Week 4 Preview: Beaufort High embracing underdog role

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 20, 2013 

During a football team dinner Thursday in the Beaufort High School cafeteria, team chalplain Dan Russell told the Eagles their first three opponents had overlooked them because of their size.

He reminded them of the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, told them that David's brothers had laughed at him when he left to face the giant.

Beaufort High is embracing the underdog role as it tries to improve to 4-0 on Friday at Cane Bay. The Eagles, coming off of consecutive seasons without reaching the Class 4-A playoffs, are 3-0 for the first time since 2009.

The successful start has helped morale, Eagles coach Mark Clifford said.

"You can look around in this meal right here and see how we get along," he said.

Cane Bay will provide a good measure of where the Eagles stand. The Cobras are 0-3, but their losses were at Summerville and Berkeley and at home to Fort Dorchester.

Cane Bay has moved away from a more conventional offense and is running out of the pistol formation and spreading the field.

"I'm actually glad to see it, because they were pretty good at what they did last year," Clifford said.

The Eagles have prepared for a close game, working their two-point conversions, defensive stands and onside kicks.

Clifford said he was pleased with his offense's execution after a 35-0 victory at Groves last week, saying senior quarterback Ben Vaigneur playd his best game.

Tight end Stephen Baggett remains his favorite target, with three touchdowns through three games. Clifford has moved Baggett around -- lining him up tight, wide in the slot and in motion -- to put more pressure on defenses, something he expects Cane Bay to have seen.

The Eagles are preparing other options.

"(Keaton) Butler is getting better," Clifford said. "We haven't thrown to our backs out of the backfield yet, but we worked on that this week."

The game at Cane Bay is the third of a four-game road trip, ending next week at Carolina Forest.

The Eagles' defense has not allowed a point through the first two games on the road, its last score allowed coming to Wando during the third quarter of its season opener.

Clifford said additional conditioning and fewer days hitting has allowed the defense to remain fresh with players on both sides of the ball.

"That was our main objective this year is more effort and more running to the ball," he said. "The kids have done a pretty good job of that. We really can notice a lot on film."

TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES

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

Last meeting: Bluffton 50, James Island 10 (2012)

The skinny: The Bobcats close out a three-game home stint before hitting the road next week for the annual Bridge Bowl against Hilton Head High. Bluffton has won both home games this season, as the team edged A.C. Flora in overtime before blowing out Ridgeland-Hardeeville.

Players to watch: Bluffton WR Terrance Heyward saw his first action at a position other than quarterback last week and responded with three catches for 104 yards and a pair of scores. Look for him out wide again this week against a James Island defense that gave up 56 points last week to Georgetown. DE Shameik Blackshear had his first breakout game of the season against the Jaguars, notching two sacks, and will be tasked with shutting down a formidable Trojans ground game.

Keys to the game: Bluffton jumped on James Island quickly in last year's blowout victory, a game coach Ken Cribb said was not indicative of the talent the Trojans had. Another quick start would do the Bobcats well as their young team continues to learn each week. Cribb is also looking for more consistent play from his offense, he said.

Battery Creek (1-2) at Garrett Academy Tech (3-0), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Battery Creek 39, Garrett Academy Tech 18 (2012)

The skinny: Region 6-AA opener for Battery Creek. The Dolphins rushed for a season-high 338 yards during a Week 3 loss at Hilton Head Island High School. Garrett Academy has wins at Lincoln and at home against Stall and Military Magnet.

Players to watch: Sophomore RB Tyrone Dilbert continues to give the Dolphins a counter punch to senior Yuneek Crittendon. Dilbert scored on a 79-yard run at Hilton Head High. Crittendon led the way with 181 yards and a score.

Keys to the game: Battery Creek was shut out during the second half at Hilton Head High, a week after it had shut down Whale Branch for four quarters. "We've got to improve some second-half things," Dolphins coach Jim Shuman said after the loss to the Seahawks. "We've got to come out better." The Dolphins held the Falcons scoreless during the second half of their 2012 victory, which ended a stretch of 13 consecutive losses for the Battery Creek program.

Denmark-Olar (0-4) at Whale Branch (0-4), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Denmark-Olar 27, Whale Branch 6 (2012)

The skinny: Both teams are searching for win No. 1 as they begin the Region 5-A schedule. The Warriors lost at Denmark-Olar last season after consecutive wins against Hilton Head High and Battery Creek. The unexpected result ultimately cost Whale Branch a home playoff game.

