Historic programs face off in semi-final game

Two teams with rich football histories meet in Summerville tonight.

Summerville, which has 12 football state championships, hosts Gaffney and their 15 state titles. The last time the teams met on the gridiron, the Indians handed the Green Wave a 33-32 loss in the 2005 Big 16 Championship after a tremendous rushing effort in the second half. Look for the Indians to go to the running attack again tonight in a semi-final playoff game with the Wave.

"They remind me of Goose Creek," Green Wave Coach John McKissick said. "They are a big team. They can pass, but they will try to pound the ball at you and not let you have much time with it. Their quarterback reminds me of Fort Dorchester's. When they spread out, he can hurt you."

Gaffney enters the game with an 11-2 record and back-to-back-to-back state titles in its pocket. This year, the team returned its two starting running backs, Steffan Foster (5-10, 200) and Jeremiah Cochran (6-0, 200). They combined for more than 1,300 rushing yards last season. Tight end David Dewberry (6-3, 240) also returned and the Indians often line him up at fullback. Up front, the Indians have four experienced upperclassmen on the offensive line - Kevin Brockman (6-0, 325), Robbie Patterson (6-0, 260), Denzell Good (6-4, 295) and all-region center Joe Ben Frye (5-10, 230).

Gaffney, the No. 6 seed, earned a 26-7 win over Lexington in the opening round. In that game, the Indians rushed for 267 yards and threw for 64. Last week the Indians earned a 21-14 win over Sumter, the No. 3 seed.

The Indians are also strong on the defensive front. Lavar Ross (6-2, 280) leads a line that also includes two other returning starters. Backing them up is linebacker J.B. Shippy, who had more than 200 tackles last year, including 24 for a loss. The Gaffney secondary isn't as experienced, but that hasn't seemed to hurt the team.

"They have a big line that will bowl you over and that's the best defense you can have," McKissick said. "On film, their secondary looks pretty good to me. It should be a tight game."

Summerville enters tonight's game with a 12-1 record. The playoff wins of the No. 2 seed have been impressive. The Wave began the playoffs with a 49-7 win over Rock Hill and earned a 78-47 win over Fort Dorchester last week. Its bread-and-butter is the pass.

QB Reid McCollum completed 28 passes last Friday night for an amazing 518 yards and nine touchdowns. When the Wave receivers are making plays, the Summerville passing attack is very difficult to stop.

The Summerville defense isn't as strong against the run as it is against the pass, but the unit has got the job done the entire year, save its home opener. End Ben Ebert is the leader of the group with 69 tackles, 38 assists and eight sacks. Lineman Andrae Deweese has 58 tackles, 33 assists and 15 sacks. Linebacker Justin Ball-Collins (48 tackles, 33 assists and two tackles for a loss) has a nice combination of speed and power.

The Wave secondary also has some heavy hitters. That group is led by junior Mikey Varner (49 tackles, 21 assists, 2 interceptions and 7 breakups) and senior Branden Millhouse (39 tackles, 10 assists, three interceptions and 10 breakups).

"We made a lot of plays last week," McKissick said. "Our defense didn't look like it should in the first half, but it did a good job in the final two quarters."

Contact Roger Lee at 873-9424 ext. 213 or rlee@journalscene.com.