Back to basics. And ahead to the biggest test to date.
Bluffton High School will welcome region opponent Cane Bay to Bobcat Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff tonight in a matchup of a pair of teams with Region 7-AAA championship aspirations.
The Bobcats are hopeful their return to fundamentals this week will bode well for tonight's outcome -- they opened the week with a variety of preseason-type drills in an effort to increase intensity.
"The first thing we did was have a little competition to see who was giving effort and who was willing to put themselves on the line," Bobcats coach Ken Cribb said. "They really got after it. They responded to the challenge."
And now they believe they're ready for tonight's challenge.
The Cobras enter with a 4-2 record after last week's 48-0 thrashing of Battery Creek in the region opener -- and they're only a year removed from equaling the Bobcats' 3-1 region mark but losing out on the league's tiebreaker.
Cribb said they may present the Bobcats' tallest hurdle in their attempt to repeat as Region 7-AAA champions.
"No doubt about it -- this is a big one for us," Cribb said. "... They're feeling like this is their shot at a region championship."
It certainly won't come easy for the Cobras.
The Bobcats (6-0) have outscored opponents 370-27 in six games and expect to be playing in front of one of the season's largest crowds, athletics director Dave Adams said.
Quarterback C.J. Frazier, who has thrown for 22 touchdowns against just two interceptions, will lead Bluffton's offense against Cane Bay's 4-3 defense. The offense sputtered at times in last week's 50-0 win at Lake Marion, Cribb said, but the defense recorded a school-record third shutout of the season.
The Bobcats defense has scored 58 points this season while holding opponents to just 27. Its speed will be matched up against a physical splitback offensive formation from Cane Bay tonight.
"I think we're in good shape, to be honest, as long as we don't let them slip through the cracks," Cribb said. "We're going to get a lot of hats to the ball. Our defense is hungry. They want to win this game for us. They don't want to give up nothing."
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Beaufort High (3-3) at Wando (4-2), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Beaufort High lost three games before October for the first time since 2006. The Warriors have won their past three games, including two this past week. They defeated Colleton County on Monday before traveling to win at Ashley Ridge on Thursday night.
Last week: Beaufort High lost at James Island 22-21; Wando defeated Ashley Ridge 17-14
Key to the game: Turnovers continue to hurt the Eagles. An interception led to a James Island score last week. And two fumbles ended Beaufort High's chance at a comeback late in the game.
Berkeley (2-4, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) at Battery Creek (1-5, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: This is the second region game for each team. The Dolphins have dropped their past five games. Their offense has averaged five points per contest during the stretch.
Last week: Battery Creek lost to Cane Bay 48-0; Berkeley defeated Hilton Head High 31-20
Key to the game: Score some points. The Dolphins have moved the ball at times with their run-oriented attack, but it hasn't shown on the scoreboard. The Stags have allowed 22 points per game this season.
Allendale-Fairfax (4-2, 3-0 Region 5-A) at Ridgeland (4-2, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Ridgeland will be without multiple players for one or more games, the result of suspensions passed down after a scuffle at Whale Branch last week. The Jaguars rushed for 381 yards during the victory, on 65 attempts. They didn't complete a pass in six attempts.
Last week: Ridgeland won 42-18 at Whale Branch; Allendale-Fairfax defeated Branchville 32-0
Key to the game: In a matchup of two of the region's top teams, Ridgeland will have to make the pivotal plays. The key plays all swung against the Jaguars during an earlier loss to Bamberg-Ehrhardt. But they capitalized last week while rolling at Whale Branch.
Whale Branch (4-2, 1-2 Region 5-A) at Branchville (1-5, 0-3), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Two of Branchville's three region losses have come by more than 30 points. The Yellow Jackets' lone victory was a 42-0 win over Lincoln in early September. Whale Branch fullback John Little rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown during last week's loss to Ridgeland.
Last week: Whale Branch lost to Ridgeland 42-18; Branchville lost to Allendale-Fairfax 32-0
Key to the game: The Warriors will have to shut out the distractions. In addition to dropping its past two games, Whale Branch was placed on restrictive probation and suspensions passed down after a scuffle with Ridgeland last week. Branchville should provide the respite the Warriors need.
