Each of the past two seasons, Hilton Head High's boys soccer team has played the role of the underdog -- the Seahawks have been forced to claw their way back from a game behind in the region standings.
But no longer.
Thanks to a 1-0 win in penalty kicks against rival Bluffton High School in the region opener Wednesday, the Seahawks have a leg up in the region race for the first time in three seasons.
"This is just a little piece of the whole picture," Seahawks coach Wayne Quinlan said after the win. "These kids are more mature now and are too smart to consider this a season-making win."
They will have to be more careful to not overlook an opponent
The Region 7-AAA title may not come down to the Seahawks-Bobcats rivalry as it has in recent memory. With Cane Bay and Berkeley added to the region, Quinlan expects Hilton Head High to have some more difficult challenges in the league.
"I still think Bluffton and us are maybe the two best teams in the region, but nothing is a given anymore," Quinlan said. "We got the first (region win), but we've got to stay focused. And these kids know that."
DOLPHINS BASEBALL LOOKS TO EARN RESPECT
The baseball season is young. And there haven't been many chances for Battery Creek coach Dan Tooman to see the makeup of this Dolphins team.
But there have been encouraging signs. Battery Creek, which finished the 2010 season 6-18 and .500 in region play, is counting on the current group to be different.
The Dolphins took a step in the right direction last week, coming from behind to defeat Hilton Head High 5-4 and start their Region 7-AAA schedule with a victory.
"They've matured," Tooman said. "The talent and ability level has been there all along. They've had to find their nucleus and dig down and find that grit and come together as a team."
Tooman and Battery Creek junior Shane Goude said the Dolphins have benefited from having played together the past few years. Seniors C.J. Jenkins and Joe Fields started in Battery Creek's infield the past three seasons. The pair split this year, with Fields moving to center field.
The change has paid dividends early. Fields tracked down more than one Seahawks' shot to center field last week to secure key outs.
Fields and Jenkins have also been expected to come through offensively, which they haven't done much before last week. But both played key roles in the Dolphins' ninth-inning comeback, with Jenkins delivering the game-winning hit. It's the kind of leadership Tooman says Battery Creek will need to have a successful season and change the perception of local baseball fans.
"They don't give us a lot of credit," Goude said. "But we're going to show them this year. This is a new year."
RARE MOVE AIDS BEAUFORT HIGH SOCCER
It's not often Beaufort High School girls soccer team has seen its coach make such a dramatic move. But there were no doubters after the Eagles' second-half performance against Battery Creek last week.
Eagles coach Terry Rawlins yanked his starters during the first half and held them out for 25 minutes of the game, sending them in with the threat to pull them again if they didn't score.
The sluggish Eagles had allowed Battery Creek to hang around during the first half. But Beaufort High responded with seven second-half goals during its 8-0 win.
"The second string really stepped up," senior Sydney Boggs said. "Everyone did well in the second half. I think the score said it all."
The Eagles are young, with seven freshmen on the roster. Boggs said the team's leaders have welcomed the younger crowd and hope to bring everyone together for a successful season.
"All the freshmen deserve to be on the team," she said. "All the upperclassmen have stepped up and been leaders to the younger kids."