SHOWDOWN IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Teams: No. 3 Byrnes (Duncan) 8-0 at No. 13 Dorman (Roebuck) 8-0
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Points scored-allowed: Byrnes 349-77, Dorman 264-49
Total yards: Byrnes 1,662 rushing, 1,597 passing, 3,259 total; Dorman 2,452 rushing, 392 passing, 2,844 total.
Top prospects: Byrnes – RB Marcus Lattimore, QB Chas Dodd, DB Justin Bright, WR Ricco Sanders. Dorman – OL-HB Brandon Thomas, DB Walt Canty, DB Taylor Sowell, WR Charone Peake.
Rosters: Byrnes, Dorman.
Stats: Byrnes, Dorman
More Stephens stories from South Carolina: S.C. by storm, Southe Pointe's fast rise toward top.
Videos: Byrnes braces for Dorman; Dorman champing at the bit.
By Mitch Stephens
ROEBUCK, S.C. – Teens often have a particularly hard time seeing the forest through the trees, especially for football players this week at picturesque Dorman High.
On the lower of three practice fields, overlooking a pristine state-of-the-art high school football stadium that is nestled by stunning deep amber and gold woods, the Cavaliers prepared Thursday for what some have said is the biggest game in school history.
On Saturday night, the Byrnes Rebels from Duncan will take a 10-mile drive, a straight shot down highway 221, to battle Dorman in a showdown of nationally-ranked teams.
Brynes is the defending South Carolina 4A-I champion, an eight-time state champ that has generally has ruled the roost around these parts since 2002 when then coach Bobby Bentley led the Rebels to four straight 2A crowns.
“We just want to knock them off so we can get to where they are,” Dorman leading rusher Ashlin Butler said.
Further incentive for the Cavs is that Byrnes is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today (No. 3 by MaxPreps), and has won the last seven meetings against Dorman by an average score of 33-13.
Dorman is no slouch and in the midst of one of its greatest regular season with an 8-0 mark.
The Cavs are ranked 13th nationally by MaxPreps, have given up just 49 points and feature Division I prospects Brandon Thomas (tight end/offensive lineman) and defensive backs Walt Canty and Taylor Sowell. Charone Peake is considered one of the top sophomore receivers in the country.
“There’s been a lot of talk about Byrnes being No. 1 in the country,” 6-foot-4, 280-pound Clemson-bound Thomas said. “If we can beat them then we can get our name out there. … I think this is the biggest game in Dorman history.”
Dorman coach David Gutshall smirks somewhat at that notion.
He’s been around – a national-record passing yardage coach and three-time state champion at Cummings High (N.C.) before spending the last 15 at Dorman.
He endured two of the most excruciating defeats in South Carolina state-championship game history in 1994 to Spartanburg and 1999 to Stratford, both ending just a yard short of a possible game-winning touchdown, a la Kevin Dyson and the Tennessee Titans in the 1999 Super Bowl.
But Gutshall and Dorman finally persevered in 2000, fighting back from a late three-touchdown deficit to prevail over Lexington for the 4A-I crown, the Cavaliers only title.
“Yes, that one was pretty sweet,” Gutshall said.
A win Saturday would be awfully tasty also, but Gutshall has the tread marks to know there are bigger fish to fry down the road, specifically a victory over Byrnes say in the state playoffs.
Last year, the Rebels eliminated Dorman with a 31-14 victory in the second round of the playoffs after defeating the Cavaliers 31-17 in the regular season.
Gutshall felt like his team closed the gap last year and had a legitimate shot to win both games, so a win to prove the Cavs can beat Byrnes is big..
“A win (Saturday) would really help put us over the hump,” Canty said.
Said Gutshall: “Listen, this is a chance to beat the No. 1 team in the country and you don’t get that opportunity very often. Dorman and Byrnes are always huge and this should be a fantastic contest. But if we had a second shot at them this year, then I’d say that would be the biggest game in school history.”
If played for the state title, it would be played at Clemson and Gutshall predicts more than 30,000 fans would attend.
More than 15,000 figure to pack Dorman’s stadium on Saturday, a game that was originally scheduled for Friday but was changed because of predicted downpour.
Gutshall, in fact, initiated the change by calling Byrnes coach Chris Miller on Thursday. Reports predicted buckets of rain, more than three inches.
