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When the annual football rivalry with Clinton had to be postponed, Laurens didn’t replace the Red Devils with a weakling.

Far from it. The Raiders (2-3) rank above Gilbert, this week’s home opponent, only in classification. The Raiders are in Region 2-4a, the Indians (5-0) in Region 5-3A.

In the S.C. Prep Football Media Poll, Gilbert (5-0) is ranked No. 5 in Class 3A. The Indians are coming off a 55-7 victory over Swansea and have outscored their opponents, 214-183 (average score 43-17). Gilbert’s closest game to date was a 28-21 victory over Strom Thurmond two weeks ago.

Don’t count out the Raiders, though. All three LDHS setbacks are against ranked teams: Greer (6), Greenville (8) and Greenwood (10).

“The good thing we’re seeing this year that will help us in the future is that we’re a young ream playing a lot of quality opponents,” head coach Daryl Smith said. “That will play dividends for the young guys on the team. There have been times where they’re not used to the speed of the game, but we’re seeing a lot of improvement from the young guys who are getting a chance to play.”

The Raiders will present Gilbert with a balanced offense, led by sophomore quarterback James Rawl, who has completed 69 of 137 passes for 936 yards and 8 touchdowns. Rawl has been intercepted 6 times. His leading target is Jayden McGowan (17-285), but Cayson Elledge (16-275) has caught 6 of the 8 touchdowns.

Jeremiah Fuller is the leading rusher (96-312), but Zy Todd (34-157) and McGowan (15-104) have higher average gains.

In the 37-21 loss at Greer, Smith said, “For whatever reason, we came out kind of flat. Missed tackles gave them their first two touchdowns.

“Defensively, we played well for most of the night. We just made a couple of really bad mistakes.

I saw some improvement in certain areas.”

Gilbert’s defense will make the Raiders work for every point, and its offense will play at a fast pace and try to catch Laurens unawares.

“They go fast,” Smith said. “The challenge is to get defense lined up. We’ve got to be focused and get in line.

“Defensively, they just try to make you go the long way. They try to make you make mistakes. They don’t give up big plays and make you drive the whole length of the field. I don’t see Gilbert letting you throw a long touchdown pass. We’re going to have to try to score consistently by doing the job play after play.”

In the victory over Strom Thurmond, Gilbert running back Colton Mason gained 151 of his 232 rushing yards in the second half. The run-oriented attack is directed by quarterback Izayah Whiteside.