Playoff Previews & Picks: Braves draw tough bracket

socfoot-5sweepThe annual bracket rotation seemed to favor No. 1-seeded and No. 2-ranked Socastee heading into this weekend opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.

After all, as long as the Braves (10-0) keep winning they can play at home all the way until the Class 3A state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium.

But Socastee’s road to Columbia looks a lot rougher now that the blank places on the brackets have been filled out, beginning with Friday night’s postseason opener against Hilton Head (7-3).

The Seahawks lost their regular-season finale to Berkeley (5-5) to slip into a No. 4 seed, although Hilton Head may be the best No. 4 seed in the tournament.

But the real difficulty is on the horizon as defending Class 3A state champion Hartsville (9-1), which blew out the Braves in last year’s Lower State semifinal.

Hartsville had to settle for a No. 2 seed this year due to its lone loss, a 10-7 upset at the hands of Crestwood. The Red Foxes have won their last three games by a combined score of 120-6.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Socastee first must get past Hilton Head and the Braves have more than enough horses to accomplish that goal. Next week may be a different story. … Socastee 38, Hilton Head 13.

* Berkeley at Myrtle Beach: If there’s one word to describe the second-seeded Seahawks (6-4) this season, it’s inconsistency.

With a loss to 1-9 Carolina Forest and a win over 8-2 North Myrtle Beach on its resume, you have to wonder which Myrtle Beach will show up for the playoffs?

The Seahawks have bowed out in the second round the last two seasons following their 2010 state championship, but this young team could be peaking at the right time.

With a hopefully healthy Brandon Sinclair returning to the lineup and quarterback Drayton Arnold improving each week, the Seahawks get off on the right foot against the Stags. … Myrtle Beach 27, Berkeley 17.

* North Myrtle Beach at Orangeburg-Wilkinson: Perhaps no one drew a tougher assignment than the Chiefs (8-2), whose loss to Myrtle Beach last week sent them all the way to Orangeburg for the first round.

As if Friday’s game against O-W (9-1) wasn’t imposing enough, North Myrtle Beach will likely have to win out on the road if they hope to reach the Lower State title game.

The Chiefs are talented but have a nasty habit of making costly mistakes in big games. NMB can’t afford any slips in this one. … North Myrtle Beach 28, O-W 24.

* Carolina Forest at Conway: Neither side has too much to cheer about this season as these rivals bring identical 1-9 records to the Backyard.

But Highway 501 bragging rights and Conway’s desire to avenge last year’s loss add plenty of spice to the pot for what should be a hard-fought contest. … Conway 33, Carolina Forest 31.

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