With a week remaining in the Class 4-A regular season, the Region 8-AAAA race appears a logjam behind champion Summerville.
Four teams are 2-2 in region play entering the final week and vying for the region's final two automatic playoff berths.
Beaufort High could finish second by beating Colleton County and Fort Dorchester winning at Ashley Ridge. The Eagles own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Patriots.
If Ashley Ridge and Beaufort High each finish with two losses, the Swamp Foxes would earn the No. 2 seed by head-to-head tiebreaker and the Eagles would slip to No. 3 and still earn a spot in the playoffs.
Bluffton can get in with a victory against 4-0 Summerville and a Beaufort High loss.
Those who finish outside the region's three qualifying spots would have to get one of five at-large bids awarded based on the Class 4-A points system.
For the Eagles, whose 24-21 victory over Fort Dorchester could probably be labeled their biggest the past three seasons, winning Friday is the ticket, coach Mark Clifford said.
"That was a huge win for us, but you cannot have a letdown," Clifford said. "Whether it's that motivation or the playoff motivation, or just plain getting better and winning games motivation -- as long as you get fired up and play your best.
"I don't worry about this team playing as hard as they can. You come off a loss like you did (Oct. 24 at Ashley Ridge) and play like you did (Friday), they've got some pretty good character."
SEAHAWKS LOOKING FOR ANSWERS OFFENSIVELY
The Hilton Head Island High football team takes its three-game losing streak on the road this Friday night, where the Seahawks will tangle with unbeaten Socastee in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs.
Coach B.J. Payne is hoping to see more success from his offense against the favored Braves, as Hilton Head High has struggled to put up points over the last month of the season.
"We've got to get better," Payne said. "We'll see what happens."
Hilton Head High (7-3) has scored just 34 points during this skid, an average of 11.3 points per game. The Seahawks netted a season-low six points in Friday's 26-6 loss to Hanahan, making for a frustrated Payne following the Senior Night defeat.
"We couldn't move the sticks," he said. "And that's the thing. With what we do offensively, we've got to get in a groove. We've got to get the sticks moving."
Payne got the boost he needed Friday when tailback Khalil Lewis returned to the lineup for the first time in nearly a month. The senior, who entered last week with 1,250 yards and 20 scores, had been absent the previous two games with a high ankle sprain. Riding him against Socastee may make for the best chance at an upset, but the Seahawks will also need better quarterback play to stay alive. Ben Oliff and Aiden Hegarty both struggled against the Stags as the two continue to deal with nagging injuries.
"The bad thing is we had a good week of practice, I thought," Payne said. " ... We're starting to get healthier. We're still not healthy all the way yet."
WALD ENCOURAGED AFTER YEAR TWO AT PREP
The Hilton Head Preparatory football team will be sitting at home once again when the SCISAA playoffs start this week. But coach Kevin Wald likes what he's seen from his Dolphins as he continues his rebuilding project on the north end of Hilton Head Island.
"I'm proud of what we're building," he said. "We've just got to continue to stay the course, stick to the plan and continue to build this program."
Wald is 10-10 after a pair of seasons with the Dolphins, having gone 5-5 in each of his first two campaigns. But the former Florida coach saw signs of improvement in 2013, none more exciting than the narrow 35-28 defeat Prep suffered to rival Hilton Head Christian Academy last week.
"We're 5-5 again, but the truth is we didn't even compete with these guys last year," he said. "It was 38-7 and they could have scored a couple more. Here we are, one or two plays away and we could have won this thing."
The Dolpins also improved in nearly every major statistical category this season and saw their roster nearly double in size. Prep also lost by a touchdown or less three different times after suffering from an average margin of defeat of nearly 28 points per game in 2012.
WHALE BRANCH MISSES PLAYOFFS
When the Class 1-A playoff brackets were released Sunday morning by the S.C. High School League, for the first time in school history, Whale Branch Early College High School missed the postseason.
The Warriors (4-6, 3-2), the third-place team in Region 5-A, made the playoffs the first three seasons of their existence.
Class 4-A regular season
Colleton County at Beaufort High, 7:30 p.m.
Summerville at Bluffton, 7:30 p.m.
Class 3-A playoffs
Hilton Head Island at Socastee
Class 2-A playoffs
Battery Creek at Wade Hampton
Lake City at Ridgeland-Hardeeville
SCISAA 2-A playoffs
Thomas Heyward Academy at Florence Christian
Thomas Sumter Academy at Hilton Head Christian
SCISAA 8-man playoffs
Beaufort Academy at W.W. King