Griffins Host Cheraw in Week 5 Rematch

Griffins QB DeAndre Belton (3) had a shaky start against Cheraw on Sept. 21, but these days he’s a much cooler customer.

Beating the same team twice in one season is no mean feat, but in order to advance to the Class 2A/Division I upper state title game, it is exactly what the Griffins will have to do. Tonight, Fairfield Central hosts their week five opponent, the Cheraw Braves, in round three of the state playoffs. The Griffins shocked Cheraw 43-8 on their own turf back on Sept. 21, but not without overcoming some early setbacks. And now, nearly two months later, both the Braves and the Griffins are playing their best football of the year.

“It is harder to beat the same team twice,” Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis said. “A lot of what we do on offense is tough for people to play against that first time. We play so fast, it’s hard for teams to realize how fast we really are until we’re there. We won’t have that element of surprise this time.”

Both teams have matured and developed since week five. Since their loss to the Griffins, the Braves are 5-1, their only loss coming to Region IV foes Central, 35-28 on Oct. 19. Cheraw wrapped up region play with a 28-14 win over Chesterfield, earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. Last week, the edged out Pendleton at home, 17-14.

The Griffins, meanwhile, are on a mind-boggling seven-game win streak since their loss to Union County in week four. Since beating Cheraw, the Griffins have outscored their opponents 297-43, shutting out three of their last five challengers. Last week’s 50-0 shellacking of Crescent in round two marked the fourth time in the last five games that the Griffins have scored 50 points or more.

“We have made some improvements since then,” Davis said, “but they’re not the same team either. I don’t think they really knew Fairfield Central and understood what we were all about.”

The Cheraw defense kept Fairfield Central at bay through the first quarter on Sept. 21, picking off a pair of DeAndre Belton passes along the way. It wasn’t until a second quarter pick-6 from Fairfield’s Devontae Foster that the Griffins were able to crack the scoreboard.

“Our first two possessions (Sept. 21) ended in turnovers,” Davis said. “We were struggling until Devontae Foster picked off that pass and ran it back. That might have been the turning point.”

The Braves, who rushed for 133 yards and threw for 37 against the Griffins in their first meeting, have since adjusted their scheme, showing more wishbone and mixing in a spread.

“What I have learned from 2A football is once you get into the playoffs, them jokers are going to line up in the wishbone or the wing-T every time and run it at you,” Davis said. “But Cheraw is a little more versatile. They will line up in the wishbone one snap, and spread out with four wide receivers on the next.”

The Griffins won’t be taking anyone by surprise tonight, but whether or not knowing what is coming will benefit the Braves remains to be seen. Defending the kind of raw speed with which Fairfield Central is abundantly blessed may prove to be a taller order than beating the same team twice. The only difference Davis hopes to see for his Griffins between Sept. 21 and tonight is better ball protection.

“I expect a real tough football game,” Davis said. “We’re going to do what we do. At the end of the day, football is football. To win games, you have to protect the football, be fundamentally sound and not beat yourself.”

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