Considering Dorman is smash mouth team led by a big and physical offensive line and Brynes flings the ball around via the spread offense, the rain would have seemed to favor the Cavs.
Once again, Gutshall saw the big picture.
“I don’t think either team would get much accomplished in a monsoon,” he said. “The fans would appreciate ideal conditions rather than what the weatherman predicts.”
Turns out, the storm Friday wasn’t so severe. It drizzled much of the day but featured less than an inch of rain. Still, Byrnes coach Chris Miller was appreciative of Gutshall’s gesture.
“I thought it was a class act,” he said. “He just wants a good clean fair game as we do.”
Good and clean but with an edge, Thomas said.
“We have to hit them in the mouth and come out and play our game, our style,” he said.
Gutshall’s style historically is to chuck it around, but with Butler, a track star who has piled up 919 yards, and an experienced offensive line (read Spartanburg Herald staff writer Jason Gilmer feature), the Cavaliers will try to control the ball and clock.
Junior quarterback Johnny Foster (366 rushing yards, 203 passing), who splits time with Rob Greene, has only thrown 23 passes all year.
They want to keep Byrnes high-powered attack, which includes one of the top junior running back in the country, Marcus Lattimore, off the field.
“The key is probably the running games on both sides of the ball,” Gutshall said. “We have to be able to run and control their pressure defense. They’ll try to blitz from everywhere and get us in a bunch of three-and-outs. We must control the ball with our power running.”
Butler looks forward to that. Matter of fact, the Cavaliers are champing at the bit to upset the reigning champions.
“We can’t get too excited and make mistakes,” Butler said. “We know we have to block well and our offensive line has to have a great night. We basically need to do everything perfect.”
Big goals and lots of focus to be sure.
Butler was taken a little off guard when asked if he ever takes a step back to withhold the scenery and fantastic facilities. Dorman, after all, has been tabbed “University of Dorman” for its elaborate and plush grounds.
“Oh sure,” he said. “We do have nice facilities for sure and I love playing in our Stadium. I’m really going to love it Saturday.”
E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 Takes from Roebuck
Though Thomas is the most impressive athlete physical – he’s reportedly run 4.6 in the 40 – Dorman’s key player no doubt is Canty. He’s scored 10 touchdowns and some times runs at quarterback out of the shotgun. But the 6-foot, 200-pounder’s real value is in the secondary. “He’s really like a coach out there,” Gutshall said. “He reads and controls everything.”
Gutshall moved Thomas to H-Back where he gets a little momentum before blowing over people. He’s also caught four balls for 87 yards (21.75 average). “I like that,” said the soft-spoken Thomas. “I’ll play wherever they want me (at Clemson).”
Quieter than Thomas is Peake, an absolutely gazelle-like 6-3, 185-pounder, who has been used more as a decoy this season than a main weapon. He has 10 catches for 144 yards. Look for those numbers to grow significantly the next two seasons. “We’ll go back to throwing much more than next two years and he’ll be fun to watch,” Gutshall said.
I’ve never seen a more beautiful facility or stadium than Dorman’s and I’ve seen a half-dozen or so in Texas
. The two in Louisville
(Trinity and St. Xavier) were also fantastic, but considering the view and how the stadium sits down in a bowl, I can’t imagine anything more picturesque.
It didn’t stop at the football stadium, by the way. The baseball and softball complexes looked major league.
Gutshall couldn’t have been more accommodating or forthright. I like his style and earnest. He knew he’d receive heat for moving the game, but stuck to what he truly thought was best.
That said, it was very strange to see a football game changed because of rain. Don’t think in my neck of the woods (California
), folks would be so bending. I get the feeling here they could have moved the game to Wednesday at 2 a.m. and received a big turnout.
Gutshall is also listed as the freshman and junior varsity coach which is interesting. He said his staffs work at every level. “It makes for a long week but we think it’s worth it,” Gutshall said.
Great to see Gutshall and Miller talking between the freshman and JV games at Byrnes on Thursday. The two appear completely at ease with one another and according to Gilmer, both couldn’t be more approachable or accommodating. “They’re both just super nice guys,” he said. “Both are great to work with.” In small towns with such a spotlight, especially from the local newspaper, the pressure often strains relationships between medial and coach. Nice to see that apparently isn’t the case.
Never seen either team play a game, but with a dry field, got to go with Byrnes 28-27.