Cover 2: Hilton Head Island's Payne, Bluffton's Cribb aren't looking ahead

ccox@islandpacket.comSeptember 19, 2013 

El Paso Montwood Permian Football

EDYTA BLASZCZYK — File -- The Associated Press

Ken Cribb and B.J. Payne maintain the focus of their respective teams lies on this week's opponents, not the huge Bridge Bowl matchup that looms a week later.

But that doesn't mean we can't start to peek ahead a bit.

Hilton Head High is off to a surprising 3-0 start and Bluffton is starting to find its footing with a young team riding a recent string of success. The two teams will likely get plenty of scouting done on each other this week, as they play on two different days, which only adds to the intrigue surrounding next week's game.

The Bobcats have obviously dominated the series in recent memory, but a young Bluffton team coupled with a surging Seahawks club makes for an interesting storyline. We'll naturally talk more about that game next week, but for now, here's more on each team's Week 4 opponent:

Wade Hampton (1-2) at Hilton Head High (3-0), 7:30 p.m. Thursday

First things first: No, this wasn't some master plan by B.J. Payne to give the Seahawks an extra day to prepare for next week's Bridge Bowl.

Truth is, Hilton Head High is having more than enough fun thus far without thinking about rival Bluffton. This year's unprecedented start for the Seahawks has been well documented, and the team will try to up its early mark to 4-0 against a beatable Wade Hampton bunch Thursday in WSAV-TV's televised contest.

The Red Devils are primarily an I-formation offense that will occasionally give defenses some spread looks. They run a 4-4 defense and are a physical bunch that will test the Seahawks on both sides of the ball.

"They want to just line up, pound you and get five yards a clip," Payne said. "They're physical. We just have to test their physicality."

Hilton Head High has been plenty physical in its own right, limiting opposing offenses to 14 points per game while running roughshod over defenses thanks to the powerful legs of Khalil Lewis. The senior tailback should be OK for Friday night after suffering from sickness earlier in the week.

"It's a different look when we don't have him in there," Payne said.

Prediction: Who would have thought the Seahawks would be the unbeaten team heading into next week's Bridge Bowl? Well get ready, because it's happening. Hilton Head High 38, Wade Hampton 16.

James Island (1-3) at Bluffton (3-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday

Ken Cribb saw a hint of the better play he's been looking for last week against Ridgeland-Hardeeville. He's anxious to see even more of it Friday against James Island, the Bobcats' final leg of a three-game homestand.

"I want to see some improvement and consistency," he said. "We some some consistency last week and we saw some improvement."

That's been the basic theme of late for Bluffton, a young team that has already been saddled with significant injuries. Josh Farrell, a three-year starter along the offensive line, was the latest to go down with a concussion suffered last week. He joins a long list of players that also features DT K.J. Ford (finger), WR Vinny Boni (collarbone) and RB B.J. Hill (ankle).

"B.J. is getting there," Cribb said. "He's closing in and rehabbing hard."

Cribb is hopeful he gets some of those players back for next week's Bridge Bowl. But for now the focus remains on a James Island team that the Bobcats whipped on the road last year, a game that was not indicative of the Trojans' true talent, he said.

"We jumped on them out the gate last year," he said. "They were a lot better than that game. ... We just happened to pop them in the mouth early and jump way out front."

The Trojans operate out of the zone pistol, a formation that could provide trouble for the Bobcats' gap defense if it blows any assignments. They're a run-heavy team that will test the Bobcats' strength up front.

"They look a lot like they did last year," Cribb said. "They're physical, very athletic. The running back is a load."

Prediction: Cribb can talk up James Island all he wants, but Bluffton should be and is the better team here. The Bobcats win their third straight with a 36-12 victory over the Trojans.

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