Don't ask Carlos Cave or Stedman James if they remember the last time that Battery Creek High School won its football season opener. At that juncture in 1998, one was a coach still wet behind the ears while the other was barely old enough for preschool.
Granted, both were well aware of what was at stake entering Friday's home contest against Wade Hampton High School -- it just had little to do with the past and a whole lot to do with establishing a future legacy.
With scores coming from the defense, special teams, rush attack and through the air, Battery Creek easily defeated the Red Devils, 52-20 to build their first undefeated record in more than a decade.
"The difference between last year's team and this year's team is that that last year, those guys were just searching for a win," Cave said, referring to the Dolphins snapping a 28-game losing streak to go 4-7 last season. "This year's team wants to win more and contend for a state title, so it's not a hard sell to make them work for more because most of them were there when we turned things around."
And Cave wasted little time testing the future of this Dolphin program. After James' second throw as a varsity starter was nearly intercepted, Cave called a fourth-down try that resulted in an 18-yard Leander Mobley touchdown catch and a lead the Dolphins would never relinquish.
"That's what we've been working hard for all summer," said James, who threw for three scores and 138 yards on the night, "to change things and start something new at Battery Creek. It felt real good to throw those touchdowns and we got into a nice rhythm there after that."
Initially, the Red Devils had a nice flow of their own, driving 85 yards behind the power running of sophomore tailback Dondre Brown (193 yards on 25 carries) before quarterback Steven Walker ran 19 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 6.
But the mistakes that doomed a young Dolphins squad in last year's matchup between these two became problematic for an inexperienced Wade Hampton team. Ten times the Red Devils were whistled for penalties in the first half, backing them up 65 yards and negating several long Brown runs.
"Those penalties were momentum- and drive-killers for us, most definitely," Red Devils coach Jim Shuman said. "We made a lot of rookie mistakes tonight and Battery Creek has become good enough where they will capitalize on those mistakes."
Indeed, the Dolphins reeled off three more touchdowns and held Wade Hampton to just three more first downs in the first half. This defensive effort was punctuted when Richard Washington read an option play and stepped in front of Walker's pitch, intercepting the ball and rumbling for a 49-yard score.
But it was during a four-minute span in the third quarter when the explosive attack that Cave has been grooming since his 2008 arrival quickly manifested.
After the Dolphins stuffed Brown on fourth down, James converted another fourth-down score to Alex Sharpe. Two plays later, Andrew Byam duplicated Washington's feat, intercepting a pitch for a 36-yard defensive touchdown. And following a three-and-out series by the Red Devils, Damien Miles raced 54 yards on a punt return to tally the Dolphins' sixth unanswered score and a 45-6 advantage.
It all made for a performance that few in attendance had seen in some years and one that many hope is a sign of things to come.
"We've shown flashes of it during our seven-on-seven scrimmages, so we know we have the ability to make plays quickly," said Cave, whose team hosts West Ashley next week. "By no means are we where we need to be. This was a good first step in getting our fans fired up about the season and what we could possibly do."