The idea behind coaches scheduling late-preseason scrimmages is to use them as one final checkpoint to see where their teams stand.
If Friday night's Beaufort County football scrimmage is any indication, the teams' defenses are ready for their respective season openers. The offenses, however, have some work left to do.
"I think this time of year, you expect the defense to be ahead of your offense," Hardeeville High School coach Blake Raley said after his team tied Hilton Head Christian Academy 0-0 over two quarters. "That's not unusual."
Christian Academy coach Tommy Lewis offered similar perspective after his team accounted for minus-12 rushing yards on eight carries against the Hurricanes.
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"Always," Lewis said. "Even in years when we've had a seasoned veteran coming back at quarterback, the defense is always ahead of the offense at this point."
Of course, the Eagles' offense was plagued by the absence of starting quarterback Luke Sirgo (illness) and backup Zac Lenns (neck injury).
And they weren't the only ones with quarterback issues. Hilton Head Island High School and Beaufort High School are still trying to settle on starters, as Jeff Homad and Desmond Bush split time for the Seahawks in their two offensive drives, and Thomas Gruel and Beau Brown shared the snaps for the Eagles.
The only offense that appeared ready to start the season for real was Hilton Head Preparatory School's, which scored on the longest play of the night -- a 50-yard strike from Matt Layman to Dimitri Lowry against Wade Hampton -- and twice drove into the red zone against Hilton Head Island High School.
Here's a breakdown of how each team fared at Friday's scrimmage:
BATTERY CREEK HIGH SCHOOL
Results: Tied Beaufort High, 0-0; tied Bluffton, 0-0
Key plays: Stedman James fumbled on pitch attempt to end lone offensive series against Beaufort High; James connected with Alex Sharpe for a 16-yard pass against Bobcats, the team's longest play of the night; Josh Fields fumbles carry at Bluffton's 41-yard line to end five-play drive.
Offensive standout: Despite his fumble, James showed poise at quarterback, gaining 37 total yards on a run and several screen passes.
Defensive standout: Clemson-bound safety Ricardo Chaney forced a fumble and had several big hits in both quarters.
Coach's thoughts: "We didn't play well and there was a lack of execution on both sides of the ball, but they are all correctable problems," Dolphins coach Carlos Cave said. "I'm not totally disappointed, but we're not good enough to fumble the ball and make penalties like we did and expect to still win."
What it means: Despite the team's sometimes sloppy play, there's no need for Battery Creek to panic. The speed and athleticism needed to break big plays in its spread offense were evident, and consecutive shutouts should be encouraging to the defense. Execution will be the mantra heading into next Friday's opener against Wade Hampton.
BEAUFORT HIGH SCHOOL
Results: Def. Wade Hampton, 7-0; tied Battery Creek, 0-0
Key plays: Josh McPherson ran for 17 yards on second play from scrimmage against Wade Hampton; McPherson scored three-yard touchdown against Red Devils; tailback Alex Simmons broke 29-yard run to cross into Red Devil territory on second series; Arthur Washington recovered fumble by Battery Creek's Stedman James at Dolphins 39-yard line.
Offensive standouts: McPherson ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, while Simmons had 66 yards on six carries to lead a run-heavy offense.
Defensive standout: Cody Gasque recovered James' fumble to give the Eagles another shot at the end zone.
Coach's thoughts: "We had too many penalties, but in scrimmages like these, you always look for learning experiences," Eagles coach Mark Clifford said. "I was satisfied with our effort, and as the season goes on, the expectations will get higher."
What it means: As has been the case since Clifford took over in 2004, Beaufort High's run game looked sharp, with McPherson and Simmons powering the offense upfield. Standout linebacker Justin Parker sat out Friday's scrimmage, but the Eagle defenders did enough to keep their opponents off their side of the field.
BLUFFTON HIGH SCHOOL
Results: Tied Battery Creek 0-0, tied Hilton Head High 0-0
Key plays: The Bluffton defense forced a Battery Creek fumble after the Dolphins' were successfully moving the ball on the opening drive of the seventh quarter. It was a turning point for the Bobcats' defense, as they controlled the tempo for the rest of the night.
Offensive standout: Zack Frazier carried the ball seven times for 27 yards out of the new Wing-T offense, primarily serving as the Bobcats' fullback. Frazier also completed a halfback pass to Desmond Jenkins for a 10-yard gain.
Defensive standout: Defensive lineman Joseph Tanner fell on a Battery Creek fumble to stave off the Dolphins' opening drive.
