"Black Friday" truly arrived early in The T&D Region, as in this past Friday.
Not only were three of the four remaining S.C. High School League teams (Bethune-Bowman, Branchville, Calhoun County) eliminated from the postseason, but the three-year reign of SCISA 8-man champion Andrew Jackson Academy came to a shocking end.
The Confederates were seeking to 4-peat as champions when they were stunned in the finale, 42-40, by Beaufort Academy. The loss snapped the Palmetto State's longest winning streak by any public or private school football team after a 48-game run.
(FYI - Hammond School is the current leader at 24 straight, followed by Dutch Fork at 22 in a row.)
In the aftermath of "Black Friday," Bamberg-Ehrhardt stands as The T&D Region's lone championship hope. For the second straight week, the Red Raiders posted 50 or more points, scoring a 56-22 win over Gray Collegiate Academy at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium on the campus of Benedict College.
Quarterback A.J. Williams did damage on both sides of the football. He was responsible for two of three interception returns for touchdowns in the first quarter alone off college prospect quarterback Hunter Helms. Williams also threw for a touchdown.
Up next for B-E (10-1 record) is a third-round matchup at Carvers Bay (8-4 record) in Georgetown County. The Bears took a 39-25 home win against Whale Branch this past Friday.
The Red Raiders defeated the Bears on the road a year ago inside Big Bear Stadium in the playoffs, taking a 15-0 win in a third-round matchup, which was the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
The Bears are coached by South Carolina State alumnus James "Nate" Thompson, who was a wrestler for the school in the 1970s.
This is his final season on the sidelines, having led Carvers Bay to 165 victories, two state championships (one won at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium in 2002) and five region titles.
The Bears have won two region titles in Class A (2012, 2013) and three region titles in Class 2A (2002, 2017, 2018) with Thompson as coach. They missed the playoffs just one time.
Thompson has had a wealth of talent come through the program. Four players he's coached reached the National Football League, all from the same family, including Robert Geathers Jr., who played for the Cincinnati Bengals, and Clayton Geathers, who is currently with the Indianapolis Colts. Clifton and Kwame Geathers also spent time in the NFL.
This past Friday's visit to Charlie W. Johnson Stadium was the first for Bamberg-Ehrhardt since last year's Class 2A final against Abbeville.
The Red Raiders are hoping for a return trip to Columbia in three weeks. A rematch is still possible with the Panthers, who face Central in the Upper State semifinals this Friday.
By the numbers
Branchville completed just its third season in school history with seven or more victories ... Bethune-Bowman's Byron Felder had 10 tackles in the 28-6 loss to Hemingway ... Calhoun County dropped to 0-14 all time against Barnwell ... Andrew Jackson Academy has posted a record of 55-4 the past five seasons.
“The running joke in the house (for years) was that if I’m not eating Thanksgiving dinner, then we are playing in the state championship." -- Carvers Bay head football coach James "Nate" Thompson.
Thomas Grant Jr. reported on The T&D Region sports scene for two decades as a Times and Democrat staffer. In 2014, he became sports editor of The Lexington County Chronicle and The Dispatch-News in Lexington.