By THOMAS GRANT JR.
Lexington County teams are prominent in the third round of the South Carolina High School League playoffs.
Brookland-Cayce, Gilbert, White Knoll and Gray Collegiate are all a victory away from reaching the state semifinals. Each finds themselves involved in matchups with fellow Top 10 teams:
Sumter (11-1) at White Knoll (12-0)
The Gamecocks are 5-0 all-time against the Timberwolves. This includes first-round wins in 2017 and 2021.
They face a White Knoll team that has already set a school record for wins and consecutive victories.
Defense has played a key role in the Timberwolves’ success. They have allowed a total of 71 points in 11 games led by Shrine Bowl linebacker Jaiden Kimble (3.5 sacks, 58 tackles), defensive lineman Lincoln Ilunga (10 sacks, 53 tackles) and Domenico Banks (4.5 sacks, 64 tackles).
Offensively, quarterback Landon Sharpe has thrown for 2,319 yards and 28 touchdowns. He threw five touchdowns in the 50-7 win over Fort Dorchester.
Wide receiver Austin Cunningham has caught 25 passes for 303 yards and six touchdowns in six games. C.J. Earl had 31 receptions for 536 yards and seven touchdowns. Running back Tiyon Fanning leads the team in rushing and touchdowns (742 yards, 10 touchdowns) and has an experienced, improved offensive line opening holes for him.
Sumter also relies on the ground game with junior John Peeples. He surpassed 1,000 yards on the season with 209 yards and four touchdowns in the 26-7 win over Stratford.
Quarterback Pate Marchant provides enough of a passing threat to keep opponents off-balance. Wide receivers Jamirh Bey and Dazaun Jackson each have a team-high 28 receptions.
Defensive ends Jamirh Rose (65 tackles) and Anthony Addison (four sacks, 59 tackles) help provide an upfront wall for the Gamecocks.
Crestwood (11-1) at Brookland-Cayce (10-2)
The Bearcats became the third team in school history to win 10 games. They now look to join the 1966 state championship team and 2016 Class 3A Lower State runner-up team in reaching the semifinals.
Senior running back DeShaun Washington rushed for 214 yards and four touchdowns and Jvonn Edwards had 58 yards and a score in the 34-13 victory over Phillip Simmons. A big reason for their success, along with Shrine Bowl defensive back William Young is an aggressive, dominating offensive line whose combined average is over six feet and 300 pounds.
Touchstone Energy selection Kamden Sox is one of the leaders up front.
The Bearcats face a Knights’ team whose lone loss came during their last visit to Lexington County. Crestwood fell 62-60 at Gray Collegiate Academy in Week 1.
Shrine Bowl quarterback Javion Martin leads the offense with 2,388 passing yards and 20 touchdowns and 403 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. His top target is junior Jeremie Richardson (45 receptions, 915 yards, six touchdowns) and senior Azarian Rice is the team’s top rusher with 1,309 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The Region 6-3A champion Knights have two Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl selections in defensive back/wide receiver Khalil Moody and linebacker Seneca Moore. Moody is a two-way threat with 452 yards and five touchdowns.
The game is available through the Palmetto State Sports Network. The app can be downloaded at the Google Play Store.
Gilbert (11-1) at Camden (9-3)
The Indians return to Zemp Stadium where their quest for the program’s first-ever state title game appearance was crushed by the Bulldogs two years ago in a 56-7 rout.
Gilbert earned its sixth appearance in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs under head coach Chad Leaphart in the 49-35 win over Hanahan. Freshman running back Trevon Williamson rushed for 312 yards and three touchdowns in his seventh straight game rushing over 100 yards and fifth game this season with three or more touchdowns.
Touchstone Energy Bowl selection quarterback Drake Braddock threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns as the Indians outscored the Hawks 28-14 in the second half. Gilbert also gets production from running back/wide receiver Krew Morris, wide receivers Matt Edwards (514 yards and four touchdowns) and Connor Gooding (20 receptions, 373 yards, seven touchdowns).
Camden saw its five-year run as region champion ended by Crestwood. The Bulldogs have won three straight led by senior quarterback Grayson White (2,866 yards, 33 touchdowns; 503 rushing yards and eight touchdowns) and Cooperative Energy Bowl wide receiver Jaquarius Mayrant (1,097 receiving yards, 11 TDs).
Wide receivers Aidan Heriot (729 receiving yards, 11 TDs) and Maxwell Ford (630 rushing yards, nine touchdowns) and running back Averee Hickmon (618 rushing yards, eight touchdowns).
The winner faces Brookland-Cayce or Crestwood in the Lower State final.
Strom Thurmond (10-2) at Gray Collegiate (12-0)
The War Eagles have scored 62 points in each of their first two Class 2A Upper State playoff games. Despite not playing a single Region 4-2A contest, they are the lone remaining team in the post-season.
Sophomore quarterbacks Tyler Waller and Dre’von Dopson continue to find success behind an experienced offensive line with Touchstone Energy Bowl selection J.T. Sowell and versatile skill players like Touchstone Energy Bowl selection Zai Offord and Jamarious Lockett.
They now face an equally potent offense in the Rebels, led by quarterback Quan Edmond (2,280 yards, 27 touchdowns, 1 interception) and Shrine Bowl wide receiver Braylen Staley (1,107 yards, 14 TDs).
Linebacker Jamaris Stevens is also participating in the Shrine Bowl and teammates Michael Blocker (62 tackles, five sacks) and Deonte Phillips (60 tackles) provide a test upfront with the War Eagles.