Darlington offers Bulldogs chance to rekindle confidence
Going into the season with a schedule that featured back-to-back games with Hartsville and Myrtle Beach to start region play, the Bulldogs knew that they would have to play outstanding football to avoid an 0-2 conference record. They also need those two highly-ranked opponents to make a few mistakes.
The Bulldogs played great defensively for the first half against Hartsville but fell apart in the second half. Against Myrtle Beach, the defense played well but could not completely shutdown the high-flying Seahawks. In neither game could the offense consistently perform at the level that allowed the team to start the season 4-0.
The results were a pair of disappointing defeats and that feared 0-2 region record.
“We know that we didn’t play our best football and that hurts. We still have three critical regular season games and other than a region title, all of our goals can be reached. It will require a greater attention to details and a bit more effort,” said head coach Dean Boyd.
The team has established this week at practice that they have no intention of mailing in the rest of the year.
“We have had a couple of our best practices so far this season. That is really encouraging and hopefully it will reflect in our play on Friday,” he said.
This Friday, as the Bulldogs host Darlington, MCHS will celebrate homecoming. The festivities actually started on Wednesday with powder puff games between the classes.
Friday the school will hold a pep rally and the annual homecoming parade will begin at 4 p.m. in downtown Bennettsville.
In past seasons, the formula to reaching the postseason was simple - finish in the top four teams in the region. The higher the finish in the region standings, the better the playoff seeding. It was simple and cut and dried.
Now with the latest alignment of Class 4A, there are only seven regions statewide and those regions don’t all have the same number of teams. Region 6, the Bulldogs’ conference, has six teams while Region 7 has only four. The variations are due to the locations of the 4A teams. The regions were designed to cut down on travel.
To make playoff positions equitable, different regions are guaranteed varing numbers of teams and three of the bids will go to at-large teams.
“It is most likely that five teams from our region will get playoff spots. The difficult thing is that we won’t know for sure who’s in until a statewide meeting the day after the last game,” said Boyd.
Of course, the easiest path to the postseason is to finish in the top four. However, there are several scenarios in which there could be ties, including a three-way log jam for third place.
“It is a bit too early to worry about it but this could be very interesting. We have to take care of our end of the deal first,” said Boyd.
Scouting the Falcons
It has been another tough year for Darlington football, which hasn't had a winning season since 2015 when they went 6-5.
They had a close loss to Cheraw on opening night and haven't been competitive since. In three region games, the Falcons have been outscored 134 to 16.
"They have some really good looking athletes. Their problem has been turnovers. They have hurt themselves frequently but if they stop the turnovers, they could be dangerous," said Boyd.
Their top offensive weapon is junior running back Javorius Williams. He has over 400 yards rushing and four TDs.
Junior Brian Robinson and senior Silas Barr have shared the quarterback position. Robinson has been under center for the last three games with Barr out due to injury.
Linebackers Ja'mari Charles and Joshua Bates are the leading tacklers on defense.
Keys to the game
After two tough games, the visit from the Falcons should be just what the Bulldogs need.
Marlboro County will look to get an early lead to prevent Darlington from ever gaining confidence.
The Bulldog defense, which generated so many turnovers early in the season, hasn't picked off a pass or caused a fumble in two weeks. They will need to rekindle that aspect of their game.
Tee it up
The Bulldogs and Falcons will kick off at 7:30 Friday night at McAlpine Stadium. The homecoming court will be presented at halftime of the contest.