Our overall look at some of the best talent on both the Grand Strand and in the Pee Dee. Rankings aren't head to head, but rather reflect the team's best overall shot to win a state championship in its respective state classification.
1. DILLON WILDCATS (3-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Latta, 35-6
THIS WEEK: Open date
Justification: The Wildcats continue to impress, and still prove to have no shortage of talent. Jackie Hayes held back Jabo Lee for precautionary reasons due to his knee injury for a second straight week, and the Blues Brothers took over. Joe Blue is the junior that has gotten plenty of attention, and rightfully so, but Joe Blue - more of a shifty runner with the ball - stepped up and proved himself easily. The two combined for five touchdowns on Friday to carry Dillon to another rather easy victory. Thomas Grosseti continues to be a key cog for them, providing some good senior leadership and hitting all of his spots through the air. A much deserved week off comes this week, and don't expect these guys to miss a beat when play resumes for the first of three straight road games down the road.
2. HARTSVILLE RED FOXES (3-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Camden, 53-7
THIS WEEK: 9/7, vs. Lee Central
Justification: The offensive explosion continues in Hartsville this year. Thanks to last week's 53 point effort, Hartsville continues to average better than 50 points a game. Though the win comes against a winless bulldog team, whenever one wins one of the state's oldest rivalry game, it does feel a little bit sweeter. The Shaquille Johnson to Trey Gattison connection continues to work wonders, as the two hooked up for two more scores. Meanwhile Dominic Robinson continues to impress on the ground as well, with 174 yards and three scores added as well. Jeff Calabrese has this team firing on all cylinders, and has made it one of the more entertaining watches in the area that shouldn't slow down any time soon.
3. MYRTLE BEACH SEAHAWKS (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat West Florence, 21-14
THIS WEEK: 9/7, vs. South Florence
Justification: For the second straight week, this team has played as an outstanding cohesive unit during crunch time. The Seahawks were in for a battle against a fast-paced offensive squad in West Florence, but were able to roll with the Knights' punches, and eventually slow down their game thanks to a sizeable line rising to the task. Speedster Trell Harrell proved how important an emphasis on special teams can be as well: After setting the tone by running the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, the Seahawks end up winning by that margin of seven points. One of the best matchups of the year looms ahead in South visiting this week, and to add to it as of Wednesday, quarterback Tyler Keane has not been cleared to play yet. He sustained an ankle injury in the win. C.J. Cooper is more than a serviceable backup, but few he excels with speed. Few quarterbacks in the area have the pinpoint accuracy that Keane exerts through the air, so it will be important to keep an eye on his status this week.
4. SOUTH FLORENCE BRUINS (3-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Wilson, 42-0
THIS WEEK: 9/7, at Myrtle Beach
Justification: Has there been a defense that has risen to the occasion more than the Bruins' in this young season? The first team has yet to surrender a single touchdown through 12 quarters of football. That is stellar play, regardless of the level of opponent. Granted the competition gets a lot tougher visiting the Seahawks on Friday, but first year head coach David Prince is hitting the nail on the head so far with this team. Junior quarterback Josh Johnson has fully assumed the starter's role, moving up from the backup spot after filling in for injury. And he hasn't given anyone a reason to think he shouldn't be the team's starter. Perhaps what is most impressive about this squad is the wealth of youthful experience it brings to the table. They have the ability to learn on the job, and that is something rare among large groups of folks. Forget about game of the week; this Friday against Myrtle Beach has the potential to be a game of the year quality showdown.
5. JOHNSONVILLE FLASHES (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat East Clarendon, 56-22
THIS WEEK: 9/7, at Kingstree
Justification: Another very good showing by the Flashes to improve to 2-0 on the year came on Friday. Similar to that of the Carvers Bay game, the offense clicked to work wonders, with Brison Allison and Tushai Edwards leading the way. The only caveat in this win is a slow start to the ballgame, where Johnsonville surrendered two early touchdowns. The Flashes have what it takes to play when the going gets tough and to scrape out wins, but in its first game, it let Carvers Bay back into it, and against East Clarendon, it was a slow start. Once the Flashes figure out that sweet spot and get firing on all cylinders, this shouldn't be a problem much longer. They have the depth in the backfield to keep that option working wonders, and confusing opposing defenses. Lewis Lineburger has been here before, and he'll manage to work every kink out, per usual.
