Playoff destination up to Red Devils

This week’s game to determine postseason seeding

By Jimmy Kirby
Courier Sports

LIBERTY — Call it wisdom, call it the luck of the draw or just plain silly, but the Liberty Red Devils entered the 2016 season with a guaranteed berth in the Class 2A playoffs.

When the South Carolina High School League realignment came out for the 2016 season, the Red Devils were placed in Region II with six other schools, but there was a catch. Only four of the schools fielded a football program.

Liberty inherited an old foe in Abbeville, gained a new foe in Greenville’s Southside Christian, and throw in Ninety Six High School, a team the Devils had only played once in the playoffs in 2012, and those are your football region teams.

Brashier Middle College and Greenville Tech Charter are the other two teams in the region, but do not play football.

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Doug Tate/Photo
Liberty seniors Josh Shuman (53), Bo Felton (77) and Shaun Karr (33) will do their part Friday night against Southside Christian to try to make sure the game is not their last at Red Devil Stadium. A win would guarantee a home playoff game for Liberty.

Friday night’s game with Southside Christian will provide the Red Devils the opportunity to determine their first-round playoff location, home or away, depending on the outcome of the game. Win, and the Red Devils are guaranteed a home game for the playoffs in two weeks.

A loss by the Red Devils could make it a toss-up on where they will play, depending on the tiebreaker rules in place by the region.

11-2 Page 1B.inddLiberty coach Kyle Stewart is excited to find out the outcome on Friday night.

“If we finish second, which means we beat Southside Christian, then we will play either Lee Central or Central,” Stewart said. “From what we have been able to find, that region has two games left to play. If we lose, we will go on the road to either Cheraw or Andrew Jackson, depending on tiebreaker.”

Stewart said the plan is to go out and win the game on Friday night against Southside Christian and be guaranteed a home game.

The trip to Region IV is a long way, looking back on the 2011 playoffs, when the Red Devils traveled to Indian Land and Central, which are both located in the north central part of South Carolina. There is certainly nothing central about the location, as the Devils would have to travel to Charlotte to get down to that area of South Carolina.

The Sabres, who reside off Woodruff Road in Greenville, are currently 5-4 on the season. They are 0-2 in region play following a 35-34 loss to Ninety Six and a 42-21 loss to perennial power Abbeville.

11-2 Page 1B.inddSouthside Christian is coming off a 2015 season in which it went 13-1 and won a Class A state championship, the first in school history. This season the Sabres have had a little tougher time moving up to the 2A ranks. The meeting with the Red Devils will be the first time the teams have played each other.

Doug Tate/Photo
Liberty’s Kevon Tabron looks for room to run during the Devils’ win over Ninety Six on Oct. 21.

“It is hard to speculate on the three-way tie outcome if that’s what happens,” Stewart said. “The first tiebreaker is points allowed between the tied teams. There is one scenario where we could lose to Southside Christian and still finish second in the region.”

It is never good to leave your fate in the hands of someone else. The Red Devils have shown that they can compete this season.

Their defense has been a big reason for the success of the 2016 campaign. They have been well prepared and played smart football all season.

The offense has certainly not been a high-powered unit, but has been efficient in both running and passing this season. The improved quarterback play of Nick Reeves and Austin Huey has paid dividends. Huey is likely gone due to a knee injury suffered against Abbeville, while Reeves has a tender shoulder that was also injured against Abbeville, though he returned to play the following week against Ninety Six.

Who knows how far the Red Devils can go in the playoffs once it is determined where they play. You can only take it one game at a time, and right now Friday night is the most important game of the season.

Stewart knows that they are too many variables and tiebreakers in place to worry about what will happen in two weeks.

“It will be better to just win Friday night,” he said.