Old Rival Stands Between Griffins and Title Game

Damien Bell (9) works his way into the Cheraw line Friday.

After a long hot summer of intense conditioning, heavy workouts and 7-on-7 drills, a pre-region schedule of bumps and bruises, a lineup of region foes that allowed the Griffins to mature and hone their craft, and a pair of playoff wins that have given them confidence, Fairfield Central has one more hill to climb Friday night. One more team to crawl over to earn a shot at the Promised Land.

And it won’t be easy.

“Newberry is probably one of the better teams I’ve seen on film this year,” Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis said. “They’re big, strong jokers. They remind me a little of Chester. They’re very physical. They’ve got a couple of Shrine Bowl kids in their lineup. They’re loaded.”

The competition in the Class 2A/Division I playoff bracket has stiffened, and as Cheraw proved last week, the days of Fairfield Central dropping 50 on opponents is quite likely a thing of the past. The Newberry Bulldogs, which finished second behind Abbeville in Region II, sports a 10-3 overall record and has allowed only 17.3 points per game. The Dogs haven’t lost since their head-to-head meeting with Abbeville on Oct. 5, and their offense, piloted by sophomore quarterback Khalil Sheppard, averages 31.6 points per game. Running back Tyon Williams has missed several games this season for Newberry, but he has returned with a vengeance, rushing for 103 yards on 17 carries and scoring his 40th career touchdown last week against Central in a crucial 21-14 road playoff win.

“They’ve got weapons,” Davis said. “They run a balanced attack. They’ve got a quarterback who moves around, and a big running back (Williams, 6-feet, 190-pounds). They’ve also got some big, tall receivers who can do things. And they might be bigger on the offensive line than Chester.

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 21-0 lead last week at Central, with Tovaris Cureton retuning the opening kick 75 yards for their first score. The Dogs picked off three Central passes last week, but also gave up a punt return touchdown as Central clawed their way back into the fight. Central had driven the ball to the Newberry 34 with less than 9 seconds to play and were threatening overtime, but an inadvertent spike by the Central quarterback on fourth down allowed the Bulldogs to advance.

Newberry will spread the field somewhat, but will line up primarily in the power-I and simply try to push the Griffins around. But against Central, Newberry only managed 169 yards of total offense, however, while the Griffins have put up much bigger numbers throughout the year. The Griffins defense has given up only 12.25 points per game in 2012, while their offense has averaged 38.8. Against Cheraw, the Griffins amassed 278 total yards – 90 in the air and 188 on the ground. But those numbers mean little to Davis.

“If we played the game on paper, we’d be in trouble,” he said. “We spent all day Sunday looking at film, trying to find a weakness. By 8 o’clock, we hadn’t found one.”

Kickoff for the final home game of the season will be at 7:30 p.m.

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