Blackville-Hilda coach David Berry entered the Hawks' Class A first round playoff game Nov. 8 understanding the advantages his team had over Elloree.
The Hawks - who were 9-1 overall, 6-0 in Region 5-A and ranked No. 6 in the state - faced a 2-8 Warriors team that barely snuck into the playoffs.
So after Blackville-Hilda built a 37-0 halftime lead, Berry inserted his backups, figuring he could accomplish something besides advancing to tonight's second-round matchup with Latta.
"We were able to give some younger people playoff experience, and that will help us down the road and get them ready for next year," Berry said. "Hopefully, they'll come in next year hungry and take over where we left off this year."
Last week's 44-0 win might be the last easy victory for the Hawks. If they are to pave the way to their first state championship since 1995, they must start by getting past a strong Latta squad, which is 9-2 and ranked No. 10 in the state.
Blackville-Hilda defeated Latta the last time the teams met in 1997.
"They've got a lot of speed and several guys in the backfield who can run," said Berry, now in his 13th year with Blackville-Hilda. "They run a lot of options, and if their tailback gets in the open, he can go the distance in a hurry."
The Hawks will continue to rely on their productive ground game, which features senior quarterback Brandon Isaac, who has topped 1,000 yards rushing for the year, and running backs Mickenzie Atterberry and Tharry Salley, who have both surpassed 750 yards. The three have combined for 30 rushing touchdowns.
Berry said the crucial factor tonight will be how well his offensive line performs.
"The big key is how well our front five play," he said. "All of them have improved immensely all year."
BOUNCING BACK: South Aiken's 13-10 overtime loss to Aiken last week was a disappointment for the Thoroughbreds (7-4), but coach Dan Pippin said his team has not dwelled on the loss.
He recalled the original set of goals he marked on the chalkboard when he took the program over in the summer of 2000.
"I told them when I came in, the first goal was making the playoffs and the 10th goal was beating Aiken High," said Pippin, whose team faces Berkeley (8-3) in its first playoff game since a first-round loss in 1995.
If South Aiken upsets Berkeley and North Augusta wins its first-round game, the rivals will meet in the second round at North Augusta, giving the Thoroughbreds a chance to avenge a 14-13 loss to the Yellow Jackets on Oct. 25.
"That would be a lot of fun in the second round," Pippin said of the possibility. "But we've got to take care of ours, and they've got to take care of theirs this week."
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, Ext. 106.
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