High School Football

Week 10 preview: Whale Branch has chance to share region title

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comNovember 1, 2013 

WBH

Whale Branch Early College High School football coach Jerry Hatcher knows none of the limited playoff scenarios will result in his Warriors playing host to a Class 1-A playoff game the following week.

He has heard if the Warriors win at Region 5-A rival Allendale-Fairfax on Friday night by a certain number of points, their seeding could improve, albeit slightly.

He doesn't much care. After an 0-4 start to the season, Hatcher would be content with a victory and added momentum headed to whatever the road destination.

"I'm just excited about the opportunity to get there," Hatcher said.

Whale Branch has won four of its past five games behind a proud defense and a long-maligned offense that has found balance the past few weeks with a personnel shuffle.

With a victory Friday, the Warriors (4-5, 3-1 Region 5-A) would share the region title on paper with the Tigers, who are 4-0 in region play. The tiebreaker for seeding would go to Allendale-Fairfax.

Whale Branch could fall anywhere from No. 6-No. 8 in the Class 1-A seeding. But Hatcher has been told Whale Branch is in, regardless of Friday's outcome.

Whale Branch is positioned itself for a chance at a shared region title in part by moving Devonta Glover from quarterback to receiver and allowing sophomore Amagee Stephens to sling it at quarterback.

The result: Glover has caught two touchdown passes in each of his past two games, Stephens is comfortable in the pocket and the Whale Branch running game has been revived -- the purpose of the moves in the first place.

"We've been trying to get those guys out of the box," Hatcher said. "We want to run the football.

We're a running team. We don't pretend to be anything different."

Whale Branch also faced off with the Tigers to end the 2012 season, losing by a touchdown at home before winning at Allendale-Fairfax to open the playoffs the following week.

Hatcher said the Tigers can be counted on to run the same things but that coach Eddie Ford has a fast offensive line. Hatcher said tackling was an issue during the Warriors' victory at St. John's and that he had worked early in the week to address it.

"It looks like they've got a bunch of linebackers playing on offensive line," Hatcher said. "They get to their blocks in a hurry.

Those guys hit it, you miss a tackle and they're gone."

FRIDAY'S OTHER GAMES

Battery Creek (4-5, 3-3 Region 6-AA) at Academic Magnet (3-6, 1-5), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Battery Creek 35, Academic Magnet 28 (2012)

The skinny: Victory would secure Dolphins fourth place in Region 6-AA. Academic Magnet is home after a stretch of three road games. The Raptors' victory came at Burke on Oct. 18.

Players to watch: Battery Creek sophomore Malik Morgan threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and returned an interception for a touchdown against Burke last week. Academic Magnet RB Nate Shlosser averages 119 yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns.

Keys to the game: Battery Creek needs to cut back its penalties, an issue coach Jim Shuman said would be addressed this week. The Dolphins committed 15 penalties for 130 yards while defeating Burke. Against a better team, it could be trouble.

Fort Dorchester (6-3, 2-1 Region 8-AAAA) at Beaufort High (6-3, 1-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Fort Dorchester 49, Beaufort High 35 (2012)

The skinny: Eagles have dropped three of their past four since starting the season 5-0. In Region 8, the Patriots have beaten Bluffton and Colleton County and lost to Summerville. Fort Dorchester combined for 118 points during those two region victories.

Players to watch: Beaufort High RB Eric Blakely rushed for all three of the Eagles' touchdowns during their Week 9 loss at Ashley Ridge. Patriots QB Kobe Garrett is a dual threat who has 748 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the season. Senior RB Matt Murray leads the team with 10 touchdowns.

Keys to the game: Beaufort High worked to improve its special teams after Ashley Ridge gashed the Eagles in the return game. The Eagles are also prepared to stop the run. Three Patriots rushers have more than 500 yards on the season.

Patrick Henry (8-2, 5-1 SCISAA 8-Man Region 2) at Beaufort Academy (6-3, 5-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Patrick Henry 44, Beaufort Academy 14 (2012)

The skinny: Game will decide the SCIAA 8-Man Region 2 title. The Eagles have scored at least 30 points each of their past seven games. The Patriots have won five in a row.

Players to watch: All four of Beaufort Academy RB Reyn Robinson's touchdowns last week came from 25 yards or more. He is closing in on the 3,000-mark on the season. Patriots RB Joseph Wilson has rushed for more than 2,300 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Keys to the game: Beaufort Academy has worked on ways to hide Robinson and found different methods of using him and getting him the ball. The team might need all its tricks to cap an improbable turnaround season. The Beaufort Academy defense will have to contain Wilson, just as the Patriots will key up Robinson.

