-year varsity football programs are always a mystery – new coaches, new kids, new facilities, a new system of offense and defense – and it typically takes a season or two for everyone to get familiar with everyone else. The success enjoyed by the Blythewood High School Bengals in their first season was the exception. Their newest neighbor, Westwood High School, is living by the rule.

The fledgling Redhawks have struggled out of the gate in 2012, going winless in their first five games and being shut out twice in the month of September, including last week’s 32-0 loss to Ridge View High School. Apart from their 34-7 week one loss to Fairfield Central, one of the largest schools in Class 2A, Westwood has had to go toe-to-toe with a string of meaty 4A schools that represent some of the cream of the crop in South Carolina high school football.

During that run, the Redhawks have surrendered 187 points to opponents (37.4 per game) while scoring only 31 of their own (6.2 per game). They have rushed for 18 first downs and passed for 32. On the ground, Westwood has accumulated 258 rushing yards, averaging only 1.5 per carry against some of the most rigid defenses in the state. The passing game has been more rewarding for the ‘Hawks, as they have chucked the ball around for 635 total yards, out-passing their opponents by more than 100 yards. But the air attack comes with some inherent risks, namely the turnover. Westwood has tossed 10 interceptions on the season, while their defense has picked off a mere three from opposing quarterbacks. On the flip side of that, the ‘Hawks have only fumbled the ball away three times on the year, while their defense has forced and recovered four from their adversaries.

Westwood has been penalized 40 times this season for 303 yards, compared to 59 flags and 500 yards for their opponents. The Redhawks have also controlled the time of possession, averaging 25:31 of offense per game compared to 22:28 for their opponents.

It has, to say the least, been a learning experience. And now the Redhawks have the opportunity to show what they’ve learned.

The good news about the first five games of the season is, ultimately, they matter not. The pre-region schedule is simply a chance to take your licks, fine tune your scheme and be ready for the all-important region play. For the Redhawks, that begins Friday night as Chapin comes to town for the Region IV opener.

The Chapin Eagles have also struggled in their first five outings of 2012, running up a 1-4 record against some teams that are, frankly and literally, not in the same class as Westwood’s previous opponents. Three of Chapin’s four losses have come against Class 2A programs, although the Eagles played it close every time. Chapin opened the season Aug. 24 with a 7-point loss to Batesburg-Leesville, stayed within 7 of Newberry (one of the best teams in 2A) on Sept. 14 and were within a field goal of Mid-Carolina last week. The Eagles were shut out by 3A Swansea, 31-0, on Aug. 31, while their lone victory of the year came Sept. 7 over 3A Brookland-Cayce, 21-14.

Chapin’s defense has given up an average of 24.4 points per game, while their offense has mustered 16.2 per game. Clearly, the opportunity is there for the Redhawks to take advantage of the Eagle secondary, but Westwood’s offense will have to do much better than their 6.2 points per game average.

The elite of Region IV is clearly undefeated Dreher and 4-1 A.C. Flora, but with Camden in utter disarray and Lower Richland vulnerable, the Redhawks have a legitimate chance to secure the third or fourth spot in the standings and earn a playoff berth.