The high school sports landscape in Beaufort transformed with the opening of Whale Branch Early College High School two years ago.
Rivalries shifted or were shelved. New rivalries were formed.
Tonight offers a taste of the new.
Battery Creek High School, which lost much of its enrollment with the opening of Whale Branch, will travel tonight to play its new rival for the first time on the football field.
"We came from Battery Creek," Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher said. "It's going to be a rivalry. They're aware Battery Creek is coming over here to hit them. We're hoping we can match that intensity."
The Class 2-A Dolphins were dropped from longtime rival Beaufort High School's schedule after the 2011 season, a move meant to boost the Eagles' playoff stature and end the recent lopsided nature of the rivalry. Battery Creek, which survived two seasons in Class 3-A, now faces a schedule of teams closer to its size.
Hatcher, on staff at Beaufort High during the Eagles' recent stretch of success against the Dolphins, said Battery Creek looks stronger than it has in past seasons.
"I told the kids, 'That's probably the best Battery Creek team I've seen in four or five years, at least,' " he said. "We're going to have to be ready to play."
In addition to the familiarity among opposing players, the teams also run a similar split-back offensive scheme, with the Dolphins running more option. And both are aggressive on defense, with Hatcher running a 4-4 and the Dolphins having switched this season to a 3-5 look to better fit their linebackers.
Whale Branch (1-1) is coming off probably the biggest victory in the program's brief history, a 29-28 win at Hilton Head Island High. Battery Creek (0-1) dropped its opener to Estill in Week 1.
Despite the rough start, Battery Creek coach Jim Shuman said players responded well this week.
"We've been working hard on the fundamentals that we did wrong," he said. "Great attitude, great film study -- I think we definitely prepared well for this week."
Both teams will have to overcome early injuries.
The Dolphins will be without senior offensive lineman Justin Frazier, who injured his knee Tuesday during practice and is out indefinitely. Shuman said the injury was at least a dislocated kneecap and that Frazier might have suffered ligament damage.
Frazier was a key to the Dolphins' run game. He will be replaced by converted defensive lineman Michael Harbin and sophomore Toby Beall.
In addition to Frazier, the Dolphins could be without senior running back Deandre Johnson, whose hand injury during the loss to Estill progressively worsened this week.
"Both of those guys are our team captains," Shuman said. "Justin is such an emotional leader, too. It's definitely a blow to the team, kind of let the air out of the balloon in practice when they realized he got hurt."
Whale Branch will again be without lineman P.M. Israel, who is recovering from a shoulder injury. Hatcher said lineman Pop McKee is limited by a high ankle sprain.
Warriors wide receiver and defensive back Chavone Simmons underwent surgery on an injured ankle this week and is out at least six weeks, Hatcher said.
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
South Effingham (0-0) at Bluffton (2-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: South Effingham 49, Bluffton 20 (2005)
The skinny: Bluffton faces its most difficult task to date in the early season, as it hosts the Class 4-A Georgia school. The Bobcats, who have averaged 58.5 points per game through their first two contests, haven't faced South Effingham in seven years.
Players to watch: Mustangs RB Josh Mercer, a three-star prospect according to Yahoo! Sports, is the key to the South Effingham offense. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound back holds offers from Florida, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Tennessee and Wake Forest, according to the recruiting service. Bluffton will look toward LBs Jaquan Campbell, Liam Finn and Michael Meyerink to bring down the speedy back. The trio combined for 44 stops and 10 tackles for loss in the Bobcats' first two games.
Keys to the game: It's almost a foregone conclusion that the Bobcats will continue to have success offensively, so the task will fall to the Bluffton defense to slow down the Mustangs' rushing attack. Mercer, who ran for 1,354 yards last season while scoring 20 touchdowns, is the heart of the South Effingham offense. Stopping him likely will mean Bluffton starts 3-0 for the third consecutive year.
Aiken (0-1) at Beaufort High (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort High 24, Aiken 7 (2007)
The skinny: Aiken lost to rival Silver Bluff 14-13 in Week 1. The Hornets run a Wing-T offense. The Eagles' 37-0 loss at Wando in Week 1 marked the first time Beaufort High had been shut out since the 2006 season.
Players to watch: Beaufort High WR Thomas Parker is healthy this week and should contribute. RB Josh Roberts is also full strength. Aiken RB Gabe Green carried 12 times for 66 yards in Week 1, according to The Augusta Chronicle, including a 31-yard TD run.
