Dutch Fork, White Knoll square off for 5A title, Gray Collegiate in 2A champ game

Posted 11/29/23

High school football championship week is here, and three teams from Lexington County survived to the final round to fight for the right to call themselves champions. 

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Dutch Fork, White Knoll square off for 5A title, Gray Collegiate in 2A champ game


High school football championship week is here, and three teams from Lexington County survived to the final round to fight for the right to call themselves champions. 

Gray Collegiate will play Oceanside Collegiate in the South Carolina High School League 2A championship game. Powerhouse Dutch Fork will square off with region foe and current conference champ White Knoll in the 5A title match. 

All the contests are to be held at South Carolina State University’s Oliver Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg. Gray and Oceanside play Thursday at 7:30 p.m. White Knoll and Dutch Fork play Friday at 8 p.m.

White Knoll vs. Dutch Fork

5A Region Four champions White Knoll will face the region runner-up and reigning state champions Dutch Fork in the title game. It won’t just be a game between two region rivals though, it will also be a game between a coach and his former boss. 

Nick Pelham is in his third year as the head ball coach at White Knoll. He previously served and won championships as Dutch Fork’s defensive coordinator. 

For Dutch Fork’s Tom Knotts, a win would give him his 15th total state title as a high school coach. For Pelham, it would be his first and a prime opportunity to show the student has become the master. 

The Timberwolves are undefeated, (14-0), entering the contest, and just like everyone else at the 5A level if they want to win the title they have to make it through Dutch Fork. The Silver Foxes had an unusual season for their standards, finishing (9-5) overall. 

The two teams have already met once this season in what was effectively the region championship game. 

White Knoll narrowly won that contest 17-14 for the program’s first win over Dutch Fork since 2009. The game could’ve gone either way, but on the first play in the fourth quarter, White Knoll scored the game’s final points when Landon Sharpe passed to running back Tiyon Fanning for a touchdown.

The Timberwolves advanced to its first-ever state championship game after defeating Summerville in the semifinal round. The team held its opponents to 14 points for another dominant performance from its defense.

The defense has been phenomenal all year and never let an opposing team score more than 15 points in any of its 14 games this season. Lincoln Ilungampumbu has been a disruptive force behind the line of scrimmage, leading the team in both tackles for loss, with 19.5, and sacks, with 10.

The offense has also pulled its weight for White Knoll, making them one of the most well-rounded teams in the state. The team scored over 40 plus in the first six games and averaged 34 points per contest.

White Knoll won its first three playoff games in blowout fashion, with a 28-0 win over Cane Bay in round one, a 50-7 win over Fort Dorchester and a 35-7 win over Sumter. Sharpe has sliced through these defenses and scored 13 total touchdowns during this four-game playoff run. 

Dutch Fork’s appearance in another state title match is no surprise, but this season’s journey to the final game was unlike any other the program has experienced. 

The team started 0-3 for the first time under head coach Tom Knotts. The team dropped two of its next four, including a loss to White Knoll in its first game of region play. 

After that loss though, something flipped, and the Silver Foxes are riding the wave of a seven-game winning streak and will compete for their eighth state championship, all under Knotts. 

Dutch Fork convincingly beat Boiling Springs in its first playoff game, 56-7. Its second-round game against T.L. Hannah was close but the Silver Foxes took care of business and won 31-28. 

Gaffney came to town in the third round, renewing a rivalry that stems back to the 2021 Championship game, which Dutch Fork lost. The Silver Foxes are now on a two-game winning streak after picking up a 35-10 victory to eliminate the Indians in back-to-back years. 

The team almost missed its opportunity to reclaim the state after a thrilling late-game comeback last week in the Upper State Championship. The Silver Foxes overcame a nine-point deficit in the final two-and-a-half minutes to beat J.L. Mann by a point. 

Gray Collegiate vs. Oceanside Collegiate

The War Eagles made it their goal to get back to the title game and reclaim the 2A championship after failing to defend their 2021 title last season. 

Gray achieved that goal and will play Oceanside Thursday after a regular season that was dominated by off-the-field noise about competitive balance. Because of this, the War Eagles had to play a non-region schedule and traveled out-of-state for games. 

Gray finished the season (15-3) and was crowned region champs after all its opponents chose to forfeit.

The War Eagles have an explosive offense with multiple playmaking weapons. Running back BJ Montgomery had a 1,000-yard season on the ground, adding 15 touchdowns. 

The team had three receivers eclipse 500 yards. Jamarious Lockett, Zai Offord and Zion Job had 945, 534 and 512 yards, respectively. Lockett found the endzone most out of the receiving group, scoring 12. 

That offense exploded for 62 points in each of the team’s first two playoff games against Pelion and Chesnee. The team captured a win against Strom Thurmond in dramatic fashion after a last-minute pick-six kept Strom Thurmond from tying the game with a field goal or taking the lead with a touchdown. 

Gray defeated 2022 champions Abbeville in the Upper State championship Friday, 27-12. The team is now preparing for a game against Oceanside. 

