The Ridgeland-Hardeeville football team couldn't quite get right in its home opener Friday night, and Hilton Head Island High School running back Khalil Lewis was more than happy to make them pay for it with a near history-making performance.
Lewis had a career night at Jasper County Stadium, scoring seven touchdowns and rushing for 307 yards on 27 carries to lead the visiting Seahawks to an impressive 47-6 triumph over the Jaguars, who spent the majority of the evening playing the role of their own worst enemy when they weren't chasing Hilton Head's star running back around the field.
The senior scored four touchdowns of 25 yards or more and also served as the battering ram inside the red zone with three scores of 10 yards or less. With the game very much in doubt in the first half and Hilton Head struggling to get much going on offense, Lewis was the spark plug, rushing for a trio of touchdowns -- including two in the second quarter -- to send the Seahawks into the half up 20-0.
In the end, the senior finished just two touchdowns shy of the South Carolina state record of nine set by Mayo's Frank Byrd way back in 1958. Record or not, the performance was one for the ages and was more than enough to lift the Seahawks to the easy victory.
"I've said it a number of times, but he is the best back I've coached," second-year Hilton Head coach B.J. Payne said. "We knew he was going to get the ball a lot tonight, and he did a great job. Obviously a lot of that was set up by our blocking. Our offensive line did a great job, as did our receivers down the field."
While the Seahawks were clearly the aggressor, Friday's game was as much about what Ridgeland-Hardeeville consistently did wrong as it was about what Hilton Head was doing right. Time and again, turnovers, penalties and a litany of missed opportunities cost the Jaguars -- many coming at critical junctures.
In the first quarter alone the Jaguars had three of drives stall inside the Hilton Head 20-yard line with no points scored. The second of those opportunities was created by a blocked punt that gave Ridgeland-Hardeeville the ball at Hilton Head's 9-yard line. Four plays later, however, the home team had lost two yards and a vital scoring opportunity in the process.
"Those were big stands by our defense," Payne said. "They could have easily been up 14 points from the get-go and that would have changed the game."
On the subsequent possession, Hilton Head finally went to work behind its workmanlike tailback. Ten plays into the 89-yard drive, Lewis broke off a 31-yard touchdown for the first score of what would be a career night.
On its next possession, which followed yet another turnover on downs by the Jaguars, Lewis would strike for his longest score of the night, a 51-yard scamper that gave Hilton Head a 13-0 lead.
Those two exchanges were the beginning of a theme that would dominate the night; the Jaguars let opportunities go wanting and Lewis made them pay.
In fact, throughout the evening Ridgeland-Hardeeville suffered through ill-timed turnovers, multiple penalties, including several unsportsmanlike conduct infractions, and numerous dropped passes that stalled its offense time and again.
The Jaguars biggest sin, however, was failing to get Lewis to the ground when they had the opportunity on many of his big plays from scrimmage.
"He's a great back, but we just could not tackle him," Jaguars coach Blake Raley said. "We had our opportunities and just could not get him down when he needed to. We need to do a better job executing as a team."
Ridgeland-Hardeeville finally got on the board early in the third quarter when quarterback D.J. Myers scrambled left and ran past the Hilton Head defense for a 61-yard touchdown that trimmed the lead to 14 after the two-point conversion failed.
The rally was short-lived, however, as Lewis got right back at it with an ankle-breaking 28-yard run that pushed the lead back to 20. Hilton Head never looked back, as it shut out the Jaguars the rest of the way and then marveled as Lewis added three more touchdowns.
"Khalil had a couple games last year where he rushed for more than 200 yards, but this was a special performance," Payne said. "We told him this summer to be ready to carry the load. If we need to run him 40 times, we will, and we know he is ready for that, just like he was tonight. He easily could have carried the ball more than 30 times."
Hilton Head Island 47, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 6
HHH 6 14 13 14 -- 47
RHHS 0 0 6 0 -- 6
HHH--Khalil Lewis 31 run (run failed)
HHH--Lewis 52 run (Savannah Reier kick)
HHH--Lewis 8 run (Reier kick)
RHHS--DJ Myers 61 run (run failed)
HHH--Lewis 28 run (kick failed)
HHH--Lewis 3 run (Reier kick)
HHH--Lewis 5 run (Reier kick)
HHH--Lewis 25 run (Reier kick)