Beaufort High School football coach Mark Clifford recognized the difference in his team Monday.
After 10 weeks of molding a playoff-ready football team, the Eagles hit a snag, losing by a wide margin at Goose Creek. And so Beaufort High players started sluggishly in preparation for Easley, their first round Class 4-A playoff opponent.
Clifford saw the same attitude after his team lost to Fort Dorchester in September. The Eagles won their next seven games to clinch the Region 8-AAAA title. They were peaking at the right time. That is, until last Friday.
"That's why a win Friday night is so key -- and the way we win," Clifford said. "We have to play a complete football game. And our kids have to be focused on all aspects, including special teams."
A win would be Beaufort High's first playoff victory since 2007 and would probably result in a rematch at Goose Creek in the second round. Clifford did not show his team its film from last week's game. He said he didn't talk about last week's game much at all.
But win tonight, and the Eagles will hear all they want about the 49-14 defeat during practice next week. A win, and Beaufort High can reset the clock to after it beat region rival Summerville.
"So if y'all want to watch this film, you better win Friday night," Clifford said he told his players. "Because you're going to get a good dose of it next week."
Easley has won its past three games. The Green Wave run a double wing Clifford likened to a set Clover ran against the Eagles during the 2007 state championship game.
The Eagles' defense could receive a boost this week with the return of leading tackler Maliek Maldonado. The linebacker has suffered from a shoulder and neck injury and might not start Friday, but should play.
Clifford said offensive lineman Jabari Washington has dealt with an ankle injury this week but practiced Thursday and should play.
A healthy offensive line will be key to what the Eagles want to do tonight, Clifford said, to run traps and a power game to help offset the Green Wave penchant for blitzing.
"I think we can run our stuff against them and be able to move the ball," Clifford said. "We just got to be able to pick up on the blitzes and take advantage when they blitz us. Their defense is kind of vulnerable at times when they do that."
The Eagles have dropped their past two first round playoff games -- to Greenwood in 2009 and Berkeley in 2008. Late-season collapses accompanied both losses, and Beaufort High coaches have stressed this season the need for pace.
Clifford said the Eagles are healthier than they have been in past years and, as of two weeks ago, held the momentum needed for a late-season push.
"Our goal was to finish strong," Clifford said. "We began that mission on track by beating Summerville and played real poorly against Goose Creek. We're going to have to bounce back off of that."
By the numbers
10-- Sacks, combined, from Eagles defensive linemen Kenan Jackson (4), Detrell Gantt (4) and DeEndre Jefferson-Fields (2)
11.5-- Yards per carry of Beaufort High running back D'Vonta Cohen, best on the team
58-- Number of Cohen's carries, fewest among the Big 3 that includes himself, Alex Simmons and Josh McPherson
Who: Easley (8-3, 3-2 Region 1-AAAA) at Beaufort High (9-2, 3-1 Region 8-AAAA)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Eagle Stadium
Offense: QB Beau Brown, FB Alex Simmons, TB D'Vonta Cohen, TE Tyler Cieplowski, RT Cody Beals, RG Jabari Washington, C Rob Dennis, LG Benji Calderon, LT Seth Long, WR Dymonte Gwathney, WR Tre Austin
Defense: DE DeEndre Jefferson-Fields, DE Michael Bedwell, DT Dalvin Broussard, DT Detrell Gantt, ILB Kevin Gess, ILB Maliek Maldonado, OLB Malcolm Dantzler, OLB JaClay Mixon, CB Jalin Mack, CB Calvin Atkins, FS Davonte Green
Special teams: P Kyle Clark, K Kyle Clark, K Mitchell Stewart, KR/PR Luke Smith, KR/PR JaClay Mixon, KR D'Vonta Cohen