High School Football

Week 1 preview: Hilton Head High faces Whale Branch looking to end opener drought

Warriors took down Seahawks last year

ccox@islandpacket.com, sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comAugust 29, 2013 

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Hilton Head Island High School likely will rely on running back Kahlil Lewis to provide an offensive spark in Friday's season opener against Whale Branch.

SARAH WELLIVER — File -- The Island Packet

There has been little talk inside the Hilton Head Island High locker room about last year's season-opening upset loss to Class 1-A Whale Branch Early College High School.

"There hasn't been much discussion," coach B.J. Payne said. "Except for scouting reports and film on the kids."

Truth be told, the Seahawks have much bigger problems to worry about than revenge against the Warriors, who host Hilton Head High at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Payne's team is too busy trying to figure out its own identity, as his group continues to break in several new players at key positions, including quarterback.

Junior Aiden Hegarty will make his first career start under center, as the dual threat signal-caller managed to beat out senior Ben Oliff in a spirited preseason battle. The two may still split time if necessary, Payne said, but the plan for now is for Oliff to instead man his bandit safety position full-time.

"If we have to mix it up and we have to go with (Oliff) for a chance, then that's what we'll do," Payne said. "(But) Aiden's prepared well. Both of them have prepared well."

The Warriors are trying to regroup after a 44-0 loss to Bluffton High School in Week Zero. The Warriors worked on ball security, special teams and blocking assignments, coach Jerry Hatcher said.

"Our blocking scheme is so simple, we shouldn't miss those assignments," Hatcher said.

Payne is hoping his team can find some sort of rhythm offensively against the Warriors (0-1), who will look to stop the run early. Senior tailback Khalil Lewis -- who ran for a school record 1,703 yards in 2012 -- will lead the way for the Seahawks as he tries to carry an offense that will be without starting receiver Jordan Rozek for the opener. The junior has missed the last two scrimmages with a knee injury.

"We've got to avoid three and outs, because three and outs will kill us and kill our defense," Payne said.

The Warriors are wary of Lewis. And Hatcher said his offensive linemen would need to locate defensive tackle Poona Ford.

He said he was pleased with how well Class 1-A Whale Branch matched up physically with 4-A Bluffton last week.

The Seahawks are well aware that Whale Branch is capable of pulling the upset. The Warriors showed that a season ago, when they spoiled Payne's debut thanks to Nyles Pinckney's blocked extra point late in the fourth quarter, preserving a 29-28 victory. Hilton Head High plans to be on high alert this time as it hopes to win its first season opener since 1999.

"They're a good, well-coached team and they're going to play hard," Payne said. "They're going to test you physically."

Hilton Head High season openers

Season openers have not been very kind to Hilton Head High in recent years. Since a three-game winning streak in season openers against Jasper County from 1995-1997, the Seahawks have gone 1-14 since, including 13 consecutive losses dating back to 1999.

2012: Whale Branch, L 29-28

2011: at Bluffton, L 76-0

2010: Bluffton, L 39-0

2009: at Beaufort High, L 27-7

2008: Beaufort High, L 22-19

2007: at Beaufort High, L 37-17

2006: Beaufort High, L 31-0

2005: at Stratford, L 59-0

2004: Stratford, L 34-0

2003: at Stratford, L 45-6

2002: Stratford, L 51-17

2001: at Wando, L 30-24

2000: Wando, L 23-21

1999: at Goose Creek, W 26-21

1998: Goose Creek, L 23-21

TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES

Wando (1-0) at Beaufort High (0-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Wando 37, Beaufort High 0 (2012)

The skinny: Wando lost six starters on offense, according to The Post and Courier, including all-state quarterback Christian Hart and receiver Rudder Brown, a North-South selection. The Warriors finished 10-1 during the 2012 regular season. Wando defeated James Island 39-12 in Week 0.

Players to watch: Beaufort High TE Stephen Baggett should be a bigger part of the offense this season. The senior is committed to East Carolina. Eagles' WR Jawan Mack has big-play capability. Wando OL Nolan Kelleher committed to Florida earlier this month.

Keys to the game: The Eagles will have to stop Wando RB Kenning Waring, a speedy sophomore. Waring rushed for three touchdowns during the Week 0 victory, including a 43-yard score.

Bluffton (1-0) at South Effingham, 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: 35-8 Bluffton (2012)

The skinny: The Bobcats will be playing without two of their veteran leaders in RB B.J. Hill (ankle) and DE Shameik Blackshear (shoulder). Bluffton hopes to wrap up a two-game road trip to start the season on a positive note before next week's home opener against A.C. Flora. The Bobcats are 17-0 under coach Ken Cribb in August and September. South Effingham opens its season following a surprising run to the Georgia state quarterfinals in 2012.

