Carolina Forest plays Goose Creek 2

Carolina Forest quarterback Scott Saylor throws a pass during Saturday's playoff game at Goose Creek.

Marc Morris doesn’t put much stock in common opponents, no matter how good or bad one of those gridiron triangles might appear.

On paper, though, the one between his Carolina Forest squad, Summerville and Fort Dorchester - this week’s opponent in the third round of the Class 5A playoffs - doesn’t look good.

The Panthers, back on Aug. 26, lost big at Summerville. The Green Wave made quick work of Morris’s bunch, winning 38-7 in a game in which Carolina Forest mustered fewer than 180 yards of total offense.

Then, to close out the regular season in what amounted to the Region VII-5A championship game, Fort Dorchester dispatched Summerville 38-21.

Still, a lot changes from the beginning of the regular season to the end of it, and even more so when you get to this stage of the postseason.

“It’s definitely a different part of the year. It’s good to match up with who you’ve seen. But Summerville was Week 1 of the season,” Morris said. “Kids grow. Teams get better. Injuries play a lot into it as you go.”

Translation? Past results aren’t indicative of future success.

That thought is also important for another reason.

The Panthers’ game at Fort Dorchester on Friday will pit two teams with a one-sided history. The Panthers lost a 2021 game against the Patriots (one that was scheduled at the last minute thanks to a COVID-19 cancellation) by 32 points and a 2017 playoff game by six touchdowns. Morris, who was hired prior to the 2014 season and had a game against the Patriots already on the docket for each of his first two years, is 0-4 against Fort Dorchester since coming to Carolina Forest.

But - and this might be the biggest factor of all - the Panthers are in the third round for a reason.

Of late, that reason is offense.

Carolina Forest is now the seventh-highest scoring team in Class 5A after 194 points combined in the last four weeks, wins over Socastee and St. James to end the regular season and then against River Bluff and Goose Creek in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Quarterback Scott Saylor has averaged 310 yards passing during that stretch, and he’s accounted for 18 total touchdowns passing and rushing in the same span. Receiver Nathan Schuessler has gone for 489 yards and six touchdowns in the last four games, while tailback Zion Gilbert has rushed for 420 yards and seven scores.

Morris said it’s all a product of playing teams like Summerville back during the non-region slate.

“We feel like we’re playing pretty good right now,” Morris said. “You want to play the best competition you can play so your kids aren’t shocked by it when you hit the playoffs. We feel like we’re playing pretty good here lately."

Carolina Forest (8-4) at Fort Dorchester (9-3)

Time | 7:30 p.m.

Broadcast |

Last meeting | Fort Dorchester 58, Carolina Forest 26 (2021)

About the game | Fort Dorchester enters Friday night having won seven straight games, all by double digits. And for as much credit can be placed on the Patriots’ defense, what’s happened on the other side of the ball can’t be ignored. Quarterback Zolten Osborne - a 6-foot-2 signal caller with 11 college offers (so far) and a selection to the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl - missed three full games and essentially eased his way back in for a few more. Still, he’s thrown for just shy of 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tailbacks Davian Brown (1,141 yards, nine touchdowns) and Zion Reynolds (905 yards, 16 touchdowns) have carried most of the load, including last week when the duo rushed for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a lopsided second-round victory over Berkeley.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236


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