Coach's thoughts: "I wanted to be respectable. I wanted people to see that we aren't the same team we were last year," Jeremy West said. "We got a whole new attitude, a whole new look. And hopefully it will lead to a great season. But I think we walked out of here with some people thinking we may be for real this year."
What it means: The Bluffton offense showed a blueprint of what it plans to accomplish this year -- simply move the chains. The Bobcats flipped the field with both of their offensive drives in the two quarters. They ran the ball from a variety of angles and all three running backs -- Frazier, Timmy Smith and Jenkins -- did so successfully.
HARDEEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
Results: Tied Hilton Head Christian 0-0 in two quarters
Key plays: A pair of long runs -- an 18-yard gain by Michael Kinlaw and a 26-yard run by Jarrell Knighton -- moved the Hurricanes into Eagles territory twice, but a Ryan Emery interception near the end of the second quarter preserved the scoreless tie.
Offensive standout: Knighton, who hasn't played since a torn anterior cruciate ligament before the start of last season, picked up 42 yards on four carries.
Defensive standout: The Hurricanes' defensive line wreaked havoc in the Eagles' backfield throughout the two quarters, holding HHCA to minus-12 yards on eight carries.
Coach's thoughts: "I definitely thought our defense played well and carried us at times," Blake Raley said. "On offense, we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. But looking at our mistakes will help us in the long run."
What it means: Hardeeville's experienced defense looked dominant at times, but then again, they won't see much of the spread offense this season. In fact, they'll face almost the exact opposite style when they travel to Bluffton next Saturday.
HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Results: Tied Hardeeville 0-0 in two quarters
Key plays: A holding penalty on the Eagles' first offensive play called back a long run by Eric Farr, which would have been the Christian Academy's only first down. Luckily for the Eagles, Ryan Emery intercepted a pass near the end of the second quarter to keep Hardeeville off the board, too.
Offensive standout: The numbers wouldn't show it -- he rushed for minus-16 yards on seven carries and completed one of three passes for two yards -- but Farr did an admirable job standing in at quarterback with starter Luke Sirgo out sick and backup Zac Lenns sidelined with a neck injury.
Defensive standout: The Eagles had several players come up with key sacks, but no defensive play was bigger than Emery's interception.
Coach's thoughts: "I'm very happy with where our defense is, and I learned I've got to do a better job of developing a backup quarterback," Eagles coach Tommy Lewis said.
What it means: It's hard to say where the offense stands because the Eagles were without Sirgo and Lenns, two of their most important players, but the defense looked solid.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND HIGH SCHOOL
Results: Tied Hilton Head Prep 0-0, tied Bluffton 0-0
Key plays: Quarterback Jeff Homad connected with wide receiver Clifford Morrow on a 95-yard touchdown pass against Hilton Head Prep, but it was called back for a penalty. Desmond Bush threw a 39-yard completion to Victor Frazier on third-and-10 to keep the Seahawks' only drive alive against Bluffton.
Offensive standout: Victor Frazier rose up over the Bluffton defensive backfield for a 39-yard catch on a fade route in the final quarter of the scrimmage. It was the second longest pass completion of the day.
Defensive standout: Kenny Robinson, a HHH linebacker, picked off a Matt Layman pass to halt Hilton Head Prep's drive deep in Seahawks territory.
Coach's thoughts: "We're a resilient bunch of people over here," Tim Singleton said. "We're not going to get down when the going gets tough. We're going to stand up and be counted. Tonight we showed that."
What it means: Because of the running clock, Hilton Head High was only able to display two of the quarterbacks vying for the starting spot in two weeks, Bush and Homad. Jon Bever will get playing time in scrimmages next week for the Seahawks. Each completed deep balls Friday night, although Homad's pass to Morrow was negated by a holding call. The position remains an open competition.
HILTON HEAD PREPARATORY SCHOOL
Results: Tied Wade Hampton 8-8, tied Hilton Head High 0-0
Key plays: Matt Layman hooked up with Dimitri Lowry for a 50-yard touchdown pass against Wade Hampton. Layman had a touchdown run against the Seahawks called back by a penalty, but Hilton Head High also had a touchdown called back.
Offensive standout: Layman completed 11 of 18 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He threw three passes for 64 yards to Lowry, including the 50-yard score.
Defensive standout: The young defensive line held its own against the much bigger front lines of the Red Devils and Seahawks. Defensive end Marc Halseth and noseguard Austin Baker were particularly disruptive.
Coach's thoughts: "We hung in there. We have a good young group, and when you have a young group, they listen. They want to better, and they've been working hard," Ron Peduzzi said.
What it means: Prep appears to be ahead of schedule on both sides of the ball, considering the number of young players. The offense looked especially crisp for this point in the season.