Players to watch: Whale Branch junior Eziekl Carter moved to safety and recorded eight tackles at Wade Hampton in Week 3. Sophomore Nyles Pinckney continues to lead the Warriors' defense with 28 tackles, including eight for loss.

Keys to the game: Mistakes continue to plague the Warriors, but coach Jerry Hatcher wants his team to build on the improved play at Wade Hampton. "There was a lot of positives out of the game," Hatcher said. "That was the first game this year I saw more positives than I saw negatives. We're going to try to build off that."

Cathedral Academy (2-1) at Beaufort Academy (2-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Cathedral Academy 56, Beaufort Academy 14 (2012)

The skinny: Cathedral is coming off victories against Charleston Collegiate and St. John's. The Generals are averaging 53 points per game through three games. The Eagles average 27.3.

Players to watch: Beaufort Academy defensive back Clay Melville leads the Eagles with 21 tackles. Cathedral junior running back Christian Rogers rushed for 21 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards as a sophomore.

Keys to the game: Eagles coach Brock Vaigneur wanted his defense to force turnovers. He knew it was a must to slow the better offenses in eight-man football. And during a victory over Faith Christian in Week 3, Jack Dailey and William Gallant each had two interceptions. More of the same will be needed to knock off Cathedral Academy.

Palmetto Christian (2-1) at Hilton Head Prep (2-1), 4:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Palmetto Christian 46, Hilton Head Prep 32 (2012)

The skinny: The Dolphins open up region play at home against a Palmetto Christian squad that has been an offensive force for the most part this season. Prep is riding high following an upset win over undefeated Bible Baptist last week.

Players to watch: RB J.T. Waters leads a Palmetto Christian team that averages a whopping 352 yards per game on the ground. The senior headlines the group, as he has rushed for 657 yards and 12 touchdowns for a team that has scored 62 and 78 points in its victories this season. LBs Logan Mallet and Teron Daley -- who have tallied 33 and 32 tackles, respectively -- will try to slow down the PCA ground attack.

Keys to the game: Which team does a better job of stopping the run will determine this one. Both offenses feature the ground game as the focal point, and the defense that has more success will more than likely seal the victory.

Northwood Academy (2-1) at Hilton Head Christian (1-2), 7 p.m.

Last meeting: Hilton Head Christian 53, Northwood Academy 37 (2012)

The skinny: The Eagles are looking to get back to .500 following a thrilling 29-28 win over Dorchester Academy last week. This is the first region game of the season for Hilton Head Christian, which went undefeated in league play a season ago.

Players to watch: DB Ryan Barrett sealed the Eagles first victory last week with an interception on Dorchester Academy's final drive. He could notch a few more this week, as Charger QB Will Lloyd has thrown for eight interceptions against just two touchdowns so far this season. Eagles RB Deo'Vonte Doe, who scored three touchdowns last Friday, will lead the way against a defense that surrendered 50 points last week to Florence Christian.

Keys to the game: The running game has been the most effective part of the Eagles team through three games and will likely help lead to a second victory Friday night. Getting some stops on defense against a turnover-prone quarterback will go a long way in keeping this game from being close.

Burke (0-3) at Ridgeland-Hardeeville (1-3), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Ridgeland-Hardeeville 33, Burke 12 (2012)

The skinny: The Jaguars are coming off two beatings at the hands of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, both from higher classifications, and are looking to get back in the win column.

Players to watch: The weight of the offense stays heavy on the shoulders of Jaguars QB D.J. Myers with running back Marquis Griffin out with a groin injury.

Keys to the game: Coach Blake Raley is hopeful the Jaguars can gain some confidence in their first conferece game. He says Ridgeland-Hardeeville isn't where it should be entering region play, but starting the conference schedule 1-0 could really help the season.

Robert E. Lee (2-2) at Thomas Heyward Academy (2-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Thomas Heyward Academy 55, Robert E. Lee 0 (2012)

The skinny: The Rebels won easy last week against Colleton Prep to get to .500 after an ugly 0-2 start. This is their chance to get ahead in the win column.

Players to watch: Despite the Rebels' slow start, QB Davis Owens and WR Seth Jones have emerged as one of the area's top pass-and-catch tandems.

Keys to the game: As long as the young Rebels defense continues to improve and its offensive line continues to come together, Thomas Heyward should have more than enough weapons on offense to outscore the Cavaliers.

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