When he batted the pass of Hugh Arthur and saw it go straight up in the air above him, Wilson Hall's Mitchell Matthews got excited.
"I said, 'Man, I can catch it,' " said Mitchell, the Barons' senior outside linebacker. "When I did, I just took …
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"I said, 'Man, I can catch it,' " said Mitchell, the Barons' senior outside linebacker. "When I did, I just took off and didn't look back. I turned on the burners and headed to the end zone.
"I was scared someone was going to catch up to me."
No one did as Matthews returned his interception 41 yards for the final points in Wilson Hall's 45-0 triumph over Augusta Christian School on Friday. The pick 6 capped off a huge night for Matthews and earned him The Sumter Item Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Others receiving honors this week are Matthews' teammate, Mills Herlong, for special teams, Clarendon Hall quarterback Josh Black for offense and Scott's Branch offensive guard Christian Oliver for offensive lineman.
Players are selected based on nominations from local high school coaches. Selections are made by The Sumter Item.
The quartet will be honored at the weekly meeting of the Sumter Touchdown Club presented by FTC on Friday. The meeting will be held at Swan Lake Visitors Center beginning at 7:15 a.m. The visitors center is located inside the gates of Swan Lake-Iris Gardens on West Liberty Street.
The guest speaker on Friday will be former Sumter High School and Clemson standout running back Roderick McDowell.
Mitchell's interception return was the first of his career at Wilson Hall on the defensive side of the ball. It was just the cherry on top of a tremendous night in which he was seemingly in on every tackle for the Barons.
Matthews finished with 15 total tackles, seven of them solo. He also had one quarterback sack and one tackle for loss.
"With them running the option offense, it requires everyone covering their spot," Matthews said. "Lucky for me, I was the one who got to make most of the tackles."
Wilson Hall head coach Adam Jarecki said Matthews has been more than just lucky.
"He's been very special for us the last couple of years," Jarecki said. "He's the leader of our defense, and he does a good job for us each week."
SPECIAL TEAMS MILLS HERLONG WILSON HALL
This is Herlong's second Player of the Week award. The first came a few weeks ago when he picked up a defensive award with three interceptions in the Barons' win over Pinewood Prep.
This time he picked it up with his kicking, which he has been doing for Wilson Hall since his freshman season. Herlong had touchbacks on all seven of his kickoffs, booted a 32-yard field goal, averaged 45 yards on two punts and was 4-for-4 on extra point attempts.
The touchbacks meant the Barons did not have to attempt to tackle a kickoff returner once, and Augusta Christian had to start each of those drives at its 20-yard line.
"I've been working on my steps, getting more consistent with my kicks," Herlong said in explaining his consistency in reaching the end zone. "When I started doing that the kicks started going back in the end zone.
"The coaches say the best thing I can do is put it in the end zone."
"Mills has just been consistent for us the last few years," Jarecki said. "When he gets good, deep kicks, that's great for us. We like those because we don't have to try and stop someone."
OFFENSE JOSH BLACK CLARENDON HALL
Clarendon Hall has been a run-heavy offense most of the season, but with standout running back Tyrese Mitchum nursing an injury, Saints head coach Anthony Reitenour decided to put the ball in the air in their game against Tri-Academy last week.
"I just smiled; I was happy," Black said when asked about his response when told Clarendon Hall would throw the ball more.
The sophomore made his coaches smile as well as he completed 10 of 14 passes -- most of them coming in the first half -- for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
"We decided to come out pass heavy; that was the plan," Reitenour said. "We wanted to give him some reps and he did a pretty good job. We were pretty successful with it.
We're just wanting to get him confidence back there."
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN CHRISTIAN OLIVER SCOTT'S BRANCH
Scott's Branch dropped a 36-23 contest to Bethune-Bowman, but the loss had nothing to do with the Eagles' running game. Scott's Branch rushed for 234 yards with running back Sean Swaringer rushing for 169 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.
Leading the way on the Scott's Branch offensive line was Oliver. He graded out at 85 percent.
"He had no knockdowns, but had several good drive blocks," Eagles head coach Brian Smith said. "It was hard to get a knockdown block when they (Bethune-Bowman defensive linemen) were trying to undercut our lineman.
"Christian's a big part of our success on the offensive line. He did a great job all night. He's been very good the last couple of weeks."
Oliver said the Scott's Branch running backs make him look good.
I have to give it to my running backs," Oliver said. "They put their trust in me, and I put my trust in them. I just go out and try to do my job every Friday. We just try to go out and get it done."
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