Coach Clifford: Beaufort High football team on climb ahead of Class 4-A Division II playoff opener against Blythewood

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comNovember 10, 2013 

Beaufort High School's Eric Blakely (8), Ben Vaigneur (14), Andrew Smith (51) and Jeffrey Tookes (32) show the shotgun formation the Eagles will be using from time to time this season.

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Mark Clifford figures most teams have reached their potential by this point in the year.

The Beaufort High School football coach thinks his team is still improving and hopes the sixth-seeded Eagles peak when they host 11th-seeded Blythewood on Friday to open the Class 4-A Division II playoffs.

"We're getting better on both sides," Clifford said Friday, before he knew the Eagles' draw. "A lot of teams this time of year are stagnant. I don't think we're like that."

Beaufort High coaches spent Sunday breaking down video of the Bengals, who finished 7-4 and 3-2 in Region 4-AAAA.

Blythewood quarterbacks have combined to throw for 22 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards. Seniors Lynard Jamison and Aaron Peak each ran for a pair of scores during the Bengals' win over Ridge View to end the regular season.

Beaufort High (8-3, 3-2 Region 8-AAAA) is making its first trip to the playoffs since 2010, when the Eagles fell 33-14 at home to Easley.

The return trip came as a surprise to many. Clifford attributed the turnaround in part to the improvement and emergence of several key players, including quarterback Ben Vaigneur, running backs Jeffrey Tookes and Eric Blakely and safety Jordan Clegg.

Blakely and Tookes combined to replace JaClay Mixon, who had rushed for more than 1,500 yards the previous season.

Blakely finished the regular season with 1,159 yards and 17 touchdowns. Tookes added 657 yards.

Vaigneur threw for five touchdowns and eight interceptions as a junior. He's thrown eight touchdowns to only four interceptions this season. And he has added 195 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns after finishing with negative yardage his junior year.

Clegg has three interceptions.

"Everybody surprised everybody," Clifford said.

Beaufort High and Blythewood have one common opponent this season -- Aiken.

The Eagles won 21-0 Sept. 6 at Aiken, while Blythewood beat the Green Hornets at home, 34-20, a month later on Oct. 4

Friday's winner will face the winner of the game between third-seeded North Augusta and 14th-seeded Laurens.

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