Dutch Fork dominated Sumter and routed the Gamecocks 54-14 last December at Williams-Brice Stadium to give DFHS its’ first-ever football state championship.

From Midlands High School Sports website !
Visit often for updates on Dutch Fork and our other teams: Chapin and Irmo

by Emerson Phillips

For head coach Tom Knotts and the Silver Foxes, the view from the mountain top sure is nice.

“I think the kids would say they were just relieved at first,” Knotts said. “When we finally figured out what we had done, we had a great December and January. It was high fives all around the school. It’s fun climbing to the top.”

When Knotts was hired by Dutch Fork prior to the start of the 2010 season, he brought a sterling reputation with him. He had already won seven state championships as a head coach in North Carolina – one at West Charlotte High and six at Independence High. His Independence teams won a national public-school record 109 consecutive games.

He’s only enhanced his reputation with two trips to the state finals in his four years at Dutch Fork. But Knotts has never been one to rest on his laurels, and he’s making sure his team keeps its feet firmly on the ground as it prepares for the new season.

This year the headliner on offense is prolific senior running back Matt Colburn (5-8, 198), a Louisville commit. As a sophomore, Colburn ran for 400 yards in a single game versus Lexington. Now he’s a state champ, and he’s ready for his senior year.

“We gotta keep Matt healthy because he is the heart and soul of the team,” Knotts said.

Matt’s younger brother Chris, a sophomore, will serve as the backup at RB. “Chris and Matt look just alike,” Knotts said. “Chris is a little smaller, but he’s just as strong and almost as fast. He probably doesn’t have Matt’s vision right now, but I think he’s gonna be good.”

Junior Clayton Jones (5-10, 180) is also in the mix at running back. “He has some nifty moves, and he’s got a little stuff about him,” Knotts said. “Stephen Davis hasn’t taken any reps, but he’s certainly going to get some reps at running back next year. Jo’mal Aiken could move back to running back. Lane Ecton could go to running back. I’m really not concerned about running back, I just don’t want them to get hurt.”

Senior Tate Fant (6-3, 195) takes over as the starting quarterback after Derek Olenchuk graduated last year.

“Even though our quarterback is untested, he’s been our JV starter for two years in the same system,” Knotts said. “And I call the plays on Thursday night (for the JV team). So Tate’s been running the same plays for two years and he shouldn’t miss a beat.”

Knotts says Dutch Fork has six wide receivers that can play.

“Alec DeBoer’s ahead of all of them,” Knotts said. “But then we got five that can fly. They’re fast, they’re rangy. This is among the top two or three groups of receivers that I’ve ever had in 33 years of coaching, but they’re raw.”

“Unlike last year, we feel like we’ve got a lot of team speed, especially at the receiver position,” Knotts continued. “Junior Jo’mal Aiken and sophomore Bobby Irby are my slot guys. They’re quick as a hiccup, they can put their foot in the ground and go. Then my speedsters are sophomore Austin Connor, senior Will Sweeper and another sophomore Ward Hacklen.”

Former Gamecock Jason Barnes coaches the receivers at DF – Barnes played for Knotts at Independence.

Up front, the Silver Foxes return two full-time starters. Senior Montel Smith (6-0, 280) is back at center, and senior Tyler Fiedler (5-10, 225) returns at left guard. Sophomore left tackle Malik Sumter (6-1, 275) moved into a starting role during last year’s playoffs. Seniors Glenn Niles (6-0, 200) and Grayson Johnson (6-3, 235) will fil out the O-line. Both started for the JV team last year.

Tight ends have played a major role in Knotts’ offense at Dutch Fork. This year Kyle Olenchuk (5-11, 215) moves from center/guard to tight end. “He’s a big, thick kid. He’s a student of the game, and he can dominate the edge with his blocking. We’re trying to find another tight end. We’ve got several others trying to play the other tight end position, but so far nobody’s stepped up. But competition is good, that’s what tends to make you better. ”

The defense returns eight starters.

“I like our defense,” Knotts said. “They’re a little bit big headed right now because they had a great championship game against Sumter. But that’s what you start to deal with once you’ve reached the championship is the complacency of some of the coaches and some of the kids. They think ‘been there and done that, gone do it again.’ But football doesn’t work like that.”

DF1“Our leader obviously is Lane Ecton in the secondary,” Knotts said. “I think he’s a legit D1 player. He’s committed to Georgia Southern. But I think he’s an ACC-level player, and I think some people are missing the boat on him. He’s a legit 4.5 (forty-yard dash). Georgia Southern’s a great school, don’t get me wrong. But I’m hoping he really shows out this year and somebody big comes along and offers him.”

Ecton (5-11, 190) will be a third-year starter. He was region defensive player of the year last year. Junior Stephen Davis (6-4, 208) returns for his third year as a starter at safety. Davis recently committed to play at Auburn.

Dutch Fork’s linebacker leader is Mick Lusk (5-10, 205). “He’s very instinctive,” Knotts said. “He can really play the game.”

Knotts said DF has three players who can rush the passer. They’re senior Dominique Scott (5-11, 210), senior Andrew Dunlap 6-1, 215) and senior David Tillman (5-11, 195).

“Tillman’s so special, I call him ‘The Freak,’” Knotts said. “He can really run and jump and go get ‘em.”

The kicking game should be in good shape. “We got a special punter and kicker in Tyler Bass. He kicked what, four or five field goals in the state championship game. He can kick field goals up to 50 (yards out). He’s a good one.”

Dutch Fork opens the regular season against Greenwood on August 22 as part of “The Battle On The Bluff” at River Bluff High in Lexington. Greenwood won the 2012 Class 4A-D2 state title. Former North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin is the new head coach at Greenwood.

“Dan Pippin’s one of the top five coaches in the state,” Knotts said.

The Silver Foxes then get a week off before heading to Texas to play Allen High, the reigning 5A state champs in the Lone Star state.

Knotts says Allen has six D1 recruits and 700 members in the marching band. Allen’s new $60 million stadium was recently condemned due to cracks in the foundation. So DF will face Allen High in Plano, TX.

“If I had known that stadium was condemned, I wouldn’t have chosen (to play) them,” Knotts said. “But I think this game will only help our program, and I think we’ll represent South Carolina well.”