The Thoroughbreds, one of three area teams to open Region 5-AAAA play tonight, suffered through a difficult nonregion schedule and had to do it with several key players out.
Coach Jeremy West said his team played without seven starters at one point during the early part of the season. The result was the extension of the area’s longest losing streak. South Aiken (0-6) has lost 15 in a row dating back to Week 3 of last year.
“The one thing that did come out of all this was we were able to build some depth for us that we didn’t know we had,” West said. “We’ve had kids step up, and the bye week (last week) was real big. We’ve got everybody back now.”
South Aiken, which started the 2011 season 2-0 but hasn’t won since, will play its region opener tonight with the first of three consecutive home games. The Thoroughbreds will face a Dutch Fork squad with a 3-3 record.
The start to the region schedule is also ideal for North Augusta, which enjoyed a bye week last Friday after wrapping up a hectic nonregion schedule.
The Jackets played on Thursday night twice, went to Atlanta for a Saturday noon game in Week 2 and experienced a double overtime loss three weeks ago.
“We’ve been pretty well tested through the first six games,” coach Dan Pippin said. “It’s been good to have a normal week.”
The Yellow Jackets (4-2) didn’t suffer as many injuries as South Aiken did during the nonregion schedule, but North Augusta did lose starting quarterback Cody Turner to a knee injury.
The senior’s absence forced sophomore Trib Reece into the spotlight earlier than planned. Pippin did intend to use Reece every third series this year, but the young quarterback has now moved into a permanent starting role.
“We’re fortunate that we were getting him in already,” Pippin said. “He learned a lot against Sumter and then played well against Grovetown. ... Cody’s still out. He may still be cleared to play at some point in the future, but we’re going to make sure he’s ready.”
Reece has completed 50 percent of his passes through the first six games but went 10 for 16 in his last game with 191 yards passing and two touchdowns.
The Yellow Jackets will open the region schedule at Lexington tonight with Reece still under center. The Wildcats (2-4) are the defending Region 5-AAAA champions.
Aiken (2-4) also will begin region play tonight after concluding the nonregion schedule with a pair of losses. The Hornets will play host to White Knoll (5-1).