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PREVIEW: Gaffney vs. Byrnes (SC)

October 9, 2012

The Gaffney Indians are set to battle the Byrnes Rebels in a re-match of the 2011 South Carolina 4A D-1 State Championship game. The Rebels defeated the Indians 31-24 to claim their second straight state title and their 8th in 10 years. The 2 schools have combined to win 26 state championships; Gaffney has won the most in state history with 15, their last coming in 2006. The Indians lead 13-11 in a rivalry that dates back to 1970. Byrnes comes into the game with a 7-0 record and is ranked #3 in the nation according to Rivals.com.

The Byrnes Rebels return most of their talent that helped them finish 13-2 in 2011 on their way to a second consecutive state championship. Junior Shuler Bentley is back under center for the Rebels. Bentley threw for 3,495 yards last season and is on his way to topping that number this year. So far he has thrown for just over 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. Much of his success this year is because many of his top targets from last season returned with him this year. Senior Akia Booker and Junior Greg McHam have combined for over 1,200 yards receiving to go along with 19 touchdowns. Booker has also added 4 touchdowns on the ground. Sophomore Tavin Richardson and Junior Shaedon Meadors have combined for 10 touchdowns and over 800 yards receiving. Coach Chris Miller had the tough task of replacing Shakeem Wharton at running back this season. The Rebels have a couple different players who will see carries out of the backfield. Booker has scored 4 times on the ground this season. Sophomore Isaiah Hill has come in and has been effective in the running game, adding 2 touchdowns for the Rebels. Byrnes will have 6 starters back on defense. Seniors Keke Ashmore and Shane Samuels are back in the secondary that is sure to be one of the best in the state.

The Gaffney Indians had an impressive 14-1 season in 2011 but it will leave a bitter taste behind as they lost in the state finals to the Rebels. After beating the Rebels 35-13 in the regular season, Byrnes got revenge to win 31-24 in the state championship. The Indians return 10 starters from last year’s squad. Junior Luke Lancaster takes over for the departed Joey Copeland at quarterback. Juniors Shaq Davidson and Eddie Studyvance, along with senior Brandon Bevis return in the receiving corps. Davidson is one of the top junior prospects in the state. Don’t be surprised if you see Davidson lineup as quarterback. Coach Dan Jones had Davidson in as quarterback last weekend in their 40-7 win over Mauldin. The offensive line returns all-region tackle Kerry Williams and guard Don Manning. Junior Hyleck Foster is the featured running back in his first year as a starter for the Indians. He has rushed for just over 600 yards and 8 touchdowns so far this season. The defense has 4 returning all-region players in seniors Jaylen Miller at end, Quan Weeks at linebacker, Gabe Posey at strong safety and Cobby McDowell at cornerback. The Indians returned to Region 2 play this season and are sporting a 4-3 record going into a crucial game against Byrnes.

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