Griffins Host Pats in Playoff Opener

Jerrell Suber-O’Neal, grinding out tough yards at Crestwood. The yards will get tougher and tougher, week by week in the 2A playoffs. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

Jerrell Suber-O’Neal, grinding out tough yards at Crestwood. The yards will get tougher and tougher, week by week in the 2A playoffs. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

WINNSBORO (Nov. 12, 2015) – Chapter one ended on Sept. 11 with the Griffins sitting on a 3-1 pre-region record, their only blemish a 36-24 loss to Brookland-Cayce in the opener. The second chapter ended on Halloween night with the Griffins wrapping up a perfect 6-0 region record with a 35-0 win over Mid-Carolina.

Tonight, the third and final chapter in the 2015 season begins Friday night as Fairfield Central opens the Class 2A/Division 1 playoffs hosting the Patriots of Powdersville.

The Griffins’ Region III title was good enough to earn them a number 2 seed in the upper state bracket, while Strom Thurmond, winners of Region II at 4-1 (9-1 overall) hold the top slot. If the brackets play out according to their seeding, a trip to Johnston to face the number 1 seeded Rebels would be the only road game the Griffins would face in their trek to the Dec. 4 title game at Benedict College.

But first things first.

Before the Griffins can even think about who’s next, they have to deal with who’s first – and that’s Powdersville.

“They’re a good football team,” Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis said. “They come out of a pretty good region and they had pretty good success in that region.”

The Patriots had enough success to claim third place in Region I, behind champions Woodruff (a 3-seed) and Pendleton (a 5-seed).

Spreading the field, throwing the ball, mixing in the read-option and zone-read, the Pats averaged 29.3 points per game this season, finishing the year on a three-game hot streak with region wins over Chesnee (44-33), Carolina High School & Academy (34-0) and Blacksburg (6-0). During that streak where Powdersville also won five of their last seven, the Patriots also racked up their first and only two road wins of the year, at Carolina and at Blacksburg.

Emery Williams pilots the Patriot offense at quarterback, and he can make plays with his arm and his legs. Jakobe Bufford is a powerful running back for Powdersville, and wide receiver Ej Humphrey will also line up and carry the ball for big yards.

The Pats suffered a couple of close losses this year, falling to Palmetto in the season opener, 23-19, and to Travelers Rest, 41-38. They also took a couple of big hits, both to their region superiors and both on the road. The Wolverines dealt them a 40-21 beating in Woodruff on Sept. 25, while Pendleton handed them a 45-27 licking. On average, the Patriots gave up 21 points per game in the regular season.

And that could spell trouble for Powdersville Friday night against a Griffin team averaging 35.1 points per game while allowing only 10.6 per game.

Fairfield Central has done their damage on the ground and through the air, with junior quarterback Stanley McManus completing 57 of 99 passes for 893 yards and 14 touchdowns, while tossing only five interceptions. McManus has also rushed for 393 yards and two TDs, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

And he’s not even the most prolific ball carrier wearing the black and gold. Jerrell Suber-O’Neal racked up 759 yards on 120 carries through the regular season for a 6.3 yards per carry average. Tony Ruff has added 555 yards on just 64 carries.

A question mark at the beginning of the year, a solid corps of receivers emerged through the season to help lead the Griffins to the playoffs. Qua’terrious Thompson has hauled in 16 catches for 330 yards and seven TDs, while Roderick Sparks has 112 yards on seven grabs and Rodrick Woodard 90 yards on five.

But defense wins championships.

“We’ve got to be able to play good defense,” Davis said. “And I’ll probably tell you the same thing next week, and the week after that.”

And with Maurice Pauling’s 67 solo tackles and 45 assist, plus four sacks; Daryl Camack’s 57 solo stops and 46 assists; and Jeff Russell’s 48 solos and 26 assists, the Griffins have been tough to gain ground on.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Davis said. “We’ve got to play good defense, be good on special teams and not turn the ball over. We’re going to come out and play as hard as we can play and at the end of the game look up at the score board to see if we play again next week.”

The winner of Friday night’s contest will play the winner of the Indian Land at Woodruff match-up.