The Daily Gamecock

Week 1 high school football preview

Merry Christmas everyone! Yes, I’m aware it’s only mid-August, but for all intents and purposes, it is Christmas Day in the South. High school football is back.

I’ll give you a second to catch your breath. I fully understand that may take a moment. I’ll wait.

Tonight marks the season opener for most teams in the Carolinas and per tradition, the schedule starts off with a bang.

Each week I’ll preview and predict the biggest game in each state as well as provide updates on certain Gamecock football recruits. So without further adieu, let’s look at this week’s top games.

South Carolina

Northwestern (Rock Hill) @ Byrnes

The alma maters of former Gamecocks Johnathan Joseph (Northwestern) and Marcus Lattimore (Byrnes) will square off in the most anticipated matchup of the week.

Northwestern is coming off a 9-5 season but returns four of its six leading tacklers. Fifth-year head coach Kyle Richardson looks to have the third-ranked Trojans poised for another title run behind a dominant offensive line and deep backfield.

Not to be outdone, fifth-ranked Byrnes enters a brutal 2015 schedule with high hopes. The Rebels have won seven state titles in the last 12 years, but the last came in 2011. Last season, Byrnes defeated Northwestern 30-22 in the season opener, and then knocked the Trojans out of the playoffs with a thrilling 37-36 overtime victory. Down 36-35, the Rebels successfully scored a two-point conversion to move on to the state semifinals.

Northwestern will be looking for revenge, and I think the Trojans have enough firepower to pull off the upset this week.

Prediction: Northwestern 34 Byrnes 28

North Carolina

Independence @ Mallard Creek

The eighth-best team in the country’s Xcellent 25, Mallard Creek is poised for another state championship run. The Mavericks will open against Independence, a team that won four straight state championships from 2002 through 2006.

Mallard Creek has won two straight state titles and with senior quarterback James Smith and senior running back Chancery Bowman both returning, the Mavericks are heavy favorites to make it three straight.

Independence recorded seven shutouts on its way to a 12-1 record and conference title last year.

Ultimately, Mallard Creek has too much fire power and should win this one pretty big.

Prediction: Mallard Creek 31 Independence 14

Charlotte Catholic @ Charlotte Christian

Yes, I did say one game from each state, so consider this a bonus game.

While Mallard Creek and Independence have been the pinnacle of public school football in the past 15 years, Catholic and Christian have been at the top of the private school charts.

In fact, this matchup pits the second and third-ranked teams in the state against each other. The second-ranked Charlotte Christian Knights are led by senior running back Elijah Deveaux. As a junior, Deveaux averaged 7.5 yards per carry and scored 19 touchdowns.

On the other side, Charlotte Catholic’s triple-option offense will be supplemented by capable senior quarterback John Walton. Many expect the Cougars to throw the ball more in 2015. Regardless, they will continue to rely heavily on senior running back Jaret Anderson who ran for over 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last season.

Ultimately, it’s Catholic’s defense that slows Deveaux just enough to take the win.

Prediction: Charlotte Catholic 34 Charlotte Christian 24

Recruit Watch

Conway wide receiver and four-star South Carolina commit Bryan Edwards carries huge expectations on his shoulders this season. The senior will travel to Georgetown, South Carolina, as Conway takes on Georgetown High School. Edwards is considered the seventh-best prospect in the state of South Carolina.