Players to watch: Junior DE Julien Lee is slated to start in place of Blackshear while freshman super back DeQuandre Smalls will likely replace Hill. Look for DT K.J. Ford and QB Alex Davis to shoulder the load in their absence. For South Effingham, sophomore Tyler Pullen takes over this season at quarterback.

Keys to the game: Penalties plagued the Bobcats in last week's win at Whale Branch, and Cribb is hoping to find a fine line between playing smart football and still allowing his defense to maintain its aggressive edge. How they respond to a South Effingham offense playing without several of its notable playmakers from a season ago, including N.C. State tailback Josh Mercer, may dictate the outcome. Bluffton will also be counting on its depth to make up for the loss of Hill and Blackshear, who may be out next week as well.

Battery Creek (0-0) at Estill (1-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Esill 34, Battery Creek 21 (2012)

The skinny: Estill won at Windsor Forest 34-13 in Week Zero. The Gators have won two of the past three meetings. Battery Creek is without starting QB Rocky Smalls for an indefinite number of weeks due to knee injury. Malik Morgan will start in his place.

Players to watch: Battery Creek RB/LB Yuneek Crittendon is the big-play guy for the Dolphins. He will do a little bit of everything Friday night. Estill RB Jarvis Singleton ran for more than 1,300 yards in 2012. He had 106 yards and a touchdown during the Week 0 victory.

Keys to the game: Battery Creek's luck turned before the regular season began, losing Smalls and starting OL Paul Sanchez and Alex Nelson. The Dolphins' platooning backups will have to adapt to running less option, work their play action and find big targets in WR Eric Freeman and TE Isaiah Sloan.

Bible Baptist (1-0) at Thomas Heyward (0-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Thomas Heyward 40, Bible Baptist 14 (2012)

The skinny: Thomas Heyward struggled to move the ball on offense in a 35-7 Week Zero loss to SCISAA 3-A Orangeburg Prep. The Rebels are trying to replace their top three playmakers from a year ago on offense. Also, senior OL/DL Michael Humbert is out with a broken hand.

Players to watch: The Rebels need QB Davis Owens to get it going if their offense if to keep them in the game. For the defending SCISAA 1-A state champion Braves, senior QB Keynnard Campbell is the center of attention. Last year, he accounted for nearly 5,000 yards of offense and 58 TDs. In Week Zero's 60-6 win over St. Andrew's, Campbell completed 13 of 22 passes for 311 yards and four TDs and rushed 15 times for 202 yards and four more TDs.

Keys to the game: The Rebels have to find a way for their young defense to stop Campbell. "(The Braves) spread you out and let him do his thing," Thomas Heyward coach Nic Shuford said. "Without a doubt, we're going to have a hard time covering perople and trying to contain hm at the same time. When he runs around, from side to side, it's hard to cover people for that long." Shuford said the Rebels' offensive performance is as important as their defense if they are to win. "We've got to put some drives together on offense," Shuford said. "We've got to control the ball -- we had three-and-outs all night (last week). We've got to put long, sustained drives together and eat up the clock."

Colleton Prep (1-0) at Hilton Head Prep, 5 p.m.

Last meeting: 15-14 Hilton Head Prep (2012)

The skinny: The Dolphins open up the second year of the coach Kevin Wald era at home against the War Hawks, who opened their season with a 15-7 victory over Dillon Christian last week. Prep hopes to build on an encouraging 5-5 record in 2012 with a roster nearly doubled in size.

Players to watch: RB/LB Teron Daley is the unequivocal leader of the Dolphins this season and looks to carry the load on the ground for Wald and Co. Sophomore Tyler Fox takes over at quarterback in the hopes of lessening the burden on Daley in the run game. RB Will Carter led Colleton Prep to a win in Week 0 with 87 rushing yards, a touchdown and two-point conversion on 19 carries, according to The Colleton Today.

Keys to the game: Colleton Prep has just 17 players on its roster, nearly half that of the Dolphins. Wald's team will look to wear down the War Hawks by halftime with a strong running game and stout defense. The Prep defense must play assignment football against the War Hawks' wishbone offense, which has incorporated the pass more this year under first-year head coach Ryan Bishop.

Jefferson Davis (0-1) at Beaufort Academy (1-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Jefferson Davis 40, Beaufort Academy 6 (2012)

The skinny: Beaufort Academy won its opener, a victory at Twiggs Academy shortened to a half by lighning. Jefferson Davis lost to King Academy 46-0.

Players to watch: Eagles senior RB Reyn Robinson started his final high school season with three touchdowns in two quarters. He rushed for 195 yards on six carries.

Keys to the game: Beaufort Academy will have to find a way to move the ball better than it did the most recent time the teams met. The Eagles drove inside the Jefferson Davis 20 only once during the loss. But on defense, they won't have to deal with graduated running back Trent Garvin, who piled up almost 300 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns

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