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Now they really count: Sumter begins hunt for region crown at home against Lugoff

By DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 10/4/19

With the exception of its offense in the opening game of the season, the Sumter High School football team has been stupendous. That's really about the only one to describe it.

The Gamecocks committed eight turnovers in their opener but still …

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Now they really count: Sumter begins hunt for region crown at home against Lugoff

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With the exception of its offense in the opening game of the season, the Sumter High School football team has been stupendous. That's really about the only one to describe it.

The Gamecocks committed eight turnovers in their opener but still managed to beat Rock Hill 28-21. They have since posted victories of 63-2 over Crestwood, 61-0 over Lakewood, 40-0 over Northwestern, and 70-21 over Bluffton.

SHS has outscored its foes by a combined score of 262-44, an average of 52.4 points to 8.8 points a contest. And while those are tremendous numbers, they really don't mean anything starting on Friday.

That's because Sumter opens its Region IV-5A schedule on Memorial Stadium's Freddie Solomon Field against Lugoff-Elgin beginning at 7:30 p.m. The final four games are the ones that will determine if and where the Gamecocks will be in the state playoffs.

"Oh yes, we've made them very aware of this," said SHS head coach Mark Barnes, whose 5-0 team moved up to fifth from seventh among 5A teams in the latest S.C. Prep Media Football Poll. "Winning the region is one of our goals. You win the region, you get yourself in a good position in the playoffs. These are the more important games for us."

Sumter, which has won a region title in three of its four seasons under Barnes, will be opening against an L-E squad that was the runt of the region last season. The Demons were winless last season, but are off to a 2-4 start as they head into their region opener as well.

"They are a much improved team from last year," Barnes said of Lugoff. "They are better on both sides of the ball. On offense, they're a lot like us in they'll give you multiple looks. They'll line up with a fullback, tight end and running back and run it at you, then they'll go in a spread and throw it around. They'll get in play-action off their running game as well.

"They're a gambling defense," he added. "They'll blitz you a lot, more than anybody else we play. They have a lot of plays for minus yards, but if you catch them right you can have a lot of explosive plays."

Sumter has had no shortage of "explosive" plays this season. There are six players with a long catch of at least 43 yards, four with a long of 60 or more. Five players have a long run of at least 23 yards.

Quarterback Hayden Vasquez is coming off of a ridiculous 1-quarter performance against Bluffton. He completed 13 of 14 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. On the season, the left-hander is 55 for 85 for 996 yards and 12 touchdowns against six interceptions.

His leading receiver is Marcus Lane with 20 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns. North Carolina commitment Tylee Craft has 14 catches for 267 and three scores, and Georgia Southern commitment Tony Dinkins-McCall, who is seeing time mainly at running back, has nine catches for 138 yards and one score.

Tight end/fullback has just four catches, but they're all for touchdowns and 64 yards.

Dinkins-McCall leads the team in rushing with 445 yards and six scores on 41 carries. Nathan Harris-Waynick is right behind him with 336 yards and 10 scores on 44 carries.

"This team really makes a lot of explosive plays," Barnes said. "I think with Tony going to tailback, we might be even more explosive. If he makes you miss, then he can run a long way."

Lugoff lost to Sumter 45-0 last season. The Demons opened the season with a 12-8 win over Westwood. They then lost three in a row - 33-20 to Camden, 32-28 to Chapin and 36-19 to River Bluff. L-E edged Fort Mill 14-7 before losing to Rock Hill by the same score last week.

"We've looked at how they did against Rock Hill since we've played them," Barnes said. "We beat Rock Hill by seven, and Rock Hill beat them by seven, so we expect it to be a close, competitive game."