Football season is back. Most Aiken County schools will start the season tonight, and each start with a clean slate.
That goes for me, too. I made a prediction on every Aiken County game last year (and Williston-Elko and Strom Thurmond, too), and correctly picked 82 of the 98 games (that's over 83 percent). In fact, I went 22 for 22 through the first three weeks of the season.
And now to completely blow it. I've talked myself up so much that I'm sure I'll miss big on Week 1 this year. We'll see. Here's what I think will happen tonight around Aiken County:
Silver Bluff (0-0) at Aiken (0-0)
This is a match up of two quality teams, but it's also a match up of a Class AA team at a Class AAAA team. Don't kid yourself. That matters. Silver Bluff has some impressive athletes, but they also only have 25 total players. That's a serious disadvantage going up against an established Class AAAA program. I guarantee that Aiken is better than they have been the past two seasons (when they beat Silver Bluff last year and lost in five overtimes in 2009). This will be a close game at first, but the Hornets' depth will win out in the end.
Prediction: Aiken 28, Silver Bluff 14
North Augusta (0-0) at Midland Valley (0-0)
The Mustangs haven't beaten North Augusta since 1998, and that streak will continue for another year. In a game this early in the season (heat will be a factor), conditioning and depth will be extremely important. North Augusta is deep. Midland Valley, which has several quality athletes, has to use those athletes to play on both sides of the ball. That will work to the Mustangs' disadvantage, especially in the second half. North Augusta LOVES to push the tempo of the game to a ridiculous pace. Midland Valley's only chance is long, sustained offensive drives. I don't see it happening.
Prediction: North Augusta wins 42-14
South Aiken (0-0) at Richland Northeast (1-0)
The Thoroughbreds have the longest losing streak in the Aiken-Augusta area, but it's a new season. South Aiken is much improved from a year ago now that head coach Jeremy West is entering his second season. Richland Northeast handed South Aiken a 30-point loss last year. I don't think the game will be that bad this time around. South Aiken will break its losing streak soon, but not tonight. Richland Northeast already has a win under its belt, and that experience will help this week.
Prediction: Richland Northeast wins 21-14
Fox Creek (1-0) vs. Academic Magnet (0-1)
The Predators were once on the same level as Academic Magnet. Not anymore. Fox Creek is a quality Class A program now, especially with NCAA Division I prospect Marty Williams leading the way. The Predators got a shutout win in Week 0, so the rust has been shaken off.
Prediction: Fox Creek wins 48-6
Wagener-Salley (0-1) at Swansea (0-0)
Wagener-Salley lost to Pelion in Week 0. I think overall the War Eagles are better than they were last year. Most of their skill players are back for another season. They definitely have a chance to put some wins on the board this year, but not this week.
Prediction: Swansea wins 20-6
A few other notes: I didn't make predictions on Strom Thurmond's game and Ridge Spring-Monetta's game, because they both played on Thursday. Strom Thurmond impressively destroyed a quality Laney team 24-16 (the game was a bigger blowout than the score indicates). Ridge Spring-Monetta lost 42-0 to Saluda.