The Patriots take a trip to Columbia Friday to open the Class AAAA Division 1 playoffs against a very formidable opponent.
Dutch Fork (8-3) hosts Fort Dorchester (7-4) at 7:30 p.m.
“They are probably the second or third best team we have faced this season,” Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad said of the Silver Foxes. “Their offense is very balanced. Their running back is good, but I understand he is a little banged up and even without him they look pretty good. They are a well-coached team.”
Both teams have faced a tough schedule this season. Dutch Fork’s losses are to Goose Creek, Irmo and North Augusta. The loss to Irmo was by a single point and the loss to North Augusta last week snapped a four-game Silver Fox winning streak and resulted in North Augusta claiming the Region 5-AAAA championship instead of Dutch Fork.
The Silver Foxes are 6-0 on their home field this season.
Fort Dorchester’s losses are to Goose Creek, Stratford, Summerville and Beaufort. The loss to the Eagles was by a mere three points.
Dutch Fork quarterback Derek Olenchuk has lived up to his name and chucked the ball for 190 completions for 2,643 yards and 31 touchdowns this season.
Wide out Deion Frasier and tight end Austin Ruger have been on the other end of 103 of those completions, but the Silver Foxes also have three other players with 15 or more receptions this season.
Dutch Fork has also had much success handing the ball off to Matt Colburn, who has 1,497 rushing yards and 28 TDs this season.
On the other side of the ball, Dutch Fork has a North-South All-star in lineman Omar Staley. He has six sacks on the season plus three QB hurries.
The team has 38 sacks on the season as well as nine interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. Three different members of the Silver Fox defense have multiple interceptions this year.
The Patriot offense has seemed unstoppable at times this season, but hit a bit of a slump this month. Still, LaPrad likes his chances of advancing in the playoffs.
“We certainly have the ability to win against teams like Dutch Fork,” he said. “We just have to put a total game together. We’ve been undisciplined on offense the last couple of weeks so we just need to get back to doing the things we did earlier in the season. We just have to do those things well every week. It’s that simple.”
Fort QB Kobe Garrett has thrown for more than 1,100 yards and 10 TDs this season and rushed for more than 1,000 yards and eight TDs. Running backs Matt Murray and Nahshon Cyrus have both rushed for more than 800 yards.
The Fort Dorchester defense is coming off a 14-0 shutout over Ashley Ridge last week that LaPrad says is probably the best defensive effort a Patriot team has ever seen.
“If our defense plays like that and we get back to moving the ball consistently and don’t hurt ourselves we can beat anybody,” LaPrad said.