FLORENCE — Through the years, the football series between the South Florence Bruins and West Florence Knights has seen plenty of slobberknockers.
Tonight’s game at Memorial Stadium, though, should be one of the more heated affairs between the two schools in recent memory.
As if being crosstown rivals isn’t enough incentive to play hard, both teams still have a shot at a playoff berth.
Carolina Forest, Conway, South Florence and West Florence are all tied at 1-3 for the third and final playoff spot in Region 6-4A.
South Florence (5-5 overall) gets in with a win and a Conway win over Carolina Forest.
West Florence (1-9) gets in with a win and a Carolina Forest win over Conway.
West reached the playoffs last year, while South last reached the postseason in 2003.
“When you put West and South on the field, records go out the window,” said South coach Lynn Fleming. “West Florence is going to have a lot of life to them, and our kids are going to come out and play hard.
“The kids know what’s at stake. This is playoff mode for us. If you lose, you’re probably sitting at the house. If you win, you have a shot to go on and play.”
In the last meeting between South and West on Aug. 28, the Bruins snapped the Knights’ nine-game winning streak in the series with a 41-7 win.
“It’s South. We don’t want to lose to them again,” said West coach Trey Woodberry. “The kids want to end the season with a win and they want to beat their crosstown rival.”
Having picked up its only win of the season — 30-12 at Carolina Forest — last week, West is fortunate to be in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“Everything has been a challenge this year,” Woodberry said. “Half of our team is made up of freshmen and sophomores.
“These kids didn’t know how to go through our fast-paced practices. We had to teach them how to watch film, had to teach them how to work out — everything. I’m probably more proud of this team than any team I’ve had because of how dedicated and how hard they’ve worked.”
In the win over Carolina Forest, West’s Eddie McKenzie rushed for 209 yards and two touchdowns while Dustin Carmack threw for 148 yards and two scores.
“The kids were very excited (on the ride back to Florence),” Woodberry said. “It was cold for me. They dumped water and Gatorade on me. I had water dumped on me as a baseball coach, but that’s the
first time as a football coach.
“It was very rewarding to see the kids get that win. They wanted to win and they got it.”
Coming off a 27-20 loss to Hartsville, South Florence is well aware of the shift in momentum at West.
“They found something last week that kind of worked for them,” Fleming said. “They’ve been trying all year to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
The biggest piece to South’s puzzle is quarterback Kaleb Griffin, who is battling knee and ankle problems but is expected to play.
Griffin has completed 117 of 188 passes for 1,915 yards and 24 TDs while being intercepted seven times.
In the win over West in August, Griffin threw for 257 yards and four scores while running for another.
“South’s offense concerns us the most,” Woodberry said. “Which offensive team is going to show up? The one that scored 71 points against Conway, or the one that struggled against Carolina Forest? We just don’t know.”