Blythewood, Westwood kick off football season Friday night

BLYTHEWOOD – High School football is finally here.

The sentiment usually rings true every year, when kids put on the pads in practice in the swelter of early August, the field gets mowed and striped, and the jamborees kick off another season of Fridays under the lights.

After more than six months without any sports on the field because of the COVID-19 precautions, high school volleyball and girls tennis have hit the courts. Meanwhile, the start of football season comes a month late, but more anticipated than ever.

Friday night, Blythewood heads down Interstate 20 for the third straight year to take on North Augusta for its season opener. The Bengals, who finished 5-6 last year, beat the Yellow Jackets on the road for the last two years, winning 27-24 last year and 15-12 two years ago.

“That’s always a tough spot to play, and then we go right into region play,” said Blythewood head coach Jason Seidel at the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce meeting last month. “That’s a whole other challenge that kind of scares you because usually your non-region games are getting you ready for the region. Now it’s one game and here’s region.”
Blythewood’s region is still 4-5A, but realigned. Spring Valley remains, but Lugoff-Elgin and Sumter exit to make way for Rock Hill, Northwestern, and 4A power Ridge View. The Blazers fell at Wren in the 4A upper state final last year and will look to go further at the next classification level. 

Meanwhile, Westwood comes off an 8-4 effort in 2019 and opens its season on a new turf playing field at District Two Stadium against new Region 4-4A rival A.C. Flora. Former Redhawks head coach Dustin Curtis helms the Falcons in his first return to Westwood since 2018.
The season and region opener come quickly for second-year Redhawks head coach Matt Quinn, who along with the rest of the state’s football teams had to adjust under restrictions brought on by the COVID-19  pandemic.

With rival Ridge View’s departure to 5A play, Region 4 now has Richland Northeast, Dreher, Flora, and Lugoff-Elgin, which moves down from 5A. Quinn looks at Westwood and Flora, which finished 10-2 last year, to be rivals for the region crown.

“This is a big one for us because we both feel like we are the two top teams in our region,” Quinn said at the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce meeting last month. “We feel like we’re opening the season with a region championship. We’re coming off a no-offseason, with barely any time to prepare, playing against one of my good friends who I used to work for. It’s gonna be a fun night. We’re excited about it but given the circumstances we wish we had a little bit more time to prepare.”

Both Blythewood and Westwood will field young teams.

The Bengals returned all their starters from last year, including senior wide receiver Josh Burrell, who committed to Florida State last spring. New to the roster is senior quarterback Angelo Donato, a 6-3, 180 snaptaker from Wake Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C. Senior brothers Chad and Chase Ishmael, cornerback and linebacker, respectively, return to anchor a still-young but strong defense.

Westwood lost quarterback Ahmon Green, now at Georgia State, and receiver Cam Atkins, but kept nearly everyone else. Two running backs, Nicolas Gilliam and Julian Milligan will be in the backfield for the Redhawks. Juniors Camren Brown and Elijah Burgess are on the rosters as quarterbacks.