Berkeley (4-5, 2-2 Region 8-AAA) at Hilton Head High (7-2, 2-2), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Berkeley 51, Hilton Head High 32 (2012)

The skinny: The Seahawks, losers of two straight, can avoid traveling to face a No. 1 seed in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs with a win over the Stags. Hilton Head High is already locked out of a home game, after Orangeburg-Wilkinson earned the No. 2 seed out of the region last week. A victory would give the Seahawks their first eight-win season since 2008.

Players to watch: RB Khalil Lewis, who was named to the North-South Game earlier this week, should be back for the finale after missing the last two games against Orangeburg-Wilkinson and Hanahan. QB Ben Oliff, who also missed last week's contest, is questionable with a leg injury. WR Ja'Carri Aiken will be back after sitting against Hanahan with a concussion.

Keys to the game: The Seahawks are looking to shore up some blown assignments on defense, coach B.J. Payne said, and stop a Berkeley offense that interchanges four or five different players at both tailback and receiver as well as alternating between a pair of quarterbacks. Keeping the Stags on the sideline will be critical, so look for Lewis and freshman RB Tyler Hamilton to carry the Seahawks offense on the ground.

Bluffton (5-4, 1-2 Region 8-AAAA) at Colleton County (2-7, 0-3), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Bluffton 63, Colleton County 12 (2012)

The skinny: The Bobcats must win their final two Region 8-AAAA games in order to qualify for the postseason. That will start with an improved Colleton County team that is similar to Bluffton in many ways. Both teams operate out of the double-wing pistol and run a 3-4 defense.

Players to watch: Bluffton WR Vinny Boni will try to play for the first time this year after suffering a collarbone injury in the preseason. His presence could be key for a receiving corps that lost Terrance Heyward two weeks ago to a right ACL tear. Cougars QB Ramon Hall threw three touchdown passes last weekend in a loss to Summerville.

Keys to the game: The Bobcats are hoping for a similar performance to the one in last Friday's third quarter against Fort Dorchester, when Bluffton roared back from a 41-14 deficit to pull within two touchdowns. Playing smart football against a turnover-prone Colleton County team will be key, as will being smart with penalties. The Cougars have incurred nearly 250 yards in penalties over the last three games, according to the Post and Courier.

Palmetto Christian (5-2, 1-2 SCISA Region 2-AA) at Thomas Heyward Academy (7-3, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Thomas Heyward Academy 60, Palmetto Christian 28 (2012)

The skinny: A win would guarantee the Rebenls the second seed in the region, putting them on the other side of the bracket from rival Hilton Head Christian and giving them a home game.

Players to watch: The Eagles have a dual threat at quarterback in J.T. Waters, who has acccounted for more than 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns. And if he hands the ball off, RB Ryan Roe has 873 yards and 11 TDs, as well. Linebackers Seth Jones, Brodie Etheridge, Jared Rountree and Zach Belger will be counted on to slow the Eagles' rushing game.

Keys to the game: For Nic Shuford's Rebels, the best defense against the Eagles may be a good offense. "We need to score as many as we can while using as much clock as we can," Shuford said. "We're defeinitely going to have to score points because they're going to get theirs." On defense, the trick is to pressure and contain Waters at the same time. "I haven't seen a whole lot of people have success," Shuford said.

Bishop England (7-2, 6-0 Region 5-AA) at Ridgeland-Hardeeville (6-3, 5-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: Bishop England 41, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 8 (2012)

The skinny: They have their work cut out for them, but Jaguars win would likely create a three-way tie for the region championship. It would be the first region title for a Jasper County school since 1996. Ridgeland-Hardeeville has already wrapped up a playoff spot, but with the scenarios complicated, the Jaguars could be anywhere from a fourth to a sixth seed. Coach Blake Raley has mapped out all the possibilities and feels "pretty confident" they'll host a playoff game.

Players to watch: For the Bishops, senior RB Nick Shiver is the engine that makes the team go. He has 1,153 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on just 89 carries this season. "The kid can tote the mail," Raley said. For the Jaguars, QB D.J. Myers is still the key on offense. The first Jasper County quarterback to throw for more than 1,000 yards since the mid-90s, he must make good decisions and protect the football.

Keys to the game: Raley believes Bishop England's front three on defense wil be the best his team has seen all year. And the Bishops also have tremendous speed on the edges. But for the first time in several weeks, the Jaguars will be healthy on the offensive line. According to Raley, the game will come down to what the Jaguars can do on defense. "If we don't stop their option," Raley said, "it's going to be a long night."

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