At long last, the Raiders are ranked.
In the latest Class 5A statewide poll, Laurens, champion of Region 1, has broken into the top 10 at No. 8.
Why so long? The Raiders, unheralded in the preseason and coming off a 4-7 season, have pulled off a series of what were considered upsets at the time: Greenwood, Westside, Woodmont and T.L. Hanna.
People have finally noticed.
The top 10, in order, is Dutch Fork, Dorman, Fort Dorchester, Byrnes, Sumter, Clover, Carolina Forest, Laurens, Gaffney and River Bluff.
All three Laurens County teams have improved this year. Clinton has doubled its victories. The Raiders can pull that feat on Friday night. A Laurens Academy victory at Newberry Academy would give the Crusaders more victories than a year ago.
All close their regular seasons on the road Friday night, beginning at 7:30.
Laurens (7-1, 6-0 Region 1-5A) at Easley (3-6, 2-4): The Green Wave is at the top of the region’s informal second division, clearly better than Wade Hampton and J.L. Mann but not as good as Laurens, Hanna, Woodmont, Greenwood and Westside.
It will be tempting for the Raiders to look past Easley to the playoffs, but LDHS has improved throughout the season and this is not the time to stop.
Laurens has scored 85 more points (232-147) and yielded 171 fewer (134-305).
Senior quarterback Ryan Campbell leads the team in both rushing (663) and passing (634) yards. The rushing attack has been versatile – two-way starter and Upper State 5A Co-Back of the Year Duane Martin has rushed for 383 yards, Zy Todd has 336, Jeremiah Fuller 312, Jordan Woodruff 272 and Ty Robertston 144 – and the passing effective. Campbell has completed 57.6 percent of his passes. Three of his four touchdown passes to date were to Dee Foster.
Easley’s Kasten Harvey has passed for an average of 129 yards per game. Dylan Lyda is both the rushing (54.3 yards per game) and tackles (7.3) leader.
Clinton (4-5, 2-2 Region 3-3A) at Woodruff (6-3, 3-1): An upset would give the Red Devils a break-even record entering the 3A playoffs in Corey Fountain’s first year as head coach.
Versatility is also a hallmark of Clinton’s burgeoning ground attack. In a 28-14 victory last week at Emerald, four Red Devil backs – quarterback Davis Wilson (82), Kimon Quarles (65), Shyquan Kinard (46) and Jykorie Gary (40) – took turns at the Vikings’ defense. All but Wilson scored touchdowns, and C.K. Vance scored on an interception return.
The statistical difference between the two defenses is negligible, but the Wolverines have scored 99 more points (280-181) than the Red Devils. Woodruff has defeated two teams, Broome and Newberry, to which Clinton has lost.
On the other hand, Clinton has defeated Woodruff three times in the past four years, including the last two games played at the Wolverines’ W.L. Varner Stadium.
Laurens Academy (3-5, 2-4 SCISA 8-man Region 2) at Newberry Academy (1-5, 0-4): A visit to nearby Newberry gives the Crusaders a chance to remove the lingering venom from a stinging loss to Wardlaw.
Newberry lost 28-24 to King, a team LA defeated 50-6. Seventy was wild in the two teams’ games against Jefferson Davis. The Crusaders won, 70-44. The Eagles lost, 70-8.
The Crusaders’ individual leaders, per game, are Thomas Lowry in rushing (104.1) and passing yards (252.1), Clarence Bertoli in points (11.4), Cal Robertson in tackles (9.1) and Diamonte Grant in sacks (0.4).