Irmo faces Ridge View in Top 10 matchup

By Thomas Grant Jr.

“Going 1-0 every week in region play” was not the only motivation for third-ranked Irmo High School last Friday at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.

Last year’s 20-14 loss to Richland Northeast, a game in which the Yellow Jackets led at halftime, still burned in their memory.

This time, they were determined to keep the “gas” burning and rolled to a 63-8 victory.

“It definitely was a motivation because we knew last year’s loss, we shouldn’t have lost” said quarterback A.J. Brand, who threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 76 yards and two scores. “So we came back in here with a little bit of vengeance on our mind. Just something that would get us past and that’s what we did, started 1-0 in the region.”

Brand is closing in on 2,000 total yards on the season to go with 27 touchdowns. He’s not only completed 73 percent of his passes but has still not thrown an interception this season.

His improvement is enhanced by an offense that boosts a 1,000-yard rusher in Jaden Allen-Hendrix. He reached the milestone for the third consecutive year (the previous two at Gilbert) in last Friday’s win with 133 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s a genuine, genuine kid that loves to play football and loves to have the football in his hands and the sky’s the limit for that kid,” Irmo head coach Aaron Brand said after the game.

Irmo head coach Aaron Brand

The Yellow Jackets also stretch the field with wide receivers Donovan Murph (26 receptions, 484 yards, seven touchdowns) and Telvin Smith (22 receptions, 283 yards, three touchdowns) and tight end Caleb Alexander (14 receptions, 314 yards, seven touchdowns). It helps to have a physical offensive line with Bryant Ham, Elijah Williams, Ryan Love and Brady Moore leading up front.

Irmo offensive guard Bryant Ham

Yet it’s the defense which has put Irmo in the championship discussion. Under defensive coordinator Raymond Jennings, the Yellow Jackets are holding opponents to seven points a game, including shutout wins over River Bluff and Airport.

The defense has played opportunistic football in forcing turnovers to set up scoring opportunities. It’s an athletic group with defensive lineman Xavier Montgomery, Mal Clay and Marquis Daniels, linebackers Jylil Favor and Marquel Lewis and defensive backs Isaiah McClary and Javares Brown.

Friday’s game against 10th ranked Ridge View (5-1, 1-0) is also another “revenge game” of sorts for Irmo. The Blazers edged the Yellow Jackets 40-37 last year, only for the result to get reversed after they were told to forfeit all wins by the S.C. High School League due to an ineligible player.

Ridge View is riding a four-game winning streak. Quarterback Breylon Boyd is posting similar passing numbers (1,385 yards, 13 TDs, 0 interceptions) as Brand and has a trio of wide receivers to target in Clark Coleman, Kennedy Thomas, and Jordan Gidron.

Linebacker Myles Brown leads the Blazers in tackles and has six of the team’s 22 sacks. Defensive lineman Cleve Tellery II is tied with Van Hillary with four sacks each and the defense overall is allowing 11 points a game.

Irmo leads the all-time series 9-4.


Class 4A

1. South Florence (15) (6-0)

2. Northwestern (4) (5-1)

3. Irmo (6-0)

4. James Island (6-0)

5. Westside (5-1)

6. South Pointe (4-2)

7. Midland Valley (6-0)

8. Hartsville (4-2)

9. Lucy Beckham (5-0)

10. Ridge View (5-1)

Others receiving votes: Myrtle Beach, York, North Augusta, Catawba Ridge, Greenville

Photo by GOFLASHWIN.COM Irmo quarterback A.J. Brand in last year’s game versus Ridge View