2017-12-29 / Sports

Former Richland Two stars meet for Alabama/Clemson Part III


Alabama linebacker and former Spring Valley star Christian Miller 
Contributed by AlabamaAthletics Photography Alabama linebacker and former Spring Valley star Christian Miller Contributed by AlabamaAthletics Photography College football fans will once again get to see the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers battle in the College Football Playoff. However, this time it won’t be in the National Championship game. Instead the two teams meet in the semifinals in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Monday, January 1 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Fans of the Blythewood Bengals and Spring Valley Vikings may pay particularly close attention to this matchup.

Alabama’s Christian Miller and Clemson’s Jalen Williams battled on the gridiron in high school. Before they were members of the Tide and Tigers, Miller and Williams competed against each other as members of the Spring Valley Vikings and Blythewood Bengals, respectively.

According to Williams, neither knew much about the other even with their star power in the Columbia area. They never attended the same football camps either.


Clemson linebacker and former Blythewood star Jalen Williams 
Contributed by PhillipSikes/Clemson Athletics Clemson linebacker and former Blythewood star Jalen Williams Contributed by PhillipSikes/Clemson Athletics “I heard of him before, obviously,” Williams said. “I knew he was a big time recruit. We never really communicated except for after the game.”

Williams was a three-year starter for Blythewood and faced a Miller-led Spring Valley team twice. The two teams split those games.

When the players signed with different schools in different conferences, it was difficult to predict they would meet up three years in a row, especially for two programs who don’t often play against one another.

“It’s crazy,” Williams said. “In high school, if anybody was going to make it out, it was going to be between Blythewood and Spring Valley. It’s just like this situation, Clemson and Alabama. I never thought it was going to happen.”

Williams understands what the signifigance of the three meetings in regards to representing the Columbia area on college football’s biggest stage.

“I feel like it means a lot because there are not too many guys from Columbia who are or have ever been in the position we are in. For both of us, we should cherish it, live in the moment, and don’t take it for granted.”

Williams, and the rest of the Clemson defense, will once again face an Alabama offense featuring quarterback Jalen Hurts, running back Bo Scarbrough, and wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Miller, and his teammates, will face some new prominent faces on the Clemson offense, especially quarterback Kelly Bryant and running back Travis Etienne.

Despite that difference, Williams doesn’t believe it gives Clemson any advantage. He believes the game will come down to how each team prepares. However, he believes having the experience helps.

“ We can’t expect Jalen Hurts to play the way he did last year,” Williams said. “He was a whole year younger. They can’t expect us to play the same way we did last year either. We have a whole year more experience now. We’ve all grown.”

Unlike the previous two meetings, Alabama and Clemson will play for the opportunity to advance to the national championship game in Atlanta on January 8. In some fans’ eyes, this third meeting represents a tie-breaker for the two teams, after they split the first two.

A win over the Crimson Tide would obviously be important for Williams and the Tigers.

“It definitely has some significance because this is the third time we played Alabama. It would change the narrative,” Williams said. “This is the game everyone wanted to see. I feel like in this game both teams will come with a little more fight just because we’ve already played each other.”

Miller has battled through injuries for most of the 2017 season but has played in two games accounting for four tackles, one for a loss.

Williams has seen action in 11 games this season. He has 18 total tackles, two for a loss, two quarterback pressures, and three pass break ups.

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