Calhoun Academy head football coach Todd Layton said he can see the extra pep in the step of his Cavaliers as they prepare to face Thomas Sumter Friday.
“They know we have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done around here in a while,” Layton said. “We’ve had a great week of practice, and everyone is really excited about Friday night.”
Calhoun Academy, which finished 3-8 a year ago, can clinch the Region II-A championship with a win over the Generals. Both teams are 3-0 in region play.
The Cavaliers suffered their lone loss two weeks ago against St. John’s Academy, but bounced back last week with a 21-8 victory over Colleton Prep.
“The kids learned that they can be beat,” Layton said of the loss. “We had some opportunities to fold up in that game, but continued to fight. The players weren’t down following the loss, I’m proud of how they responded last week against a good Colleton Prep team.”
When describing Thomas Sumter, Layton used the phrase "big play capability." The Generals are led on offense by dual-threat quarterback Jamari Harris. The Lugoff-Elgin transfer has thrown for 1,136 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 626 yards and 10 touchdowns.
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In an interview with the Sumter Item, Thomas Sumter head coach Brannon Tidwell said having Harris at quarterback lifts everybody up. We have the threat of a pass and it has helped our whole team."
In its six victories, Calhoun Academy’s defense has allowed an average of 11 points.
“We have played an aggressive brand of football on defense,” Layton said. “One of our points of emphasis over the summer was to tackle better. It’s something we continue to work on every day. We’re still working on the fundamentals of tackling this late in the season.”
Defensively, the Cavs are led by Matt Layton’s 53 tackles. Cale Quattlebaum has 44 tackles and Cade Carson leads the team with four interceptions.
Another way Layton said the Cavaliers will try to offset Thomas Sumter’s offense is by controlling the football. The rushing attack is led by quarterback Matt Layton, who leads the team with 850 yards and 13 touchdowns. Kade Strickland and Andrew Tucker have combined to rush for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.
“Thomas Sumter’s defense is good up front, but our offensive line is good too,” Layton said. “We just have to limit mistakes like turnovers and penalties if we want to win.”
Calhoun Academy will play host to Thomas Sumter Academy Friday at 7:30 p.m. It will be senior night for the Cavaliers, but Layton hopes this isn’t the last home game his team will have this season.
“We can finish anywhere from first to third in the region,” Layton said. “You would always rather be at home.”