Cover 2: It's now or never for Bluffton

ccox@islandpacket.comNovember 1, 2013 

The Bluffton football team is in do-or-die mode. The Bobcats must win both of their final two games to even have a shot at the Class 4-A playoffs. Even then, it may not be enough with the lack of points the team accumulated in its non-region schedule.

Hilton Head Island High, however, still has some postseason jockeying to do. Despite losing two straight, and the Region 8-AAA championship in the process, the Seahawks can avoid facing a No. 1 seed in next week's first-round playoff game and assure the team its first eight-win season since 2008.

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

The Bobcats are going to have to beat both Colleton County and region favorite Summerville to have a chance at cracking the postseason. But the Bobcats will worry about the latter next week.

The focus now is on an improved Colleton County team which looks a whole lot like the Bluffton team coach Ken Cribb guides.

"They're similiar to us," he said. "The run a lot of double-wing out of the pistol. We'll be more familiar with them than anybody else, because of the similiarities between the two teams. They also run the 3-4."

That could be good news for Bluffton, which is desperate for a win after falling last week at Fort Dorchester, 62-34. But it won't be easy against a Cougars bunch that snapped a 36-game losing streak this year after beating Wando.

"They've had some success this season," Cribb said. "They've competed well and had a couple wins. They're looking at these last two games as a chance to get in (to the playoffs)."

Bluffton hopes to counter any Colleton County momentum with senior wide receiver Vinny Boni, who will try to suit up for the first time this season after suffering a collarbone injury in the preseason. His presence could be magnified after the Bobcats lost Terrance Heyward to an ACL tear two weeks ago.

Prediction: Despite the struggles Bluffton has endured this season, it should be talented enough to get by an improved Colleton County team that is still rebuilding. The Bobcats set up a key regular season finale next week against Summerville with an essential 35-20 victory over the Cougars.

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

The Seahawks return home for their regular season finale after a trying two-game road stretch that saw Hilton Head High get blown out by the top two teams in region play.

But coach B.J. Payne and Co. can get back some positive momentum before next week's Class 3-A playoff opener. A win over the Stags would allow the Seahawks to avoid the No. 1, which will likely be unbeaten Socastee.

"There's a huge difference in that," Payne said. "So we want to gradually keep making progress. Our record is going to be better this year than it was last year. We want a higher seed this year than last year."

To do that, the Seahawks will need to get some of their studs back. That starts with senior tailback Khalil Lewis, who was named to the North-South Game earlier this week. He's been getting increased reps in practice and appears on track to return against Berkeley after missing each of the last two games with a high ankle sprain.

"He took probably 12-14 snaps (Tuesday) in practice," Payne said. "We (were) hoping (Wednesday) he'd take about 20 snaps. Our big thing is seeing his ability to cut."

If he can't go, the starting job will once again fall to freshman Tyler Hamilton, who picked up 173 yards on 30 carries last week.

Quarterback Ben Oliff is questionable after missing last week's Hanahan game. He got out of his walking boot Tuesday and took his first reps at practice Wednesday. If he can't go, Aiden Hegarty will start.

It's the right ankle that's been bothering the senior signal-caller, which Oliff pushes off of in his throws.

"He's been going to therapy," Payne said. " ... I honestly don't have an answer for that one yet. I would say it's more likely that we would have Khalil back than Ben."

Prediction: The Seahawks avoid the No. 1 seed and pick up their first eight-win season since 2008. Hilton Head High heads into the playoffs with some momentum, a 33-31 victory over Berkeley to snap a two-game skid.

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