If last year's 59-47 shootout is any indication, fans can expect plenty of offensive firepower in Friday's season-opening matchup between Crestwood and West Florence at Memorial Stadium in Florence.
Crestwood led West Florence 19-10 at halftime last year before bad weather moved into the area, causing a 1-hour delay. The game took on an entirely different tone after the weather delay, with the two teams combining for 77 points in the second half.
Gone from last year's West Florence team is Ailym Ford, a standout running back that ran for nearly 2,500 and 33 touchdowns as a senior. Ford scored the winning touchdown in last year's contest. However, Crestwood still expects the West Florence offensive system to produce plenty of opportunities for whomever it has in the backfield.
"They run the ball extremely well," said Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson. "They give you a couple of different formations. They've got running backs that run the ball down hill, and they've also got the type of backs that can do damage in space."
West Florence enjoyed a sensational season, finishing with an 11-2 record and reaching the 5A state semifinals. Nelson takes pride in opening the season against a team like West Florence.
"We want to open the season with good teams," said Nelson. "We're going to have to play fundamentally sound football, tackle great in space and in between the tackles. We have to stick to our game plan, and everyone has to do their job. If your job is to tackle, then tackle; if your job is to cover, then cover."
Friday's matchup will be just the fourth time that Crestwood and West Florence have played each other. Crestwood currently holds a 2-1 series advantage.
After last season's loss, Nelson wants to see his team focusing on finishing strong, and not getting complacent with a halftime lead. He also wants to see his team avoid some of the mistakes it made in its scrimmage against Irmo at the Sumter Sertoma Football Jamboree last Friday.
Quarterback Clayton Feagin threw a pair of costly interceptions in the scrimmage, each resulting in touchdown returns for Irmo in its 21-0 win. Nelson's focus this week has been on going back to the basics.
"We're still coaching the fundamentals," said Nelson. We've got to make sure we don't make those simple mistakes again. We're coaching them up so they make the right reads, don't panic, and make good decisions."
Offensive and defensive line play will be key for the Knights against West Florence. "Our team is going to go as far as our offensive and defensive lines will take us," said Nelson. "We're going to hang our hats on those units."
The Crestwood offensive line is led by Kalus Benjamin and Charles Grant. Defensively, the Knights will rely on Jacson Thorne and Parris Lowery to disrupt the West Florence running game.
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