Prep Capsules: Jackets, Hornets clash, seeking 2-0 region start

Oct. 7—North Augusta (2-5, 1-0 Region 4-AAAA) at Aiken (1-5, 1-0 Region 4-AAAA)

Last time they played

North Augusta defeated Aiken 35-14 on Oct. 29, 2021.

Keys to the game

Both teams picked up key wins last week in their region openers, setting up this matchup of Region 4-AAAA's two 1-0 teams. North Augusta fought back to erase a 10-point second-half deficit on the road at South Aiken, while Aiken combined its best offensive performance of the season with some stifling defense to beat Airport. Both teams will have to avoid a letdown after those wins, especially after enduring difficult losses in the non-region part of the schedule. Aiken will need to see continued improvement from its offensive line, and the Hornets will have to take care of the football after North Augusta recovered three fumbles and blocked a punt against South Aiken. The Jackets showed off their versatility as an offense and ability to go up-tempo last week, so the Hornets' defense will have to be ready to stop a strong running game and a passing game with the ability to be explosive.

Blackville-Hilda (1-5, 1-2 Region 4-A) at Ridge Spring-Monetta (1-5, 1-1 Region 4-A)

Last time they played

Ridge Spring-Monetta defeated Blackville-Hilda 30-22 on Sept. 24, 2021.

Keys to the game

The keys for this game with big playoff implications are to control the line of scrimmage, limit mistakes and, maybe most importantly, stay healthy. Both teams have dealt with more than their fair share of injuries, and neither can afford to lose any more players. RS-M saw more positives last week against Denmark-Olar, and the Trojans were in contention until fumbling the game away in the second half. That obviously can't happen again, especially against a Blackville-Hilda team that had a big confidence-building first win of the season last week over Hunter-Kinard-Tyler. The Fighting Hawks have had to move some players around and make some adjustments to the game plan due to injuries, and they responded well in last week's win. Home-run threat Tamari Daniels will have RS-M's full attention, and the Hawks will have their hands full trying to slow down DeAnte Hopkins' hot streak at running back and linebacker.

Airport (2-5, 0-1 Region 4-AAAA) at Midland Valley (3-3, 0-0 Region 4-AAAA)

Last time they played

Airport defeated Midland Valley 30-28 on Oct. 1, 2021.

Keys to the game

A defensive performance similar to the one Midland Valley produced two weeks ago — the Mustangs allowed 0 yards of total offense in a 48-0 win over Swansea — would obviously go a long way toward getting the Mustangs into the win column in their Region 4-AAAA opener. They had a bye week last week to give everyone a chance to heal and get geared up for the region grind, so they should be about as fresh as a team can ask for at this point in the season. The Mustangs rushed for 349 yards, led by Joenathan Peeples' 208, in the win over Swansea, and the passing game could be in for a big night after Airport allowed 211 yards and three touchdowns through the air in last week's loss to Aiken.

Silver Bluff (2-4, 1-0 Region 3-AA) at Batesburg-Leesville (2-4, 0-1 Region 3-AA)

Last time they played

Batesburg-Leesville defeated Silver Bluff 33-7 on Oct. 11, 2019.

Keys to the game

Silver Bluff will have to be ready to play a physical, mistake-free football game against a Batesburg-Leesville team looking to bounce back after a blowout loss to Strom Thurmond in the Region 3-AA opener. Silver Bluff was the one delivering the beating last week in a 49-0 win over Fox Creek, but the Bulldogs can't be complacent — there's still plenty of football to play, and a lot of the program's goals remain very much in reach despite a difficult start to the season. The Bulldogs are starting to develop a rhythm, though, as the inexperienced Bulldogs are starting to find their places with the few veteran leaders guiding them. The offense is humming with quarterback Maleik Williams running the show, and the defense is showing it can be physical — and that will be necessary against Batesburg-Leesville's offense.

Strom Thurmond (4-2, 1-0 Region 3-AA) at Saluda (6-0, 1-0 Region 3-AA)

Last time they played

Saluda defeated Strom Thurmond 52-20 on Aug. 20, 2021.

Keys to the game

One key for Strom Thurmond will be to keep from getting too fired up for this game — the Rebels are on a four-game winning streak, and now here comes a rivalry clash against Class AA's top-ranked team. Oh, and Rebels head coach Andrew Webb was Saluda's offensive coordinator before taking the Strom Thurmond job earlier this year. That's a lot of external factors that the Rebels will have to tune out and just stick to the things they've been doing right during this win streak. The defense has allowed just 34 points over the last four games, and they'll have to be up to the task of stopping an explosive Saluda offense that is more than capable of adjusting to whichever look the defense gives them. Saluda's defense has been stout, too, so the Rebels will have to find ways to extend drives and score points. Another special teams score or two wouldn't hurt, either.

Hunter-Kinard-Tyler (3-4, 0-3 Region 4-A) at Williston-Elko (0-6, 0-3 Region 4-A)

Last time they played

Williston-Elko defeated Hunter-Kinard-Tyler 20-14 on Sept. 24, 2021.

Keys to the game

This could be the breakout week for Williston-Elko against a slumping Hunter-Kinard-Tyler team that has lost three consecutive games in region play after starting the season 3-1. The Blue Devils have continued to fight through a tough start to the season, and their attacking style of defense could slow down H-K-T's offense of speedy position players so long as the defenders make the tackles when they have the opportunities and don't over-pursue. They can also shut that offense down before it gets going by winning the battle up front. The Blue Devils will look to get the run game going against an H-K-T defense that hasn't had much success stopping the run the last few weeks.