After what he called one of the toughest camps in the state, Mark Clifford was glad for a break.
The Beaufort High School football coach scheduled no scrimmages or games during Week Zero, and so the Eagles have been allowed a little recovery time as they prepare to open the season by playing host to Hilton Head High at 7:30 tonight.
"It helped us get some kids back," Clifford said.
Tonight's game was rescheduled from Friday night due to the threat of bad weather from Hurricane Irene. Clifford said he didn't mind the Thursday game, and that the Eagles hoped for blue skies.
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Eagles lineman DeEndre Jefferson-Fields and defensive back Akeem Smalls will be back after missing practices to injury. The Eagles will be without defensive back and receiver Davonte Green (ankle) and senior running back Parrish Holmes (calf).
Hilton Head High (0-1) is reeling early after a blowout loss at rival Bluffton last week and learning earlier this week that coach Tim Singleton would be suspended two weeks for possible violations the school reported to the S.C. High School League. The governing body on Wednesday fined Hilton Head High $200 and placed the program on "warned status," for having an ineligible player participate in two scrimmages.
Singleton addressed his team Monday but will not be able to attend practices until Sept. 5 and will miss two games. Bob Jurinko has been named the Seahawks' interim coach.
Clifford has cautioned the Eagles to be wary, reminding them of last season's opening-round playoff game, when they were upset at home by Easley.
"We kind of said, 'Put yourselves in their shoes,'" Clifford said. "You don't think they're fired up right now? I'm sure they've recommitted themselves."
Hilton Head High's Phillip Harris, one of the Seahawks involved in the eligibility controversy, said this week Singleton's absence would not be a distraction.
"He said to ignore the negative comments and just play football," Harris said. "We're going to fight for Coach Singleton."
Hilton Head High committed five turnovers last week against the Bobcats, went 0 for 15 on third down and finished with 81 yards total offense.
Clifford said the Eagles didn't fully begin preparing for Hilton Head High until this week, but had watched last year's film and watched the Seahawks in summer passing leagues. He noted that the Seahawks featured some solid athletes and are bigger than they have been in years past.
Clifford said he expects to keep things simple tonight, and said everything Beaufort High does is relatively basic. He praised his team for having a good August.
"These guys are not as sound as they will be, but starting the season out, we're not in bad shape," he said.
Sports reporter Sam McDowell contributed to this story.
Estill (4-6 in 2010) at Battery Creek (0-10 in 2010), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: This is the season-opener for both teams. Battery Creek is searching for its first victory since Oct. 30, 2009. Estill won at home last season, 24-6. The game will mark the debut for Battery Creek coach Jim Shuman.
Players to watch: Battery Creek quarterback Leroy Jennette will earn the opening week start against Estill for a second consecutive season. But this time, it will be in a new system. Jennette completed 10 of 18 passes for 147 yards during last year's loss to the Gators and rushed for 43 yards. Battery Creek senior David Ratliff, a senior who plays center and defensive line, will try and hjelp keep the Dolphins' opening week jitters in check.
Key to the game: While adjusting Shuman's option offense during an actual game, the Dolphins can't turn the ball over. When they put the ball on the ground during scrimmages, it cost them. Shuman has said Battery Creek runners have worked on the fundamentals and adjusted from their roles in a spread offense. They will need to prove they have the technique down.
Hunter-Kinard-Tyler (0-1) at Whale Branch (1-0), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Whale Branch could start 2-0 for its second consecutive season with a win tonight. The Warriors defeated H-K-T 30-28 on the road last season. The Trojans lost six of their first seven games to start 2010.
Last week: H-K-T lost to Cross, 46-14. Whale Branch overcame deficits more than once on the road to defeat Baptist Hill, 29-19.
Players to watch: Whale Branch coach Rob D'Amato tabbed Brandon Morton his starting quarterback before the season, but it was fellow first-year Warrior Andre Watson who shone in the role during the opener. Watson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another during the Warriors' victory last week...Trojans running back Brandon Hart led the team last season with 1,430 yards and 16 touchdowns, according to The Times and Democrat, of Orangeburg.
Key to the game: The Warriors will need to slow Hart. The junior back ripped off a long touchdown run when the teams met last season. He returned a kickoff for a touchdown later in the season.
Beach (5-5 in 2010) at Hardeeville (7-6 in 2010), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Hurricanes open the season against the Savannah school for the second consecutive year. Beach won last year's meeting 28-12 in Savannah and went on to its best season since 2003. Hardeeville reached the Class 1-A Lower State final last season, the farthest the team has advanced in the playoffs in the school's brief history.
Players to watch: Hardeeville will get its first look at an offense that experienced plenty of turnover due to graduation. Charlie Morrison-Ford will start at quarterback with Devontae Doe at running back. Linebacker Dominque Riley leads Hardeeville's defense after racking up a team-high 144 tackles last season. According to the Savannah Morning News, Beach returns eight starters on its offense, which runs the wing-T. Quarterback Larry Murray and running backs Maynard Potter and Craig Reid are among the returners, as is tackle Laverne Sumter, a potential NCAA Division I recruit.
Key to the game: The Bulldogs are big and physical on the offensive and defensive lines, so the Hurricanes will have to hold their own in the trenches to have a chance at avenging last year's season-opening loss. Hardeeville hopes its experience -- it has four seniors on the offensive line -- will provide an edge at the line of scrimmage.