A.J. Smalls thought back to summer break, when the entire Beaufort High School defense showed up for its weight training sessions.
He mentioned preseason practices, when the defense jogged on and off the practice field preparing for changes of possession. He holds close a quote he picked up during track season, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Each of these the Eagles' senior defensive back cited after Beaufort High's defense helped withstand Wando for a 17-14 home victory to open the season.
"We've got to work, keep our heads up and stay humble," Smalls said.
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Beaufort High's defense stretched as far as it would go without giving in.
Wando scored midway through the third quarter to pull within three. Then Beaufort High's defense produced this sequence:
"Our defense did a good job of plugging all the holes," linebacker T.J. Watts said. "Our safeties, they had great coverage. I think we just won the fight in the end."
The Eagles' offense hummed during the first two quarters behind power back Eric Blakely and a committed offensive line. Blakely finished with 123 yards and a score. Junior Tarquez Johnson added a 17-yard touchdown run during the second quarter.
The Eagles could not protect the ball during the second half. They lost four of their six fumbles during the final two quarters.
But the defense didn't let it spoil the opener.
Despite consecutive tough seasons -- during which the Eagles missed the playoffs -- and lower turnout, coach Mark Clifford said he has noticed a cohesiveness about this team.
"Probably the last couple years we would have lost that football game," Clifford said. "This team has got something. I don't know how they developed it or how it came -- sometime in the spring or sometime in August. It's just a collection of a bunch of winners."
Beaufort High (1-0) conducted a team exercise during the preseason. Each player had to write out a goal for a teammate's season.
Offensive players inevitably picked defensive teammates and vice versa, Clifford said. Clifford said practice this week was as good as he has seen in 10 years with the school.
"All the little problems we've had has caused us to get better," Clifford said. "It has caused us to make adjustments in practice. It caused us to be a closer football team."
Beaufort High 17, Wando 14
Wando 0 7 7 0 -- 14
Beaufort High 3 14 0 0 -- 0
B -- Brady Cormier 26 FG 5:38
B -- Eric Blakely 13 run (Cormier kick) 10:50
B -- Tarquez Johnson 17 run (Cormier kick) 4:23
W -- Zola Davis 5 pass from Dalton Stubbs (Clayton Rosenbaum kick) :10.8
W -- Stubbs 7 run (Rosenbaum kick) 6:55
First Downs 20 11
Rushes-Yards 36-192 36-188
Comp-Att-Int 12-28-1 4-9
Passing Yards 104 62
Punts-Avg 3-15.3 1-39
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 6-4
Penalties-Yards 6-45 4-35
Third-Down Conv 4-14 4-11
Fourth-Down Conv 1-3 1-2
PASSING: Wando -- Dalton Stubbs 9-18-82, Bailey Hart 3-10-22-1; Beaufort High -- Ben Vaigneur 4-9-62.
RUSHING: Wando -- Kenny Waring 13-92, Stubbs 17-65, Hart 2-32, Zola Davis 1-4, Trevor Pederson 3-3; Beaufort High -- Eric Blakely 17-123, Tarquez Johnson 5-48, Jeffrey Tookes 8-42, William Spann 2-(-8), Vaigneur 4-(-17).
RECEIVING: Wando -- Pederson 4-40, Davis 2-23, Waring 3-19, Darius Wade 2-13; Beaufort High -- Stephen Baggett 3-57, Keaton Butler 1-5.