6. SOCASTEE BRAVES (3-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Lake City, 34-25
NEXT WEEK: 9/7, vs. Conway
Justification: The Braves continue to be the feel-good surprise story of the season, now improving to 3-0. Folks in Socastee will tell you they've expected this style of play, but each week the Braves continue to pull something out to dazzle onlookers with. Whether it is the punch-you-in-the-mouth offensive attack they come running out of the gates with, or emptying the playbook, ala the great hook and ladder call to end the first half of last week's games. Make no mistake, this team is playing with a swagger unlike most others this early in the year, and that will be vital since a very hungry Conway team looms next week. The Tigers are coming off two straight losses, albeit to very stiff competition, and they'll be ready to throw the Braves all they have. Hunter Renfrow is a proven leader of this offense, and has not hesitated in showing so this year, but the task gets extremely tough on Friday. We can learn a lot more about this Socastee squad with the type of showing it will bring in week three.
7. WEST FLORENCE KNIGHTS (1-1)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Myrtle Beach, 21-14
NEXT WEEK: 9/7, vs. Lugoff-Elgin
Justification: Despite the 1-1 record, there certainly isn't anything terribly wrong with how the Knights approach their game. The up-tempo offense is a welcome change of pace for coach Woodberry, and in the grand scheme of things can be something very unexpected for opposing high schools to deal with. The defense was decently stifling against Myrtle Beach, only allowing the offense to score two touchdowns. Late in the game, things began to get a little feisty, and the Seahawks defense perhaps made the Knights get off-key just a bit. A good bounceback game comes this week, and then a three game road trip that should provide a good litmus test of this team is really all about.
8. HEMINGWAY TIGERS (2-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Mullins, 15-8
NEXT WEEK: 9/7, at Cross
Justification: Two games deep now, and the Tigers are already no stranger to close games. First it was a victory over Kingstree, and in week two, Mullins gave Hemingway all it could handle for a little while there. Dequauan Casey proved to be a primetime performer in his own right though, coming up with the game winning touchdown for the Tigers. Hemingway seemingly doesn't back down from any challenge that it faces, but you have to hope that this team doesn't get snakebitten by an unsuspecting opponent down the road. Kingstree and Mullins may both be improved from a year ago, and the Tigers still have a lot of players adjusting to new starting roles, so you hope this team gets back to its 2011 winning ways sooner rather than later.
9. MARLBORO COUNTY BULLDOGS (2-1)
LAST WEEK: Lost vs. Scotland Co., 20-12
NEXT WEEK: Open date
Justification: Coach Boyd's team heads into a week off above .500, but maybe not the type of record he really wanted. Obviously, Scotland is always one of the tougher outs on a team's schedule, but there was a lot to atone for in last year's embarrassing 42-7 loss. Steps are being taken though, taking a loss by only one possession. It shows the defense has become more stout, and in the long run you'd think they'll be able to step up whenever called upon. Bare in mind, this defense has also sustained two shutouts earlier, not allowing a single point all year until facing the North Carolina competition. Overall, a well earned week off from this team forthcoming.
10. LAMAR SILVER FOXES (2-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Timmonsville, 57-36
NEXT WEEK: 9/7, at Darlington
Justification: If you like offensive firepower, look no further than to where the Whirlwinds are this year. File these guys under one of the more fun Pee Dee teams to see this year. While plenty of defenses have been lauded for only giving up a couple of points, these guys continue to get it done on the offensive attack, mainly due to young quarterback Quan Brown. Whether he turns on the wheels, or hits one of the multiple Peeples on his team, points don't imagine to be an issue here. Young skill guys will pay its due soon, and the Silver Foxes should be looking up moving forward with great promise.
THE BEST OF THE REST
11. Wilson (2-1)
12. Conway (1-2)
13. Aynor (2-1)
14. Loris (2-1)
15. Darlington (2-1)