Oceanside lost to Abbeville in last season’s championship game and enter this championship contest hoping for different results. 

The Landsharks finished (11-2) and (4-0) in 2A Region Seven play. They have a powerful defense that allows opponents on average under 10 points per game.

Oceanside shut its opponents out in its first two playoff games, 42-0 and 49-0. In the third and fourth rounds, the team beat Barnwell 43-6 and Hampton County 42-21.

Gray and Oceanside will kick off on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Chronicle Country teams competed in Lower, Upper State title games

White Knoll, Dutch Fork, Gray Collegiate and Brookland-Cayce all played in an Upper or Lower State championship game Nov. 24, with the first three winning to advance to state title games, while the Bearcats joined fellow Chronicle Country team Irmo in coming up short of competing for a championship.

Dutch Fork came back from a nine-point deficit in the final two-and-a-half minutes to claim a 31-30 victory over J.L. Mann. 

The Silver Foxes’ defense struggled early, especially when it came to slowing down J.L. Mann receiver Mikel McClellan, who recorded 14 catches, 196 yards and two touchdowns.

The defense showed up when it mattered most though, forcing a crucial three-and-out on J.L. Mann’s last drive of the game. 

Receiver Boykin Bickley picked the best time to score his first touchdown this season. He hurdled into the endzone to cut the lead from nine to two with 1:17 left. 

Dutch Fork failed to recover the onside kick, but with three timeouts in the pocket of head coach Tom Knotts, the team didn’t need it. The defense held strong and allowed only 20 seconds to come off the clock before getting the offense the ball 

Quarterback Jon Hunt had to sub in earlier after Ethan Offing suffered a leg injury. He struggled in the game but marched the team downfield on the final drive to set up a game-winning field goal. 

Kicker Justin Welch nailed a 39-yard field goal with just three seconds left to give Dutch Fork the one-point win. 

The Silver Foxes advanced to their 11 title game in 12 seasons and will look to make it back-to-back championship victories. Dutch Fork has never missed a 5A state title game. 

Standing in the way of another title is the only team to beat them in region play this year, undefeated White Knoll. 

White Knoll qualified for the championship game after beating Summerville in a 21-14 nailbiter. 

The Timberwolves jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first half. In the second half, the offensive production slowed down, which allowed Summerville to string together a few scores to make the game interesting by the end. 

Summerville had possession down 21-14 in the game’s final minute. After converting a fourth down, Summerville hit a wall, and White Knoll got the defensive stop it needed to win. 

Quarterback Landon Sharpe went 15 of 24 for 181 yards and a touchdown. He added 17 yards and a touchdown on the ground. 

Running back Tyion Fanning scored a touchdown, and receiver CJ Earl scored one to go along with 69 receiving yards. 

White Knoll improves to (14-0) this season.  The team will meet region foe Dutch Fork Friday at 8 p.m. in Orangeburg for the 5A title. 

Gray Collegiate defeated defending 2A champion Abbeville 27-12 in the Upper State championship game. 

The War Eagles earned a trip to the state championship after a season that was surrounded by outside noise. The team has looked like a force during its playoff run and will have a shot at the program’s second-ever football state title.

Quarterback Tyler Waller played a solid game, connecting on 13 of 21 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns but also two interceptions. Montgomery took the majority of the carries for Gray, racking up 92 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. 

Receivers Lockett and Blaine Redmond each caught a touchdown. Lockett led the team in receiving yards with 105 off six catches. 

Job came away with an interception for the Gray defense. Michael Boulware and Kaine Williams each finished with over 10 tackles. As a collective, Gray’s defense recorded two sacks, four tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries. 

Gray advances to their second state title game in three seasons and will face Oceanside Collegiate for the 2A football championship Thursday. 

Brookland-Cayce fell to Camden 46-30 in an offensive-heavy battle during the 3A Lower State final. 

Quarterback Will Young continued to be a bright spot, scoring three touchdowns and leading Brookland-Cayce’s offense to some success. The team just failed to get the stops necessary to stay in the game. The Bulldogs never punted and scored touchdowns on its first four drives.

The teams were tied at the end of the first quarter, but in the second quarter, Camden pulled ahead by eight. Camden scored the only points in the third quarter, and the Bearcats failed to claw back in it during the fourth quarter. 

The loss marked the third of the season for Brookland-Cayce, but it was the first in a while. The team entered the game winners of its last nine contests, including a 5-0 in region games.

Camden beats both Gilbert and Brookland-Cayce in consecutive weeks and will advance to the 3A state championship game Saturday to face Daniel.

Full championship schedule 

All games are held at South Carolina State University’s Oliver Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg.

Thursday, Nov. 30 

2A: Gray Collegiate vs. Oceanside, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 1 

A: Christ Church vs. Johnsonville, 2 p.m.

5A: Dutch Fork vs. White Knoll, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 2

4A: Westside vs. South Florence, noon

3A: Camden vs. Daniel, 7 p.m.


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