Three No. 1 seeds rolled to victory last week, but they face tougher tasks tonight in the third week of the South Carolina state playoffs.
Silver Bluff, Aiken and Williston-Elko all trampled opponents with strong rushing attacks and stifling defense. Aiken, Silver Bluff and Blackville-Hilda had two 100-yard rushers, while Williston-Elko's Blue Devils held North to minus-23 rushing yards for the game.
Aiken's Hornets beat James Island 42-28 behind Antwan Smith's 175-yard rushing effort. Silver Bluff's Bulldogs got 146 yards and two touchdowns from Marcus Jones as they turned back Gilbert 40-14. The Hawks, sparked by Wilbur Johnson's 201 yards rushing on 13 carries, shot down Dixie 26-13.
Blackville-Hilda (10-2) will be out for revenge tonight as it tries to fend off Williston-Elko (11-1) in third-round action of Class A. The Blue Devils beat the Hawks 10-0 in the third week en route to claiming the Region 4-A title.
The game will feature two players selected to the North-South All-Star game in Hawks running back Michael Williams and Devils linebacker Nick Smalls. Williams has rushed for 800 yards and seven touchdowns while Smalls has tallied 124 tackles on the year.
The winners in each classification will move on to the Upper and Lower state championship games next week. State title games are scheduled for Dec. 3-4 in Columbia.
Aiken will have some extra punch in the backfield against Walterboro tonight in the second round of the Class AAAA Division II playoffs. Junior running back Roderiquez Chandler, who went down with a torn anterior collateral ligament in mid-August at the Aiken County Jamboree, was in uniform for the Hornets last week, gaining 13 yards on one carry in the win over the Trojans.
Chandler was expected to lead the run-by-committee offense this year, and will step in as Aiken tries to avenge last year's 33-28 loss to the Bulldogs.
"He's all right, just trying to work his way back in," Aiken coach Carey Johnson said. "We're just trying to make it to next week. We hope he can get right in there. That's just one more weapon, personal statistics don't matter."
After completing the regular season with an undefeated record, Silver Bluff (12-0) was left unrepresented in both the Shrine Bowl and North-South game when the rosters were announced earlier this week. Senior running back Marcus Jones was the surprise exemption after he piled up 1,314 regular season yards on the ground to go with 23 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs' opponent tonight, Hanahan, will be represented by three players, including defensive back Racheim Moore, who made the Shrine Bowl, and quarterback John Little and offensive tackle Matthew Powell, who will play in the North-South game.
HEAD TO HEAD:
Senior quarterbacks Antwaun Hillary and Anthony Young will get one more chance to showcase their talents.
Young completed the double-double for North Augusta (6-6) this year, passing for 1,347 yards and rushing for 1,151 more. Hillary tossed for 1,457 yards and 12 touchdowns and rans for 789 yards and 12 scores to lead Strom Thurmond.
Young will play for the North squad and Hillary will suit up with the South in the Dec. 11 game at Myrtle Beach.
Thirteen area players were selected to postseason all star games, but only Aiken's Marcus Simpkins was picked to represent South Carolina in the Shrine Bowl.
The 6-3, 270-pound defensive lineman has anchored the Hornets defense, forcing most teams to avoid running to his side. He is the 22nd Aiken resident to be selected for the game, scheduled for Dec. 18 at Charlotte's Memorial Stadium.
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.