Normally, I'd try to quanitfy my region 4-AAAA breakdowns in season's past by publishing a ranking based upon my crooked opinion and insights, but at this point in this year that is entirely impossible and wholly a matter of simply flipping coins. For that reason, I've decided to just break the region down the best I can by looking at each of the contenders and the scenarios that have played out thus far to make this one of the most muddled and cloudy regions in the state to predict. Here's a breakdown of the teams in no particular order.
The Hornets entered 2002 with high expectations and as an early co-favorite to win the region. The have seemingly done well with a 4-2 record but have managed to raise some serious doubts to their ability to survive the region slate by suffering two blowout losses to quality teams and struggling on both sides of the ball on other occasions. Aiken has done a lot in the pre-season to open up doubt in the mind of others as to their relative stregnth in the region and how they could stack up to other teams with winning records. They will have to rely on the underclassmen talent of Junior Bishop Scott at quarterback and sophomore George Mathis at runningback to spark them while their defense will be headed by the senior duo of Jeff Simpkins at safety and Myron Jordan at tackle. The hornets kick off their region slate this week against a testy White Knoll squad in what could be either a statement game or train wreck for the erratic hornet squad displayed thus far in 2002.
It's no suprise that the Wildcats are led by all world runningback Demetris Summers; but it is a suprise that they come into region play this year with a 2-4 record courtesy of a murderous early season schedule, some disappointing results, and some real close calls. Lexington has sufferred close losses to Irmo and Dorman, two of the best Big 16 teams in the state thus far. In that same light, the wildcats have been at the losing end of some big losses as well to suprising foes; such as Spring Valley and Dutch Fork. This has cast a similar shadow of doubt over the Lexington program as exists over Aiken's. They came into the season as a region favorite yet have steadily cast more and more fog into just what to expect of them this year. They still posess one of the most talented squads in the region and should be very tough to beat when they come to play. It's just a matter of what Lexington team to expect on Friday when their season kicks off against North Augusta at Wildcat Hollow. Friday should tell alot about just what Lexington has.
The Yellow Jackets came into the season with several questions to be answered and several spots to fill. The team has done a better than expected job thus far by posting a 4-2 record with their wins coming against opponents with a combined record of 6-18 and their losses coming against tougher opposition. North Augusta is basically sitting about where they expected to be at this point in the season and have emerged as one of the better rushing teams in the state behind the duo of Martise Quiller and Elbert Walker. The Jackets are still a wildcard and unproven commodity in the region thus far and should be seriously considered as contenders for the region title unless proven otherwise. They have the emerging talent and playmakers to make it very interesting in region 4 and should be the team to pose a lot of answers to the questions that other teams have. North Augusta will have their first measuring stick this week on the road against pre-season favorite Lexington. This game should have all the makings of a test as to just how good each of these teams are and should start the shuffling process of contenders and pretenders in region 4-AAAA.
The Bruins have traditionally been a team of immense talent and expectations and this year appears to be no different as Orangeburg returns what could well be their most talented class in years with the hopes of rebounding from last year's 4-8 campaign and making a dash for their first region title since a guy named Dantzler played under center. Orangeburg is off to a 3-2 start and features one of the best quarterbacks in the state in Russell Hemby as well as a talented duo of receivers in Mark Smiley and Quamall Mayes. The Bruins have made some impressive strides in the pre-season, beating some teams that have traditionally given them trouble. They have also been guilty of their trademark inability to win games that they are favored in, as Edisto puled a monumental upset of them to open the season. Orangeburg will get a very tough test to open their region slate as a suprising South Aiken squad welcomes them in a match-up that has been thoroughly dominated by Orangeburg in the schools previous meeting (OW is 10-0 all-time against South Aiken) They should find out quickly if they are a contender or whether they will have to play catch-up in the region race.
The biggest darkhorse in the region 4-AAAA race has to be the South Aiken Thoroughbreds. South Aiken comes in with a 5-1 record with their five wins coming off of team that are a combined 9-21 and their sole loss coming in a last second heart-breaker to TL Hannah in a battle of unbeatens last week. South Aiken features the state's leading rusher in Rashad Hunter as well as one of the best offensive fronts in the region, headed by Jerome Dunbar. The Thoroughbreds have shown a much improved defense from last season and have already surpassed win totals dating back to 1992. They have come from nowhere to emerge as a contender heading into the region fray and get a big chance to make a statement and jump headlong into the region race against Orangeburg-Wilkinson at home on Friday. South Aiken will have to reverse a lot of history and records against teams that have traditionally beaten them to contend in the region this year, but they certainly appear to have one of their best squads in school history and could well have a big say in the region 4-AAAA race before it's donw with.
The White Knoll Timberwolves open their first season on the Class AAAA ranks as the newest member of region 4-AAAA. They will have an immediate chance to test out their tough non-region scheduling as a road date with traditional region power Aiken greets them this Friday. White Knoll has begun the season by posting a 1-5 record against some very tough opposition. The Timberwolves could well be a suprise team in the region because they have demonstrated a very tenacious and tough defense led by one of the state's leading tacklers in Brandon Anderson as well as a capable offense that can keep games close for them. though considered by many as the longest shot to win the region, White Knoll could defnitely make ti interestign with a win or two and emerge from out of the pack to claim the title as Irmo did last year.
This region is going to have so many factor playing in it a