Since arriving at Beaufort High School in 2004, football coach Mark Clifford has convened his seniors for regular meetings.
It's a tradition he learned while playing tight end at Clemson under Danny Ford.
"We'll meet about once a week and get together and talk about little stuff, give them some leadership of the program," Clifford said. "My little connection to the football team is discussing little things here and there, just like a board meeting."
After the 2011 season, the meetings with the current group of seniors included the Eagles' disappointment in missing the playoffs for the first time in Clifford's eight seasons. The 5-6 record also marked Clifford's first losing season at Beaufort High.
While coaches and players are hungry to erase the memory, the topic won't come up again, Clifford said. Everyone knows what is on the table and the path to get there.
"Hopefully, by the end of the season, we'll be in the playoffs again," senior safety Zach Brown said. "Because last year was a disappointment. We all want to be there."
Beaufort High's task includes an intriguing schedule. The Eagles won't play rival Battery Creek High School for the first time in decades. Nor will they face Hilton Head Island High School. Instead, the schedule is stacked with opponents favorable to the S.C. High School League's playoff points system -- Class 4-A schools Aiken, Cane Bay and Carolina Forest are now on the schedule, as well as Groves, which plays in Georgia's Class 5-A, the highest classification in the state.
Realignment means the Eagles will also play another new 4-A opponent, Bluffton High School.
"It's the same football," Beaufort High quarterback Ben Vaigneur said. "We're going to play our game. Just different teams."
Vaigneur, a junior, takes over the quarterback role from graduated Alex Gregory. Vaigneur's style more closely resembles former Beaufort High quarterback Beau Brown, now at Clemson.
Vaigneur will roll out of the pocket and be asked to run the option.
"Ben's taken control pretty well," said Zach Brown, Beau's younger brother. "He's running around doing his thing."
The Eagles are also running around well on defense, Vaigneur said.
Eagles defensive coordinator Andy Smyth, starting his first season in the post, is running a 4-4 scheme similar to former Beaufort High defensive leader Jerry Hatcher. The Eagles have worked on changing looks up front and executing new stunts, senior Clint Wright has led the linebackers and Brown, once a linebacker, has made the transition to safety to lead a young group of defensive backs coached by Ron Walker.
"It's coming together slowly, but it's coming together," Wright said.
The Eagles' more difficult schedule starts with four home games the first five weeks. The team travels to Wando on Friday.
Beaufort High won't play an opponent lower than Class 4-A for the first time in Clifford's tenure. Road trips to Goose Creek, Bluffton and Fort Dorchester will test the Eagles.
Emerging with a Class 4-A playoff berth is the goal, just not a topic of conversation.
"That's going to come," Clifford said. "Let's take care of one game at a time first, and once we get there, we've got something to prove in that aspect of the season."
Stadium: Eagles Field
Region: Region 8-AAAA
Coach (years at school): Mark Clifford (Ninth year, 70-25)
2011 results: 5-6, 2-2 Region 8-AAAA
Key losses: WR Jordan Broussard, WR Luke Smith, RB D'Vonta Cohen, QB Alex Gregory, OL Rob Dennis, LB Malik Maldonado, P/K Kyle Clark, K Mitchell Stewart, DB Davonte Green, DB Akeem Smalls, DL DeEndre Jefferson-Fields
Top returning starters: RB JaClay Mixon, OL Caleb Gee, TE Stephen Baggett, DL James Ginn, LB Clint Wright
Key newcomers: K Brady Cormier, P Jordan Bates
Date Opponent W/L Score
Aug. 26 HILTON HEAD HIGH W 54-0
Sept. 2 BATTERY CREEK W 62-6
Sept. 9 FORT DORCHESTER L 49-45
Sept. 16 at Stratford L 21-14
Sept. 23 WEST ASHLEY W 13-0
Sept. 30 at James Island L 22-21
Oct. 7 at Wando L 43-21
Oct. 14 ASHLEY RIDGE L 35-31
Oct. 21 at Colleton County W 21-7
Oct. 28 at Summerville W 17-7
Nov. 4 GOOSE CREEK L 31-19
HOME GAMES in CAPS
Note: All games start at 7:30 p.m.
