While the odds are long, the Bulldogs are in the playoffs.
"It's a new season and anything can happen," said MCHS head coach Bobby Collins.
If nothing else, it gives the youthful Bulldogs one more week of full-pad practice to get ready for a rebound year in 2020.
"If we could eliminate the penalties and turnovers that have killed us all year, we can still be a good team. We can't get behind the chains - our team just isn't built for that. If we could ever have a clean game, I still think we could be pretty solid," said Collins.
He said that the coaching staff has worked to remove as many of the hurdles to success as they can identify.
"We have tried to simplify everything. Many of these are errors of youthfulness, so trying to fix it right now means making it easier to understand," he said.
"We had a really good practice on Monday and the kids are still engaged, so we'll just keep working," said Collins.
Scouting the Diamond Hornets
At first glance, it might appear that Marlboro County caught a break when they drew Lower Richland in the first round of the state playoffs.
Of all the region champions, the Diamond Hornets have the least impressive record at 6-4. However, they are possibly the hottest Class AAAA team in the state that isn't named Myrtle Beach.
After stumbling to a 1-4 record in the non-region segment of the schedule, LR rebounded to win five straight to claim the region. Included in that is a 32-20 win over previously undefeated A.C. Flora two weeks ago to wrap up the conference title.
Last week, they rolled to a 19-0 halftime lead enroute to a 25-14 victory over Orangeburg-Wilkinson.
The straw that stirs the drink is senior quarterback Jamison Ganzy. He is a dual-threat signal caller, just as dangerous with his legs as he is his arm.
Ganzy, through nine games, passed for 1,592 yards and 12 TDs. He completed 101 of 191 passing attempts.
He also has rushed for 1028 yards and 13 scores.
His favorite target is Fred Archie. The senior leads the team with 749 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Another talented receiver is Travis Reese, who caught a 78-yard TD against A.C. Flora.
On the ground, Ganzy gets help from sophomore running back Jeremy Barney, who has 694 yards and four TDs.
The offensive line is anchored by gigantic guard Isreal Sumter, who weighs in at 300 pounds and is 6'3".
The defense has been somewhat hit or miss, holding Dreher to 7 points but surrendering 42 to Airport and 35 to Lakewood.
Jovaughn Huger is one of the top defenders with 11 quarterback sacks.
The Bulldogs and Diamond Hornets have never faced one another in a regular season or playoff game in football. They have met on the basketball court in the postseason.
There is one major connection between the programs. Tymere Zimmerman is the offensive coordinator for Lower Richland. Zimmerman was a star at Marlboro County, helping lead the Bulldogs to the state title in 1998. After graduating from Newberry College, he began his coaching career at MCHS.
Prior to current head coach Rodney Barr's arrival in 2016, the Diamond Hornets were coached by Marlboro County native Darryl Page. Page coached there four seasons after leaving Wilson High School.
Myrtle Beach claimed the region title and stayed undefeated by smashing rival North Myrtle Beach, 35-14. The Seahawks have a bye for the first week of the playoffs.
North Myrtle finished fourth and will travel to North Augusta for the first round of the postseason.
Hartsville finished second, defeating Darlington 58-7 last Friday. The Red Foxes will host South Aiken in the opening round of the playoffs. Darlington finishes last in the region and their season is complete.
Wilson will travel to Hilton Head as the third place team.
Keys to the game
The first key is to make it competitive into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were able to do that against some tough teams like Hartsville and Dillon.
On defense, the Bulldogs can't let Ganzy take over the game. They may not be able to completely shut him down but they must contain him.
On offense, Marlboro County just can't have negative plays when scoring opportunities arise.
Tee it up
The Bulldogs will visit Lower Richland in the first round of the state Class AAAA playoffs, kicking off Friday at 7:30. Lower Richland is located at 2615 Lower Richland Blvd, Hopkins, SC. It is just off Garners Ferry Road (Highway 76) east of Columbia.