Only once has the way the 2016 football season ended for Sumter High School been mentioned as the Gamecocks prepare for their 5A state playoffs first-round game against White Knoll.
"At the first of the week I said, 'Just remember that feeling in your gut when that 2-point play beat us," SHS head coach Mark Barnes said in referencing to 5-5 Lexington's 29-28 overtime victory over 9-1 Sumter in the opening round of the playoffs. "You don't want to let that happen to you again."
The Gamecocks, who are 8-2 this season, will try to avoid that when they take on another 5-5 team from Lexington County in the Timberwolves. The game will be played today at Memorial Stadium on Freddie Solomon Field beginning at 7:30 p.m.
"They're big; that's the No. 1 thing," Barnes of WK, which finished in a tie for fourth in Region V with a 2-4 record. "They believe in running the football and throwing it off of the run. At times they're more of a 2-back offense, running out of the I (formation) a lot with one tight end, two wide receivers and two backs."
White Knoll uses two quarterbacks, sophomore Aveon Smith and senior Caleb Sheldon. Smith is the team's leading rusher with 491 yards and four touchdowns on 119 carries. He's completed 53 of 102 passes for 603 yards with five TDs against four interceptions.
Sheldon isn't a running threat at all. He's completed 50 of 105 passes for 751 yards and seven scores against seven picks.
"We've got to prepare for two quarterbacks, so that's always something that makes it more difficult."
Albert Hope is the leading rusher among running backs with 453 yards and seven touchdowns on 103 carries. Fullback Douglas Summers has rushed for 311 yards and two TDs on 68 carries.
Keon Clary is the leading receiver with 46 catches for 535 yards and five scores. Clayton Lindsay has 35 receptions for 497 yards and six touchdowns.
"They're a very physical team, which is what we try to be," Barnes said. "For us defensively, what they do is right in our wheelhouse. Still, we have to be very disciplined."
White Knoll is averaging 20 points a game and allowing 25 points a contest.
SHS comes into the contest off of a 48-21 victory over Socastee in quarterback Ontra' Harvin's first career start. Harvin, starting in place of the injured Zykiem Jackson, completed 13 of 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
"He did a really good job running the offense," Barnes said of Harvin, who is the starter since Jackson was lost for the season when he broke his collarbone in a 14-13 loss to Conway the week before the Socastee contest. "We had a week to work and game plan on his skill set and what he does best. He just made one bad decision the entire game."
Sumter had a balanced offensive attack. It had 342 yards of total offense, 161 coming on the ground and 181 through the air.
Running back Jonathan Henry has 80 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while Da'jon Butts had 78 yards and three scores on 18 attempts.
The Gamecocks had six different players catch the football. Tony Dinkins-McCall had four catches for 66 yards, including a 54-yarder for a touchdown. Quran Vaughn had four catches for 34 yards and Keshawn Croskey had two catches for 46 yards, including a 34-yarder for a touchdown.
"Zykiem was our best player; everybody knew that," Barnes said. "We tried to do as many things as we could with him. Now we're having to adjust and we need everyone to play better.
"We got Kurt Lewis back last week on the offensive line, and we'll get Zion Nelson back this week. So we will have our five best offensive linemen available."