Joshua Ford | Waccamaw Contributor
Waccamaw will get their first taste of playoff football in four years on Friday against the team they last played in the postseason: the Dillon Wildcats. When the two teams met last in the first round of the 2015 AA playoffs, Dillon had the No. 1 seed and dominated 51-0 on their way to a state championship title.
Now, the 7-3 (3-2) Warriors enter as a No. 3 seed to the 8-1 (4-1) Wildcat’s two seed. The winner will play the victor of Wade Hampton vs. Edisto. The last time the Warriors won a playoff game was in 2014 in a 21-6 game against Lake Marion, but the Warriors fell to Dillon 56-0 in the next round.
“We’re gonna have to beat ‘em if we want to win a state title so to be the best you gotta beat the best,” said junior linebacker Jacob Stump.
“The kids are super excited to play a team of Dillon’s caliber. It’s playoff time so everybody you play is gonna be good,” said Warriors head coach Shane Fidler. “Our whole thought is that [Dillon] lives the dream that we want: to win a state championship. To get to our goals … you gotta beat teams like Dillon.”
Dillon has played for a state championship every year since 2012. The Wildcats are 5-2 in those title games.
“We know who Dillon is, but nothing really scares us,” Stump said. “We just have to prepare well just like we do for any other team and we’re just taking this as another regular game for us.”
“We prepare for every game with the same intensity and focus as the last, the only thing that changes with playoffs are the stakes of winning,” said junior quarterback Denson Crisler.
Crisler is a first year varsity starter, along with many other Warriors. The team is confident that their field general will be able to handle the playoff atmosphere.
“He handled Manning pretty well and Manning was a playoff environment,” Fidler said of Crisler’s 211 yard passing day at Manning. “I don’t think that’ll rattle him, he’s just gotta execute what we’re asking him to do … he’s just got to go out there and if he plays like he has the last few weeks, he should have a fine game.”
“I don’t really feel pressured,” Crisler said. “I have a great group of teammates and coaches around me who help us make plays and make me feel comfortable in any situation we are faced with.”
It helps when you have a one thousand yard rusher in the backfield in Kaimon Skinner and also Jayvion Simmons rotating in. Both average over nine yards a carry.
In the regular season, Crisler threw for 1,622 yards on a 50 percent completion percentage with 19 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.
On defense for the Warriors, the team was preparing to play without their senior captain, linebacker Walker Parler due to an ejection in last week’s 36-11 win over Hannahan. However, video evidence reviewed on Thursday showed Parler didn’t do anything deserving of an ejection.
Parler led the team in tackles with 98.
“That’s production that’s hard to replace,” Fidler said of Parler.
“Walker is definitely a big presence on this defense,” said fellow senior linebacker Evan Grove who is second on the team in tackles with 53. “But we’ve got a ton of talent at the linebacker position and I’m confident in the game plan and our scheme with whoever we’ve got.”
Dillon’s quarterback, senior Ja’teil Lester is very dangerous and he loves to throw to his top receiver, junior Ahmari Huggins-Bruce.
Lester threw for 1,707 yards while completing 73 percent of his passes this regular season and tossed 19 touchdowns to just four picks. Lester can also get it done on the ground, scoring seven rushing touchdowns.
Huggins-Bruce has 770 receiving yards on 30 catches and nine touchdowns.
“We just got to read our keys as linebackers and safeties,” Stump said. “Can’t give up big plays and we just got to overall contain their best players like No.9 (Huggins-Bruce), their quarterback and running back (Nehemiah Nemo Squire).”
Dillon averages 190 yards through the air per game while the Warriors average around 170. Waccamaw averages approximately 168 yards on the ground per game while Dillon averages 152.
While the stats may be close, the Warriors are bracing for by far their toughest game of the year.
“The game plan to beat them … is to limit the amount of times they have the football, limit the time they have the football, and you’ve gotta play an excellent football game – a near perfect if not perfect game – to beat ‘em.” Fidler said.
“This will be the biggest game in Waccamaw history,” Grove said. “And as a senior, I plan on leaving it all on that field because it could potentially be my last game.”
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