If any other opponent were visiting Hilton Head Christian Academy tonight, Eagles coach Tommy Lewis might be concerned about his team's mind-set.
The Eagles are coming off a victory in a highly anticipated game at Thomas Heyward, and they might be looking ahead to the playoffs.
But not this week. Not with Hilton Head Prep up next.
"It's definitely been a topic of discussion," Lewis said. "But at the same time, nothing really needs to be said. Every season, every school year starts with talk of the rivalry in every sport, really. Football definitely takes on a special meaning, because it usually has playoff implications and region title implications, and this year is no different."
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Indeed, the Eagles (9-0, 4-0 SCISAA Region 2-AA) can wrap up a region crown with a victory -- and thanks to a S.C. High School League ruling requiring Allendale-Fairfax to forfeit seven victories for using an ineligible player, they can also wrap up an undefeated regular season.
The Dolphins (5-3, 3-1) have region title hopes of their own, though theirs are slightly more complicated. They must win by at least nine points to claim the title, but they also could clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round home game in the playoffs by winning by six or more.
"Either way, this isn't the end for us," Prep coach Kevin Orford said. "No matter what happens the next two weeks, we hope to see them again. ... No. 1 or No. 3 doesn't really make a difference. All we have to do is step up and win three games."
While Hilton Head Christian is almost completely healthy -- the only inactive player on the roster is John Ballard, who was lost for the season early in the year -- the Dolphins have their share of injuries.
Most notably, quarterback and linebacker Jeremy Haidon will miss a second consecutive game with a neck injury suffered in an 18-13 loss to Thomas Heyward two weeks ago. That means eighth-grader Aidan Hegarty will get his second start at quarterback.
It also means the Dolphins are likely to need an even better effort from their defense to keep them in it.
"We've got to disrupt the quarterback," Orford said. "We're not going to change a whole lot (on defense). We just cannot give up the big plays. They haven't made many mistakes this year. We're hoping to not give up the big play and to capitalize on as many mistakes as possible."
Bluffton (9-0, 4-0 Region 7-AAA) at Hilton Head High (4-5, 2-2), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: In terms of region standings and playoff positioning, tonight's Bridge Bowl matchup means nothing. Bluffton already has clinched its second straight Region 7-AAA title, and Hilton Head High will take the league's fourth seed into next week's Class 3-A playoffs.
That much is settled before kickoff tonight. So on paper, there may not be much to tonight's rivalry game.
But to the players and coaches involved, there's still plenty at stake.
The Bobcats will try to complete the first undefeated regular season in school history as it also attempts to shut out the Seahawks for the fourth consecutive meeting.
For the Seahawks, the game represents an opportunity to spoil their rival's perfect year while they also seek a measure of revenge. They have been outscored 152-0 in the last three meetings with Bluffton -- including a 76-0 loss in this year's season opener, a game in which the Seahawks accused Bluffton of running up the score.
Last week: Bluffton defeated Berkeley 53-7, Hilton Head High defeated Battery Creek 47-20.
Key to the game: The Bobcats controlled this year's season-opener from start to finish, but the Seahawks didn't help their cause with three early turnovers in their own territory. Hilton Head High needs to play a nearly flawless game to keep tonight's matchup close.
Beaufort High (4-5, 1-2 Region 8-AAAA) at Summerville (6-3, 1-1), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: This is Beaufort High's final region contest. The game is a rematch of last year's thriller, which the Eagles won on a field goal in the final minute. Beaufort High snapped a three-game losing skid last week with a victory at Colleton County.
Last week: Beaufort High won 21-7 at Colleton County; Summerville lost 36-21 to Ashley Ridge
Key to the game: For the Eagles, it's to force the issue. Three Summerville fumbles last week led to three Ashley Ridge touchdowns. If Beaufort High can capitalize like that, it probably will finish .500 in region play.
Battery Creek (1-8, 0-4 Region 7-AAA) at Lake Marion (2-7, 0-4), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Dolphins scored their most points since the season opener during a 47-20 loss to Hilton Head High last week. Battery Creek found a groove pitching outside to Jayron Sneed, who finished with more than 120 yards rushing and a touchdown. Lake Marion has dropped its past four games, all region contests.
Last week: Battery Creek lost 47-20 to Hilton Head High; Lake Marion lost to Cane Bay 41-7
Key to the game: Finish strong. If the Dolphins show the resolve they did during the second half last week, they should have a chance to win this game. Lake Marion provides a good chance for Battery Creek and first-year coach Jim Shuman to finish the season on a positive note.
Ridgeland (7-2, 5-1 Region 5-A) at Hardeeville (2-7, 2-4), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Jaguars' postseason picture brightened with the news this week that Allendale-Fairfax would forfeit all of its victories. Ridgeland is now in line for a home playoff game with a victory tonight. And Hardeeville, which started the season with eight consecutive losses, now has two wins to its credit with the Tigers' forfeit and a victory last week over Branchville.
Last week: Ridgeland defeated Estill 28-12; Hardeeville defeated Branchville 16-14
Key to the game: The Jaguars will have to remain in the moment. Coach Richard Kirkland thought some of his players checked out early last season. He'll look for focus from his players in order for them to dispatch their Jasper County rivals.
Bamberg-Ehrhardt (8-1, 6-0 Region 5-A) at Whale Branch (7-2, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Bamberg-Ehrhardt appeared to have lost its chance at the Region 5-A crown after falling to Allendale-Fairfax last week. But after the Tigers were forced to forfeit all wins for using an ineligible player, the Red Raiders remain undefeated and are region champion. Whale Branch also benefited and will try to improve its Class 1-A Division II playoff chances with an upset tonight.
Last week: Whale Branch defeated Bethune-Bowman 45-0; Bamberg-Ehrhardt defeated Allendale-Fairfax 2-0 via forfeit
Key to the game: The Warriors will have to play mistake-free football. Bamberg-Ehrhardt has proven itself among the top programs in the region, and Whale Branch will have to execute at that level to have a chance.
Thomas Heyward (7-1, 3-1 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at St. Andrew's (1-7, 1-3), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Rebels need a victory and some help from the result of the Hilton Head Christian-Hilton Head Prep game to lock up the No. 2 seed from the region and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. If Thomas Heyward wins by 15 or more and Hilton Head Christian wins, or loses by fewer than five points, the Rebels are the No. 2 seed. If Hilton Head Prep wins by more than five points, the Rebels drop to the No. 3 seed regardless of their outcome.
Last week: Thomas Heyward lost 35-26 vs. Hilton Head Christian; St. Andrew's lost 27-14 at Northwood Academy
Key to the game: The Rebels aren't taking this one lightly -- they shocked St. Andrew's in the season finale last year, so they know how easily it can happen -- but they shouldn't have any trouble with a Lions team whose only win came against winless First Baptist.
Beaufort Academy (2-8, 1-4 SCISAA 8-man Region 2) at Faith Christian (1-9, 1-4), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: The Eagles look to snap their four-game losing streak and end the season on a positive note when they travel to Summerville for the season finale. Faith Christian picked up its first victory two weeks ago against Andrew Jackson but wasn't able to maintain the momentum last week.
Last week: Beaufort Academy lost 60-6 vs. Clarendon Hall; Faith Christian lost 56-16 at Patrick Henry
Key to the game: Based on results against common opponents, this is a game the Eagles know they should be able to win. They can't fall behind early on the road, though; they'll need to get off the bus ready to play.