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Looks can be deceiving: Barnes calls Northwestern Sumter’s toughest foe despite 1-3 record

By DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 9/20/19

Northwestern High School owns just a 1-3 record heading into its varsity football game against Sumter on Friday on Memorial Stadium's Freddie Solomon Field. Gamecocks head coach Mark Barnes isn't putting a lot of stock in the Trojan's record …

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Looks can be deceiving: Barnes calls Northwestern Sumter’s toughest foe despite 1-3 record

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Northwestern High School owns just a 1-3 record heading into its varsity football game against Sumter on Friday on Memorial Stadium's Freddie Solomon Field. Gamecocks head coach Mark Barnes isn't putting a lot of stock in the Trojan's record though.

"I think a lot of people would be 1-3 if they played that schedule," Barnes said.

Northwestern, a 5A school, opened the season with a 17-14 loss to South Pointe, a fellow Rock Hill school that is currently ranked fourth among 4A schools in the latest S.C. Prep Media Football Poll. That was followed by lopsided losses to Byrnes (40-0) and Dorman (41-14), ranked second and fifth, respectively, among 5A schools and ahead of No. 7 SHS.

The Trojans picked up their win last week, beating Ridge View 16-14. The loss knocked Ridge View out of the 4A poll.

"I think they are easily the best team that we've played," Barnes said of Northwestern. "This is going to be a big test for us. I'm looking forward to seeing how we do against them."

Sumter is 3-0 and is coming off of its second straight 61-point victory. The Gamecocks blanked Sumter School District rival Lakewood 61-0 last week after beating their other district rival, Crestwood, 63-2 two weeks prior to that.

Barnes isn't anticipating the points to be as easy to come by against Northwestern.

"I think they have the best defensive front that we've played," Barnes said. "That is obviously a concern for us with us having such an inexperienced offensive line. We've got guys still learning up front.

"I think our offensive line has been steadily improving. This is certainly a test for us."

While the Trojans are allowing 28 points a game, their defense has made a lot of big plays. According to MaxPreps, Northwestern has 29 tackles for loss, including five quarterback sacks. The Trojans have five interceptions and recovered a fumble for six takeaways.

SHS has turned the ball over 12 times in three games, even though eight of those came in the season opener against Rock Hill, which it somehow won 28-21.

Quarterback Hayden Vasquez has thrown just one interception since the opening game, that one coming against Lakewood. However, he completed 10 of 15 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a 68-yard scoring pass to Marcus Lane, a 67-yarder to Lodaine Redwood and a 60-yarder to Shrine Bowl wide receiver and North Carolina commitment Tylee Craft.

"We've proven that we've a very explosive team on offense," Barnes said. "It's good to have the ability to be able to score from anywhere on the football field."

Tony Dinkins-McCall, who is committed to Georgia Southern as a wide receiver, has had a pair of 100-yard rushing games since moving to running back following the dismissal of Justice Wells from the team.

Dinkins-McCall ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries against Crestwood. He followed that with 110 yards and two more scores on 11 attempts against Lakewood.

"He think he's done a good job for us back there," Barnes said. "He's shown if you don't get him and he breaks a tackle, he can take it all the way."

Nathan Harris-Waynick has done a good job running the ball as well. He had 92 yards and three TDs against Lakewood.

"Nate has really stepped up," Barnes said. "He has a totally different running style. We're hoping we're going to be able to put him in the backfield and move Tony some out to wide receiver."

Northwestern is only averaging around 200 yards of total offense a game, according to MaxPreps. However, the Trojans have a Shrine Bowl wide receiver of their own in Ger-Cari Caldwell. The 6-foot-4-inch, 192-pound Caldwell has 19 catches for Quarterback John Duran has completed 39 of 81 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns against two interceptions.