The 2010 census lists Bamberg County as the fourth least-populated county in South Carolina.
In The T&D Region, however, the county is tops locally in high school football.
This past Saturday, a short drive away in St. Matthews, Andrew Jackson Academy from Ehrhardt continued its dominance of 8-man Division II football. The Confederates rallied late to defeat backyard rival Jefferson Davis Academy, 30-24, to complete its second "Three-peat" of SCISA titles won in program history and extend South Carolina's longest active winning streak among high school football programs to 37.
Heading north on Highway 301 from Ehrhardt, the lone remaining T&D Region S.C. High School League team in the playoffs remains in the hunt for the Class 2A state title. A familiar foe and Region 5-2A rival from Barnwell is visiting Leon Maxwell Stadium this Friday to face host team Bambert-Ehrhardt for the Lower State title.
After snapping a 15-year winless stretch against the Warhorses, dating back to 1989, the Red Raiders have won 11 consecutive meetings in recent years. This includes a 21-0 shutout on Oct. 20 at Barnwell, the Warhorses' lone loss this year.
A victory Friday sets up a Dec. 1 state title matchup at Charles W. Johnson Stadium on the campus of Benedict College against the winner between defending champion Abbeville or Saluda, who will play in the Upper State title game. The Red Raiders fell to the Panthers from Abbeville in the 2010 Class A Division I game by a 42-13 score, in a game also played at Benedict College.
Bamberg-Ehrhardt won its lone state title in 1990.
With the football season coming down the stretch, it's time to put to a close to this Thursday Morning Quarterback column for another year. This was a season of highs and lows for many T&D Region programs. Through it all, there were plenty of team and individual performances which made for considerable of highlights in 2017.
GRIDIRON GIANTS (Playoff Edition)
Bailey Ackerman (Andrew Jackson Academy) - 154 rushing yards, 3 TDs
Blaze Bunch (Bamberg-Ehrhardt) - 43 yards per punt
Bamberg-Ehrhardt defense - Held Carver's Bay scoreless for the first time in nine games
Trey Pulaski (Andrew Jackson Academy) - 100 rushing yards, TD
Jimmy Bozard (Jefferson Davis Academy) - 127 rushing yards, TD
BY THE NUMBERS
Bamberg-Ehrhardt has posted seven shutouts this season and are holding opponents to 6.3 points a contest. Head coach Kevin Crosby has 106 career wins and his teams have posted eight, 10-win seasons... The combined total margin of victory in Andrew Jackson Academy's three playoff wins was 13 points... North will enter next season with the Palmetto State's longest losing streak, at 34 games.
"We knew somehow, all along, that we would get back here and find a way to get it done," Andrew Jackson Academy senior fullback Bailey Ackerman.
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.