Silver Bluff and Midland Valley have already healed old wounds in winning region titles.
Midland Valley (7-3 overall, 5-1 overall) ran off six straight wins to end the regular season with the school's first Region 4-AAA title. Silver Bluff (10-0 overall, 5-0 Region 6-AA) won the Region 6-AA title for the first time since 1993.
Now the teams will have to escape demons from the postseason. Both schools blew second-half leads to lose in the first round of last year's state playoffs.
The Bluff fell to Batesburg-Leesville 28-21 in Class AA action, after leading 21-7 entering the fourth quarter. The Panthers went on to play for the state title, where they lost to Emerald. Midland Valley fell to Lake City in Class AAA play 41-31 after leading 31-21 midway through the third quarter.
The Mustangs will have their hands full with last year's state runner-up Manning, while the Bluff will take on a resurgent Bishop England team.
"We definitely didn't get an easy draw, they're very formidable," Mustang coach Rick Knight said. "Hopefully memory will serve a little from last year. The region title is history now. They have to put that behind them because we want more."
Midland Valley lost running back Travis Mays in the fourth week of the season to an elbow injury for four games. In stepped backup Pele Williams who had three 100-yard performances.
Mays has come back to team with Williams to provide a powerful one-two punch. Mays piled 115 yards and scored on a 36-yard touchdown in the Mustangs' 17-14 title-clinching win over Strom Thurmond. Williams added 67 yards as Midland Valley ran up 273 yards rushing.
LAST MINUTE SURGE:
Williston-Elko's Brian Williams used a 253-yard performance on 38 carries last Friday to overtake Silver Bluff's Marcus Jones for the area rushing lead.
Williams finished the year with 1,455 yards on 258 tries to go with 14 touchdowns. Jones trails the defending champion with 1,313 yards on 196 attempts. Jones has an area-leading 22 touchdowns for the Bulldogs, the best rushing team in the area.
STACKING THE NUMBERS:
Strom Thurmond quarterback Antwaun Hillary is drawing major-college attention for a good reason. The senior completed the regular season with 1,418 yards and 12 TD passes, hitting on 99 of 175 attempts.
"He does so much for this club because he is so dangerous," Thurmond coach Brian Smith said. "He probably could easily go over 1,000 yards rushing too, but we throw out of the shotgun formation and that hurts his yards. He doesn't worry about it though. He thinks team first. He's that unselfish."
Hillary also rushed for 774 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 107 carries for an area-best 7.2-yards per carry. The senior leads Thurmond (5-5 overall, 4-2 Region 4-AAA) into Charleston to face Burke in Class AAA playoff action.
Williston-Elko (9-1 overall, 6-0 overall) ran off nine straight wins after opening the season with a loss to Barnwell. The Blue Devils welcome Thornwell tonight in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
Midland Valley ended the season with a six-game winning streak. Silver Bluff has won 10 straight, and Aiken (8-2 overall, 5-1 region 3-AAAA) is on a five-game win streak. After winning it's first three Region 3-AAAA games, North Augusta has now dropped three in a row.
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.
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