Hawks Hit the Road for Round 1

Rudy Mitchell and the Redhawks travel to Conway Friday to open the Class 4A/D2 playoffs. (Photo/Ross Burton)

Rudy Mitchell and the Redhawks travel to Conway Friday to open the Class 4A/D2 playoffs. (Photo/Ross Burton)

CONWAY (Nov. 18, 2015) – Westwood begins its quest for the Class AAAA, Division II state championship with a long road trip Friday to Conway. The Redhawks bring an 8-3 record into round one against a very dangerous Tigers team.

“They are a very explosive team” Conway head coach Chuck Jordan said. “They put up a lot of points.”

The Redhawks have a pair of talented running backs in Rudy Mitchell and Andrew Plante, and an offensive line that averages 315 pounds.

“They try to pound the ball,” Jordan said. “They don’t mind throwing it, but they would rather run it. Their offensive line is huge. It’s the biggest we’ve seen all season. We have to man up and not let them push us around. We have to get in the trenches and play tough.”

This is Westwood’s fourth year of varsity football competition, and its third consecutive winning season. The Redhawks are coached by Coastal Carolina graduate Rodney Summers. As a CCU student, Summers worked with the Conway running backs from 1992-94 when the Tigers played their home games at The Graveyard on the Coastal campus.

“I remember not saying much, just listening in meetings and doing my job as I was the young guy back then,” Summers said. “Conway has always had a rich tradition in football and it was a great learning experience. Watching coach Jordan over those three years gave me the inspiration to become a head football coach. It truly was a learning experience.”

Like Jordan, Summers served as an assistant coach at Richland Northeast High School before becoming a head coach. After a losing campaign in his inaugural season in 2012, Summers led the Redhawks to 19 wins in 2013 and 2014. Westwood started 8-1 this year before losing two straight to close the regular season.

“Two of the losses were the last two games in region play to put us on the road in the playoffs,” Summers said. “We had an opportunity to win the region, but didn’t play well enough against Dutch Fork or Spring Valley. This week we have to focus on the Tigers and get back to playing Westwood football and find a way to win. I would like to think we could establish the run, but we have struggled lately being consistent on offense.”

Despite losing Shrine Bowl wide receiver Bryan Edwards for the season, Conway will bring a balanced offensive attack into the game.

“Their defense is very capable,” Jordan said. “We’re going to have to be able to throw it and run it.”

Summers said Westwood’s biggest challenge defensively will be slowing down Conway’s offense.

“They are real explosive and can score on any play,” he said. “They are a very talented football team.”

North-South All-star selection Jah’maine Martin leads Conway’s ground attack with 138 carries for 1,051 yards, an average of 7.6 yards per carry. He is also the Tigers’ leading scorer with 22 touchdowns and 138 points.

Daiquawn Clark has 57 carries for 291 yards and two touchdowns, and Tyrone Bennett has 40 trips for 385 yards and three touchdowns.

Derrick has 60 rushes for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns and has completed 172 of 261 pass attempts for 2,439 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Edwards continues to lead the Tigers with 53 catches for 969 yards, but Conway has 10 other players with at least one catch.

Bennett has 35 receptions for 292 yards and two touchdowns, while Darren Stanley has 30 grabs for 466 yards and six touchdowns. Martin has 14 receptions, while Juwon Moody, Malachi Miller and Deandre Huggins have a dozen each.

Conway’s leading tacklers are Austin Manchester and Antonio Long, with 70 and 67 total tackles, respectively. Manchester has eight tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, while Long has three tackles for loss and five interceptions.

Malik Morant has 68 stops including three tackles for loss and has forced a fumble. Juwuan Brown has 47 total tackles, six of them for losses totaling 23 yards.

Jaylen Moody has 39 total tackles, including 10 for 33 yards in losses and a fumble recovery. Rakim Bellamy has two interceptions and Jerron Bellamy, Keith Autry Benton, Whit Richardson and Darren Stanley have an interception apiece. Benton, who is out with a broken collarbone also has a fumble recovery as do Casey Hughes, Devon Porter, Aaron Beall, Zuri Phifer and Jonah Booth.

The Conway-Westwood winner will square off against the Northwestern-Laurens winner a week from tomorrow.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Backyard.