Lake Marion (2-4, 0-1 Region 7-AAA) at Hilton Head High (2-4, 0-1)
The skinny: Tonight's matchup could go a long way toward deciding each team's playoff hopes. The Gators and Seahawks both began their respective Region 7-AAA schedules with losses. An 0-2 start would spell trouble for reaching the postseason, while tonight's winner would likely be just one win away from earning one of four playoff spots from the six-team region.
Last week: Lake Marion lost 50-0 to Bluffton; Hilton Head High lost 31-20 to Berkeley
Key to the game: The Seahawks defense stuffed Berkeley's offense for a half last week, but things fell apart at the end of the first half, and the Stags took a 14-7 halftime lead, from which the Seahawks never recovered. If the defense can play at the same intensity for four quarters rather than just two, they will have a good chance to shut down a Lake Marion offense that was shut out last week against Bluffton. Senior safety Lamond Williams will be a key player against a sizable Lake Marion receiving corps.
Hardeeville (0-6, 0-3 Region 5-A) at Bamberg-Ehrhardt (5-1, 3-0)
The skinny: The Hurricanes lost their third heartbreaker in three weeks to fall to 0-3 in Region 5-A last Friday night. They have held leads in the second half in two of the three losses, and they failed on a two-point conversion attempt last week to tie Bethune-Bowman in the final seconds. It won't be easy to get back on track against Bamberg-Ehrhardt, the favorite to win the region.
Last week: Hardeeville lost 8-6 to Bethune-Bowman; Bamberg-Ehrhardt def. Estill 42-0
Key to the game: The Hardeeville defense has put together solid performances in region play, but the offense is struggling to find comfort. The Hurricanes need to score early and build off that momentum.
Hilton Head Christian (5-1) at Palmetto Christian (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Eagles hit the road for their final non-region tune-up in search of a sixth consecutive victory. Hilton Head Christian's defense has been especially tough the past two weeks, allowing only a total of seven points. The Eagles travel to Northwood Academy next week before a showdown at Thomas Heyward on Oct. 21.
Last week: Hilton Head Christian won 39-0 vs. St. Andrew's; Palmetto Christian was idle
Key to the game: Palmetto Christian has the athletes to match up well with the Eagles on the perimeter, but Hilton Head Christian should have an advantage in the trenches. If the Eagles can control the line of scrimmage, they should be able to go into their final three region games with a six-game winning streak.
Northwood Academy (2-4, 0-1 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at Hilton Head Prep (3-2, 1-0), 4 p.m.
The skinny: Hilton Head Prep will look to stay undefeated in region play and lock up a playoff spot with a win in its homecoming game. After starting 0-3, the Chargers have won two of their last three with a 42-0 loss at Thomas Sumter sandwiched between. Hilton Head Prep lost to Thomas Sumter by a similar 41-0 score Sept. 9.
Last week: Northwood Academy won 55-12 vs. Charleston Collegiate; Hilton Head Prep was idle
Key to the game: The Dolphins need to establish their strong running game early to open up their passing game and keep the defense off the field. Prep has had more than 200 rushing yards in each of its three wins.
Thomas Heyward (5-0, 1-0 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at First Baptist (0-5, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Thomas Heyward hits the road in search of its sixth consecutive victory to start the season before key region matchups with Hilton Head Prep and Hilton Head Christian the next two weeks. The Hurricanes have been shut out three times and forfeited a fourth game among their five losses.
Last week: Thomas Heyward won 48-12 at Robert E. Lee; First Baptist lost 25-0 at Williamsburg Academy
Key to the game: The Rebels need to do what they did next week and build a big early lead so they can rest their starters and coast in the second half to stay fresh for the next two weeks.
James Island Christian (5-2, 1-1 SCISAA 8-man Region 2) at Beaufort Academy (2-5, 1-1), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Beaufort Academy has managed each of its past two losses with victories, and the Eagles hope to pull off that feat again when they host James Island Christian. The Eagles' offense sputtered last week against Patrick Henry, so they'll look to recapture the firepower that allowed them to average 46 points over their previous four games.
Last week: Beaufort Academy lost 56-6 vs. Patrick Henry; James Island Christian lost 84-26 vs. Wardlaw Academy
Key to the game: The Eagles will have their hands full trying to stop dual-threat quarterback J'quan Scott, who has over 1,000 yards rushing and passing and has accounted for 29 touchdowns. If they can slow down Scott, they'll give their offense a chance.