FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR IN THIS WEEK'S GAMES

The State - - Sports - BY LOU BEZJAK lbez­jak@thes­tate.com

The South Carolina High School League play­offs are fi­nally here and it’s semi­fi­nal week for the SCISA post­sea­son.

Here is a look at five things to watch for this week’s games:

WALKER’S STA­TUS STILL IN QUES­TION

River Bluff might be with­out one of its best play­ers when it opens the play­offs Fri­day at home against Con­way.

On Thurs­day Ga­tors coach Blair Hardin said run­ning back Braden Walker has a “50-50 chance” of play­ing. Walker in­jured his an­kle late in the game against Lex­ing­ton on Oct. 25. River Bluff was off last week and there was hope ex­tra rest would help.

Walker is sec­ond in the Mid­lands with 1,487 yards and 16 touch­downs. If Walker can’t go, that would mean more car­ries for An­to­nio Gantt. The se­nior has 806 yards and 11 TDs this year.

DUTCH FORK BE­GINS PLAY­OFF JOUR­NEY

Dutch Fork will be­gin the play­offs at home against South Florence and is look­ing for its third straight Class 5A cham­pi­onship.

The Sil­ver Foxes have won 20 games in a row and haven’t lost a firstround play­off game since Tom Knotts took over in 2010. Prior to Knotts’ ar­rival, the Sil­ver Foxes hadn’t won a play­off game since 2005.

It’s the first time since 2003 Dutch Fork has played South Florence. The Sil­ver Foxes lead the all-time se­ries, 4-2.

STREAKS LOOK TO BE SNAPPED IN FIRST ROUND

River Bluff is host­ing a play­off game for first time in school his­tory Fri­day. Here is a look at other firsts, streaks on line this week:

Ridge View is host­ing a play­off game on cam­pus for the first time in school his­tory when it hosts Trav­el­ers Rest.

CA John­son and Columbia are in the play­offs for the first time since 2013.

Irmo is look­ing for its first play­off win since 2012 when it trav­els to Berke­ley.

Cam­den is look­ing for its first play­off vic­tory since 2009 when they travel to Seneca.

North Cen­tral is look­ing for its first play­off win since 1998 when it hosts St. Joseph’s.

Dre­her is look­ing for its first play­off win since 1994 when it de­feated Cheraw. The Blue Devils travel to Myr­tle Beach in first round of 4A play­offs.

Gray Col­le­giate is look­ing for its play­off win in school his­tory. The War Ea­gles are 0-2 in their play­off his­tory.

HAM­MOND EYES AN­OTHER TI­TLE BERTH

Ham­mond can earn a spot to an­other SCISA 3A state cham­pi­onship Fri­day with a win over ri­val Car­di­nal New­man.

The Sky­hawks, who have won 23 in a row, will be seek­ing their 12th ti­tle ap­pear­ance in 15 sea­sons. Ham­mond has won nine ti­tles in that span.

Car­di­nal New­man hasn’t won a state ti­tle since 1990 when it was in the Pal­metto Ath­letic Con­fer­ence. The Car­di­nals have won seven games this sea­son, their largest win to­tal since 1998.

It will be the sec­ond time Ham­mond and Car­di­nal New­man are meet­ing this sea­son. The two teams played on Oct. 19 with Ham­mond win­ning, 62-27.

NEW­BERRY, FAIR­FIELD CEN­TRAL BE­GIN PLAY­OFFS ON ROAD

New­berry and Fair­field Cen­tral have had their share of deep play­off runs in the past decade.

But the two 3A pro­grams be­gin this post­sea­son as un­der­dogs and on the road. The Bull­dogs will travel to South­side while the Griffins are at Pendle­ton.

New­berry hasn’t lost a first-round game since 2009 when it lost to Keenan. It also was 2009 since Fair­field lost in first round when Clin­ton de­feated the Griffins.

MID­LANDS TOP 10

1. Dutch Fork (8-0); 2. Ham­mond (11-0); 3. River Bluff (8-1); 4. A.C. Flora (8-2); 5. Air­port ( 7-3); 6. Spring Val­ley ( 7-3); 7. Blythe­wood (6-3); 8. Ridge View (6-3); 9. Gilbert (6-3); 10. Brook­landCayce (6-4)

JEFF BLAKE Jeff@Jef­fBlakePhoto.com

River Bluff Ga­tors run­ning back Braden Walker runs for a big gain dur­ing the game be­tween River Bluff and Gilbert High School.

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