BENEDICTINE (6-3) AT BURKE COUNTY (7-2)
LAST YEAR: Burke County routed Benedictine 35-0
LAST WEEK: Benedictine beat Liberty County 35-7; Burke County beat Richmond Hill 21-3
KEY PLAYERS: Benedictine-- Senior QB A.J. Befilippis, junior RB Caleb Collins; senior LB Michael Johnson; senior SS Stephen Swinson, sophomore RB John Williams; Burke County-- Senior DE Cornelius Washington (6-4, 225); Senior DL Tim Prophet (6-2, 190); Senior LB Arsenio Strong (5-10, 185); Junior SS/QB Bobby Burum (5-11, 175); Soph FS/WR Terrell Brigham (6-1, 180)
KEY MATCHUP: Burke County's ability to stop the Cadets' veer attack. Benedictine's offense has clicked the past few weeks. The Cadets have moved the ball on offense against everyone, including Thomson. They also have shown an ability to throw the pass in timely situations. Burke County's strength has been its defense. They've allowed about a touchdown per game in their seven-game win streak.
OUTLOOK: The Bears also need to get continued plays out of the passing game. Senior QB Tyler Hammett threw for 240 yards last week and connected on 12 consecutive passes. Burum is also emerging as a threat. The talents of those two young men and a big play on special teams should spark the Bears to a share of their third region title in program history.
PREDICTION: Burke County 28, Benedictine 27
CROSS CREEK (7-2) AT HARLEM (3-6)
LAST WEEK: Thomson defeated Cross Creek, 19-7; Harlem defeated Butler, 34-8
LAST YEAR: Harlem defeated Cross Creek, 35-14
KEY PLAYERS: Cross Creek-- Junior QB Keenan Grissett; Senior RB Patrick Province; Senior DE Mike Lee; Senior DE Jeff Howard. Harlem-- Senior QB Wesley Morris; Senior TE Mike Leverett; Senior TE Ky Arnold
KEY MATCHUP: Cross Creek's passing attack vs. Harlem's secondary. Grissett returned last week from a shoulder injury and his worst game of the season, throwing four interceptions in the defeat. He will look to avenge that performance against a Bulldogs defense that's allowed an average of almost 26 points the past four games.
OUTLOOK: This is a must-win game for Cross Creek, which started the season at 7-0 before dropping its past two contests. A loss and Washington County grabs the final playoff spot in Region 3B-AAA. The Razorbacks need a win and a Thomson win to make the playoffs for the second time. Harlem is just playing for pride. That's what makes the Bulldogs dangerous.
PREDICTION: Cross Creek 20, Harlem 14
WAYNE COUNTY (1-8) AT EVANS (7-2)
LAST YEAR: Evans beat Wayne County 21-14
LAST WEEK: Evans picked up a key region win 14-13 at Glynn Academy; Wayne County lost its final home game of the year, 21-7, to Greenbrier
KEY PLAYERS: Evans-- Senior QB/P Kevin Millward (6-0, 240); Senior WR/TB/DB Trey Henderson (5-10, 185); Senior OL/DL Mykel Green (6-0, 245); Senior LB Ben Rouse (5-9, 190); Junior WR/DB Brandon McCladdie (6-1, 170); Wayne County-- Senior QB Joey Daniels (5-11, 180), Senior QB Wesley Taylor (6-0, 165), Senior WR Eric Daniel (6-0, 175), Senior S/WR Vincent Merritt (6-0, 185)
KEY MATCHUP: Evans' defense vs. Wayne County's offense. Evans' defense has been crucial in several region wins this year. Wayne County is averaging less than four points per game over the past six region games and starting tailback Pat Smith (ankle) will be a game-time decision. It's a match up that clearly gives the home team the edge.
OUTLOOK: This game will showcase two programs heading in different directions. Evans is preparing to start the state playoffs. Wayne County is preparing to start basketball season.
PREDICTION: Evans 21, Wayne County 0
WASHINGTON COUNTY (4-5) AT THOMSON (8-0-1)
LAST YEAR: Washington County beat Thomson 17-0
LAST WEEK: Washington County beat Glenn Hills 17-7; Thomson beat Cross Creek 19-7
KEY PLAYERS : Washington County-- Senior TE Antonio Danzy (6-2, 245); junior RB Keith Swint (5-9, 180; junior DL/OL Cody Robinson (5-10, 225); sophomore QB/DB Markiest Warthen (5-8, 170) junior DB/LB Brandon Watts (6-2, 220); Thomson-- Senior OG Bob Brunson (6-1, 215); Junior LB Lonnie Harris (5-11, 175); Junior RB James Bonner (5-5, 175); Junior LB Stedman Grant (5-11, 230)
KEY MATCHUP: Either team's ability to control the line of scrimmage. It's no secret that both teams will bludgeon one another up front and send their backs sprinting into cleared holes for daylight. Whichever team runs the ball better, controls the clock and protects the football will win the contest and tie for the region championship tonight.
OUTLOOK: Thomson looks to be the most likely team to pull away in this one. The unbeaten Bulldogs would have a slight edge going in if both teams were at full strength. The fact that Swint is questionable for tonight with a kidney ailment gives the home team an even bigger advantage. Washington County needs a win to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990.
PREDICTION: Thomson 20, Washington County 10
CENTRAL (7-3) AT SILVER BLUFF (8-3)
LAST WEEK: Silver Bluff defeated Andrews, 42-20; Central defeated Waccamaw, 40-0
KEY PLAYERS: Silver Bluff-- Junior RB/DB Jamal Beal (5-9, 161), Senior QB Freddie Blanchard (5-10, 147), Senior LB Chaz Cook (5-11, 170), Junior RB/DB Frederick Garnett (5-11, 159), Junior RB/LB Kendrick Garnett (6-0, 181), Senior OL/DL Alex Green (6-0, 257), Senior OL/DL Cory Pope (6-3, 305)
KEY MATCHUP: Silver Bluff's wing-T vs. Central's defense . The Bulldogs' multi-back attack has led them to an average of 25 points per game while Central's defense, the best in Region 8-AA this season, has only allowed an average of 6.9 points per game. Central's 40-0 victory last week was its fourth shutout. The Eagles also have averaged 28 points per game while Silver Bluff's defense has only given up an average of 12.5.
OUTLOOK: Silver Bluff, Region 5-AA champions, and Central each suffered regular-season ending losses and rolled in Round 1 of the playoffs. Each team scores about four touchdowns a game and has relied on staunch defense. Likely to be low-scoring, this matchup should be decided by which defense blinks first or more often.
PREDICTION : Silver Bluff 12, Central 7
-- From staff reports