FLORENCE, S.C. — West Florence coach Jody Jenerette is looking for more than a safe road trip to Berkeley today.
He wants a first-round win in the Class 5A playoffs.
“If we can just hold on to the ball and keep getting first downs, hopefully we can make it interesting,” said Jenerette, whose Knights are the third seed from Region 6. “This group is not going to be too up or to down. We’ve lost two games by a total of five points, so we know it can go good or go bad. Hopefully when we roll out of here on the bus, this will be a group that understands they have the chance to win a playoff game on the road.”
If West Florence does win tonight, and if Lexington wins at Fort Dorchester, the Knights would even earn a second-round home game next week at Memorial Stadium. That’s because Lexington and West Florence would both be No. 3 seeds, and the bracket is predetermined for West to host if that happens.
But first, West (6-4) must defeat a Stags team that is 7-2 and features a strong passing attack behind Willie Chisolm. In last week’s win against Cane Bay, Chisolm passed for 347 yards and five touchdowns. Teammate Hakeem Meggett caught six of those passes for 189 yards and three scores.
“Their offense is one that likes to take a bunch of shots,” Jenerette said. “They have really good receivers, and (Chisolm) does a good job throwing the ball up and giving their guys and opportunity to go up and make a play. They’re as good a 50-50 team as I’ve seen in a long time. We’ve got to stay and cover and hopefully knock a few down and pick one or two off.”
And on top of that, West needs another strong performance by running back Terry McKithen. After rushing for 135 yards in last week’s win against South Florence, he has 1,393 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“Terry has been big for us,” Jenerette said. “That’s probably the quietest (1,393 yards) I’ve been around. Nobody talks about Terry much. He was given an opportunity, and he has taken full advantage of it.”
Knights quarterback Hale Emerson, meanwhile, has passed for 891 yards and seven touchdowns. He accounted for two touchdowns last week against South Florence.
“I thought Hale played well,” Jenerette said. “He did what we asked him to do: Go win the game and not lose it. He’s done a solid job for us all season. We’ve had breakdowns in other aspects of the game, but he’s been steady and that’s what we thought he’d be. He’s responded really well.”
While the Knights hope for a long playoff run, the postseason also gives them a chance to plan for even further down the road.
“We’ve brought up 18 JV guys, and we are trying to coach them and get them used to the way we do things,” Jenerette said. “I’m not saying we’re focusing TOO much on that, but we’re making sure they’re caught up. And that’s the great thing about the playoffs. You gain valuable practice time with guys who you think can contribute the next three or four years.”
While in Moncks Corner tonight, Jenerette stressed how important it would be to take the home crowd out of it early.
“Berkeley, in my mind, is one of the top seven jobs in South Carolina, and the reason is its fan base and that loyalty to what Berkeley football is all about,” Jenerette said. “You can’t buy into their hype. We’ve got to play West Florence football and plug and plug and plug. The thing about the playoffs is who wants to keep playing. Whichever team wants to keep playing more is the one that’s going to win.”