Coming off a 19-point loss that was actually worse than the score indicated, Aiken High School finds itself up against a tough opponent in its bid to get back on track. The Hornets, who trailed by as many as 38 points in a 41-22 loss to Byrnes High School last Friday, travelto Gaffney High School for a meeting with the Indians, who have one of the better traditions in the state.
Gaffney lost a week ago, 14-6, to Rock Hill HighSchool, but had to have five stands in the red zone tokeep it close.
After a loss that saw the Hornets give up the most points they have since 1997, Carey Johnson said he didn't care who the opponent was. Aiken has plenty to worry about trying to fix itself mentally after getting humiliated against Byrnes' pass-happy attack.
The 38-point deficit was the most Aiken had been behind since losing to Greenwood High School 35-0 in the 1999 state championship game. "Gaffney, I know they are usually pretty good," the Aiken coach said. "We can't worry about them as much as ourselves, though. When we get there, then we'll worry about all that tradition and fan support they get. I will say that it would be big for us to go up there and win a football game."
If that is to happen, the Hornets will have to pull it off minus another defensive leader. Daniel Willis, a three-year starter at inside linebacker, partially tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee minutes into the Byrnes game and is out at least four weeks, according to his doctors.
Willis, the second Hornet to suffer a serious injury in three weeks, wants to be back quicker, though. In Aiken's opening 24-7 win against Laurens High School three weeks ago, defensive back/running back Kenyata Smith was lost for the year with a broken left ankle and torn ligaments.
"I'm going to try to be back for Greenwood," Willis said. "The doctors say maybe I could be back for the first home game in October. I've played through one of these before."
Willis was calling the defensive signals for the Hornets, and Aiken wasn't the same after he left.
"Anytime you lose a leader it hurts," Johnson said. "We just have to have some other guys step up and make plays. Our expectations are still the same even if we lose some players."
Gaffney has also been hit with the injury bug. In the Rock Hil loss, the Indians lost their starting quarterbaclk, Myron Whisnant, near the end of the game and had to go to backup Antonio Gaffney. Gaffney did lead the Indians 80 yards down the field late in the game for their only score, though.
Should the Hornets lose, Johnson said he wouldn't be pushing the panic button.
"High school football is about 11 battles," Johnson said. "Just because you lose a few battles, it doesn't mean you've lost the war."
MORE PREP NOTES: The Gaffney game is the second straight away game for the Hornets . . . It will be four more weeks before the Hornets play at Hagood Stadium again . . . They have road contests at Greenwood and Midland Valley along with an open date before hosting T.W. Josey (Ga.) High School on Oct. 4. . . Silver Bluff wing back Brandon Bussey, once thought to be the heir apparent to Troy Williamson has been moved out to wide receiver opposite Terrance Crawford . . . South Aiken's Rashad Hunter, at 285 yards according to South Aiken's stats, admits he is eyeing the area's rushing title after finishing third in the area a year ago behind Division I prospects Reggie Merriweather and Troy Williamson.