Something has to give: Barnwell, Carvers Bay face off in meeting of statistically similar teams
The biggest distinguishing factor may be the 146 miles which separate the two schools.
When Carvers Bay and Barnwell take the field Friday night for the Class AA Lower State championship game, one team’s season-long win steak will have to come to an end. Barnwell’s currently sits at 12, and Carvers Bay’s is at 11.
One team’s high powered offense is going to have to have an uncharacteristic day – Barnwell’s has scored 43 points per game, and Carver Bay’s has scored 44. Perhaps, one of the defenses, which both come in allowing only 11 points per game, will be the unit looking unfamiliar on the field.
Maybe it will be a mixture of both, but one thing is certain. Something has to give, and that something will determine who will be playing for the Class AA state championship next Friday at Charles W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia.
“I think the team that puts together the most successful drives of eight, 10, 12 plays will be the one that has the best chance of winning,” Garrick said. “We’ve also got to try to win the special teams battle somehow, whether it be on returns or punts and kickoffs.”
Special teams is where Barnwell may have a big weapon in senior Ty Frazier. It’s not an exaggeration when someone says ‘Frazier does it all’. He’s a receiver and defensive back. He returns punts, but it may be his performance at his other position – punter – that is most valuable for the Warhorses.
Barnwel hasn’t been forced to punt often this season, but when the Warhorses have, Frazier has flipped the field for them. He’s averaging 43.6 yards per punt. Thirteen of his 21 points have landed inside the 20.
Pinning the Bears deep in their own territory will certainly help the Warhorses’ defense contend with the dual-threat quarterback Janaz Sumpter. Sumpter has rushed for 819 yards and 15 touchdowns and passed for 758 yards and eight more touchdowns.
“He’s the guy that makes it go. We could be in the right spot and do the right things and still not make the play on him. He’s that athletic,” Garrick said. “We’ve got to try to keep him from scrambling all over the place and breaking the coverage and giving up some easy ones.”
The Bears’ offense also relies heavily on running back Toronto King, who is averaging 12.1 yards per carry. He has 904 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Carvers Bay will also have its hands full on defense. Barnwell’s flexibility on offense makes it dangerous. The Warhorses have run for 2,486 yards as a team. It hasn’t been just one guy who’s gotten the job done either. Brandon Harvey, Dallyon Creech and Jamari Chisholm each have more than 500 rushing yards on the season.
At quarterback, Craig Pender has been one the best in the area all season. He’s passed for 1,957 yards and 32 touchdowns. He’s completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. The Warhorses will have to be aware Sumpter’s impact on defense, too. He leads the team with seven interceptions.
“They’re big on the defensive front and have some rangy guys on the outside that will make it tough to get on the edge. Their inside linebackers play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They run downhill,” Garrick said. “It’s going take everything we can do to move the football.”
This is the Warhorses third consecutive trip to the state semifinals, but in each of the past two seasons they’ve come up short of the big game. Barnwell has a chance to play in the state championship for the first time since 1997.
“This is all these guys know – Lower State playoffs,” Garrick said. “For them it’s exciting, but at the same time, they want to get to the next round.”