Friday at Wando
Aug. 31 AIKEN
Sept. 7 GROVES
Sept. 14 CANE BAY
Sept. 21 CAROLINA FOREST
Sept. 28 at Goose Creek
Oct. 5 at Bluffton*
Oct. 12 SUMMERVILLE*
Oct. 19 ASHLEY RIDGE*
Oct. 26 at Fort Dorchester*
Nov. 1 at Colleton County*
HOME GAME in CAPS *Region opponent
Players to watch
Offense: Tyler Wilson, OL
Wilson did not start as a junior, but has turned into a force on a unit coach Mark Clifford said will lead the offense. Wilson, a heavyweight on the wrestling team, will play left tackle. "He's a beast," Clifford said. "He loves the game. He's a very mature kid now, very serious-minded."
Defense: Clint Wright, LB
The Eagles need a high-energy guy to replace leading tackler Maliek Maldonado, and Wright appears up for the job. Quarterback Ben Vaigneur, who faces the Eagles' defense each day in practice, said Wright had emerged as a leader of the group. Wright was second on the team in 2011, with 59 tackles, including five tackles for loss.
Three keys to the season
2012 Roster (in numerical order)
No. Name Position Height Weight Class
1 Chris Tealey WR 5-9 166 Sr.
2 James Ginn DL 6-2 293 Sr.
3 Kimani Carpenter DB 5-8 135 Sr.
5 Josh Roberts RB 5-11 168 Jr.
6 Jordan Clegg DB 5-10 154 Jr.
7 TJ Watts LB 6-0 187 Jr.
8 Eric Blakely LB 5-8 170 Jr.
9 AJ Smalls DB 5-8 160 Jr.
10 Michael Dickson WR 6-0 145 Soph.
11 Shuler Black QB 5-10 135 Soph.
12 Keaton Butler WR 5-2 113 Soph.
13 Ronald Moore DB 5-3 122 Sr.
14 Ben Vaigneur QB 5-10 175 Jr.
15 Ron Heyward DB 5-8 148 Sr.
17 Thomas Parker WR 6-4 195 Sr.
18 Zach Brown DB 5-10 172 Sr.
20 Javon Dudley RB 5-8 156 Soph.
21 JaClay Mixon RB 5-8 162 Sr.
24 Jason Senn LB 5-7 167 Soph.
25 Kareem Robinson RB 5-10 173 Sr.
27 Sheldon Smith DB 5-10 160 Soph.
30 Malcolm Simmons LB 5-9 166 Soph.
32 Deontaye Singleton RB 5-6 182 Sr.
33 Mitchell Newstler TE 6-0 182 Jr.
34 Brady Cormier K 5-9 136 Soph.
35 Josh Velluci DB 5-10 154 Sr.
40 Shaquille Chisolm DB 5-11 157 Jr.
41 Brandon Blackmon DB 5-11 162 Sr.
42 Jonathan Hill DL 6-0 180 Jr.
44 Clint Wright LB 5-11 215 Sr.
50 Shaun Harley LB 5-11 182 Jr.
51 Andrew Smyth OL 6-0 208 Soph.
54 Tanner Powell OL 6-5 251 Sr.
56 Cooper McCormick LB 5-10 162 Jr.
57 Tyler Clancy LB 5-6 169 Soph.
58 Tyler Wilson OL 6-1 254 Sr.
59 Tyler Rentz OL 5-11 190 Soph.
60 Mike Rentz OL 6-0 205 Jr.
61 Alex Mahala LB 5-8 151 Jr.
62 Jake Harris DL 6-1 194 Jr.
68 Howard Graham DL 5-7 244 Jr.
69 Caleb Gee OL 6-2 284 Sr.
71 Hunter Adkins OL 6-3 278 Jr.
72 Kentrell Seabrook DL 6-1 247 Jr.
73 Schaffer Jenkins OL 5-10 271 Jr.
74 Alex Copeland OL 6-4 253 Jr.
76 Bryan Wiggers OL 6-4 246 Sr.
80 Stephen Baggett TE 6-4 205 Jr.
81 Jordan Bates P 6-1 150 Soph.
82 Tyler Hatfield DL 6-0 203 Sr.
84 Devin Stedman WR 6-1 165 Soph.
87 Andrew Jewzewski DL 5-11 197 Soph.
89 Shykeem Gardner DL 6-5 195 Sr.