Bruins fall in third round of Class 4A playoffs
By C.R. Cumbee
Orangeburg—Every head coach hopes their team peaks late in the year and plays at its highest level in the postseason. The Orangeburg-Wilkinson football team did just that.
The Bruins finished third in their conference after a 5-5 regular season, but knocked off Region 7-AAAA co-champion Marlboro County and Region 8-AAAA champion Berkeley in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“It was a great success. We’ve been blessed. You work hard all year because you’re really preparing for the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about. For us to be playing our best football in the playoffs, we consider that a success and something to build on,” head coach Tommy Brown said.
Unfortunately, the dream ended in the third round of the playoffs at Hartsville. The Red Foxes, who are currently ranked No. 2 in the state, pulled away in the second half for the 35-20 victory.
“We played one of the better programs and we competed well. A loss is a loss, but you look at where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve in your program. We’ll have a chance to be successful as the years go on,” Brown said.
Although Orangeburg-Wilkinson walked off the field in defeat, the way they played should serve as a confidence booster heading into 2017. The Bruins have a solid nucleus returning next fall, including running back Theo Johnson, who gained over 1,000 yards in his first year starting.
Wide receivers Zach Felder and Jalen Darby will be weapons on the outside. Defensively, Rodney Tyler and Zyon Utsey will return up front with Skylar Mack and Reggie Jamison continuing to hold down their spots at linebacker. Deon Haynes is back in the secondary.
“Our kids know we can play with anybody. We came into the playoffs and beat some good teams. The younger kids know what they’re doing now and they know how to work. It’s something to build on going into next year. We’ve got a good group coming back, especially on defense,” Brown said.
While those players will get another chance at a state title, the Hartsville loss marked the end of the high school careers of several key seniors. Quarterback Jasaun Grainger was a threat with both his arm and his legs and will be the biggest loss.
Most of the offensive line will graduate as well. De’Andre Thompson, who was named a North-South all-star, Javin Ammonds, Clinton Bonaparte and Jamar Feggins all left their mark on the program.
“It was a great class. They showed a lot of leadership and I think several of them are going to do well on the next level. I’m very proud of what they did. They kept the team together and led us to the third round of the playoffs,” Brown said.