Taking a road trip to the Lowcountry to face Summerville High School in the SCHSL football playoffs is not an unusual thing for Sumter High. In fact, when the programs meet today in the second round of the 5A playoffs, it will be the third time in five years Sumter has played at Summerville.
However, the Gamecocks haven't played there since 2014 when they lost in the first round of the 2014 4A playoffs.
"This will be the first time for these guys, so it will be a new experience for them," said Sumter third-year head coach Mark Barnes, who will be coaching his first game at Summerville as well. "We haven't talked about it, but I'm sure they know the history of the Summerville program."
Both teams finished second in their respective regions and are 9-2 on the season. The Green Wave defeated Irmo 29-7 in the first round last week, while Sumter thumped White Knoll 35-7.
Barnes likes where his team is after scoring all of its points in the first half against WK.
"We've had a really good week of practice," said Barnes, who will be trying to take the Gamecocks beyond the second round for the first time in his tenure at Sumter. "We should have good practices at this time of year because we're used to what we're doing.
"We've done a great job of dealing with the injuries that we've had, and that says a lot about the character of our team."
The most significant injury is that of quarterback Zykiem Jackson, who broke his collarbone in the ninth game against Conway. Ontra' Harvin has started the last two weeks, going 22-for-31 with 301 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception.
"Ontra' has played really well for us," Barnes said. "It's not a surprise though; we just had to develop a game plan that played to his strengths. He's become comfortable though, and he didn't throw a bad pass last week (going 9-for-14 for 137 yards and one TD)."
Running back Jonathan Henry stepped up and had a big game as well. He rushed for 200 yards and two scores on 26 carries.
"We just felt we had to get the ball in his hands last week," Barnes said of Henry, who has rushed for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns on 139 carries. "We thought that gave us the best chance to be successful and he really stepped up."
Da'jon Butts has rushed for 529 yards and 16 TDs on 81 carries.
Barnes said Summerville's offense reminds him of Conway, which topped the Gamecocks 14-13.
"Their quarterback (Jonathan Bennett) is a good athlete, and they've got some great skill players," Barnes said. "They've two very tall receivers, one who is 6-(feet)-3 (inches) (Anthony Gregg) and the other is 6-5 (Shaq Davis)."
The Green Wave also has 5-9 Andre Banks, who had 118 receiving yards and a touchdown against Irmo.
Bennett threw for 231 yards and two scores and rushed for 68 yards and another touchdown. Barnes said his defense will have to control Bennett.
"We can't give up the explosive plays," Barnes said. "We have given up some big plays when we let the quarterback escape and stay alive too long. We've got to get him on the ground, keep him in the pocket and make him a true drop-back passer."
Sumter has 30 sacks, led by defensive end Sterling McKenzie with 10 . The linebacker trio of Antonio Roach, Cooper Mota and Andre Amaker are the leading tacklers. Roach has 97 while Mota and Amaker both have 95. Roach has 14 tackles for loss, McKenzie 14 and linebacker Johnathan Butler 13.