Keys to the game: Control the ground game. Five Hornets RBs combined to run for 210 yards in Week 1. The Eagles will have to play assignment football against the deceptive Wing-T. After Wando's outburst in Week 1, Beaufort High's defense has the chance to regain its confidence.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (0-1) at Hilton Head Island High (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: Both teams enter Week 2 looking to register their first wins of the season, as the Jaguars were dropped last week by Bluffton, 67-0, while the Seahawks suffered a 29-28 upset loss to Whale Branch. The two schools have spent the last few days taking the necessary steps toward a better showing tonight.
Players to watch: Jaguar RBs Deovonte Doe and Marquis Griffin struggled to get going against the Bobcats and will look for an improved performance against the Seahawks. Ridgeland-Hardeeville managed just two first downs against Bluffton and ran for just five yards on 31 carries. Hilton Head High DT Kaylon Ford, who picked up his first offer from Toledo on Tuesday, will look to extend the Jaguars' offensive woes. The 6-foot, 265-pound lineman had 13 stops, four tackles for loss and a sack last week against the Warriors.
Keys to the game: The Jaguars will need a better performance offensively if they hope to put a check mark in the win column. Ridgeland-Hardeeville threw just twice against Bluffton, one of which was incomplete while the other went for an interception. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are looking to clean things up from a week ago. They fumbled three times, had a pair of untimely bad snaps and were penalized 12 times for 93 yards.
Laurence Manning (2-0) at Hilton Head Prep (1-0), 5 p.m.
The skinny: Prep faces arguably its toughest task of the season as the Dolphins welcome a Class 3-A SCISAA program that features a roster twice as large as coach Kevin Wald's team. Prep jumpstarted its season with a thrilling 15-14 road victory over Colleton Prep Academy in Week 1. The Swampcats, meanwhile, rolled Cardinal Newman, 31-7.
Players to watch: Speedy RB Tyshawn Epps led the Swampcats last week with 177 yards and four touchdowns on 14 carries, according to The State. The Dolphins will attempt to slow down Epps with LB Austin Baker and Teron Dailey, who combined for 29 tackles in last week's victory. Dailey added 110 yards of total offense to go along with his 12 tackles.
Keys to the game: Conditioning will be key for the Dolphins, who feature just 21 players on the roster while the Swampcats have 41 players, according to MaxPreps.com, few who play both ways. Wald hopes Prep's ground attack can keep the Dolphins fresh while also keeping his team into the game heading to the fourth quarter.
Thomas Heyward (2-0) at Calhoun Academy (1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Thomas Heyward 46, Calhoun Academy 35 (2007)
The skinny: A non-region opponent, Calhoun Academy is coming off a season that saw it go 2-3 in SCISAA Region 1-AA and 3-7 overall. It's hard to tell anything from the Cavaliers' opener, a 45-0 thrashing of Region 2-A Laurens Academy, which played 8-man football last season. The Rebels beat Region 1-A Bible Baptist 40-14 last week after downing Class 3-A Orangeburg Prep 14-6 in their opener.
Players to watch: As usual, The Rebels' offense goes as far as quarterback JD Tuten and running back Ryan Day take them. The pair have combined for 544 yards rushing and five touchdowns through two games. For Calhoun Academy, junior wingback Griffin Creekmore carried the ball eight times last week for 204 yards and two scores, while senior defensive back Rett Davis tallied 11 tackles.
Keys to the game: Thomas Heyward coach Nic Shuford said the Rebels' main issue is still consistency on offense. "Across the board, we need to execute more consistently." Defensively, the Rebels must slow the Cavaliers' three-headed rushing attack -- their top three backs combined for 366 yards last week.
Ridge Christian (0-2) at Beaufort Academy (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort Academy 66, Ridge Christian 6 (2010)
The skinny: The Paladins have allowed 126 points in their two losses to open the season, a loss at James Island Christian and a setback at home to Greenwood Christian. This is the home opener for Beaufort Academy, which lost 40-6 last week at Jefferson Davis Academy.
Players to watch: Eagles eighth-grader Gavin Palmer tallied 6 1/2 tackles and a fumble recovery during his team's opener. Senior Bryan Strawn finished with 7 1/2 tackles in Week 1.
Keys to the game: Beaufort Academy needs to tighten up the loose ends after Week 1. Special teams miscues and a turnover led to an insurmountable halftime deficit. The Eagles should have a good chance at victory in Week 2 if they eliminate the early jitters.