The element of surprise is gone for the Bluffton High School football team.
As the Region 7-AAA schedule looms after a bye week, the Bobcats enter with the same goal -- win the region title. But they acknowledge they will need to take a much different approach than they took in accomplishing that goal in 2010.
Few expected the Bobcats to win the league's championship a year ago, and running back Eric Boyles admits they took most teams by surprise when they did.
Boyles expects teams to be ready for the Bobcats this season.
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"The target is on us," the senior said. "We have to be ready."
It certainly is now. The Bobcats have outscored their first five opponents 320-27 while cruising to a 5-0 start.
Hilton Head High also enters its bye week before opening the region schedule. The Bobcats travel to Lake Marion, while the Seahawks will host Berkeley.
The Seahawks have rebounded from a rough start to the season with back-to-back victories, thanks to a passing game that has found its rhythm. Michael Julian has thrown seven touchdowns in the past two games.
Khalil Lewis gave the Seahawks an added dimension in the running game, as the sophomore ran for 108 yards and three scores Friday night in what coach Tim Singleton called the team's best offensive performance in years.
WARRIOR EYE PLAYOFF POINTS
Whale Branch was held to its lowest point total of the season last week, but the Warriors earned other crucial points in their victory at Hardeeville.
Under the Class 1-A points system, teams earn more playoff points for their finish in region play. By opening their Region 5-A schedule with a victory, the Warriors earned points for the win and an edge in the league points race.
The region champion is awarded 13 points, the runner-up 10, third place earns eight points and fourth place is given five.
"Every game means something," Whale Branch coach Rob D'Amato said. "I told the guys, it's a little bit like the BCS in that respect."
The Warriors earned a playoff bid last year, their inaugural season, and lost to Hardeeville in the first round. The Hurricanes dealt the Warriors a big defeat to start region play, and Whale Branch continued to slide from there.
But D'Amato's squad is 4-0 in 2011 and focused on a stronger push to the playoffs. A last-minute victory over the Hurricanes proved a good measuring point, he said.
"We found a way in the same situation, facing the same outcome, we found a way to come back and get it done," he said. "That's just a testament to a little bit more maturity out there and leadership."
MARTIN HITS MILESTONE
Alex Martin didn't attend Hilton Head Christian Academy until his sophomore year, but the late start hasn't kept Martin out of the school's football record books. With two touchdown receptions in Friday's 21-20 win over Thomas Sumter Academy, Martin has 23 touchdown catches in his three-year career, matching Jonathan Gort for the school record.
Martin came on strong at the end of his sophomore season, catching five touchdown passes and helping the Eagles win the SCISAA Class 2-A title. He led the team with 12 touchdown catches last year and has a team-high six through three games this season.
FACEBOOK FAN VOTE
Don't forget to cast your vote for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette's high school football player of the week on Facebook. Thomas Heyward Academy running back Ryan Day was last week's winner with 45.1 percent of the 532 total votes.
This week's nominees are:
To vote, go to www.facebook.com/IPBGsports and select your option in the poll posted on our wall. Official voting will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday and the results will run on Friday's Preps Plus page.