The Hilton Head Island High School football team has suddenly taken up an interest in history.
It began with a season-opening win over Whale Branch Early College High School, the program's first victory in an opener since 1999. Ever since, coach B.J. Payne has become a history teacher of sorts, providing his Seahawks with the next milestone ready to fall.
"It's something that each week is getting them excited and motivated," Payne said. "We've had three great weeks of practice now. The kids are coming ready every day."
Hilton Head High followed up its Whale Branch win with another over Ridgeland-Hardeeville, good for the team's first 2-0 start since 1991. Now comes former region foe Battery Creek for the Seahawks' home opener.
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Payne and Co. will be going for the program's first 3-0 start since 1989.
"They're excited about it," Payne said. "They're believing in themselves and believing in the system. It's going great."
The Seahawks and Dolphins both enter Friday night's game with quarterbacks on the mend. Hilton Head High lost starter Aiden Hegarty to a broken hand last week, with Ben Oliff taking his place against Ridgeland-Hardeeville. Oliff initially lost out on the starting job after a spirited preseason battle.
"He's competed and played a lot of that position throughout the years," Payne said. "He was competing for it this year. ... His experience and leadership show up in being a senior."
Battery Creek, already without starting quarterback Raekwon Smalls, lost freshman Justin Cochran to injury this week. Battery Creek coach Jim Shuman expects Cochran back next week, but the Dolphins will be thin Friday behind senior Zach Mahan.Oliff will be tasked with besting a Dolphins defense that shut out Whale Branch 22-0 a week ago. Battery Creek showed Hilton Head High five or six different fronts in last year's meeting, Payne said, while bringing 16 different blitz packages.
"They come at you from all different angles and different looks," he said. "... They're primarily a 3-5 type team, and when you have a team like that, you can come from all different angles. They're aggressive."
The Seahawks' spread offense presents a new challenge for Battery Creek, which has seen only straight-forward, run-oriented sets. The Dolphins are wary of the speed option after Hilton Head High running back Khalil Lewis ran for seven touchdowns during the victory at Ridgeland-Hardeeville.
"He definitely hits the corner well and has a great burst down the sideline," Shuman said. "He's a talented back."
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (1-1) at Bluffton (2-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Bluffton 67, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 0 (2012)
The skinny: The Bobcats are going for their second win in as many season against Ridgeland-Hardeeville, which is coming off a thumping at the hands of Hilton Head High. Bluffton must go another week without several of its key players, instead looking for its youth to lead the way as veterans are on the mend. The Bobcats are coming off a 37-31 overtime win against A.C. Flora.
Players to watch: ILB Michael Meyerink had a big night last Friday against the Falcons, forcing a key fumble while stopping a handful of runs right up the middle. He could have an even bigger night against a Jaguars team that finished with just two first downs and five total yards of offense last year against Bluffton. For Ridgeland-Hardeeville, QB D.J. Myers must make good decisions in the Jaguars are going to have any chance at movig the ball.
Keys to the game: The Jaguars surrendered seven touchdowns and more than 300 yards rushing to Hilton Head High RB Khalil Lewis last week, so look for Bluffton to also try and exploit the Ridgeland-Hardeeville ground defense. The Jaguars, meanwhile, failed to convert inside the Seahawks 20 three times in last week's first quarter, so an improved red zone offense would go a long way in pulling off the upset win.
Dorchester Academy (0-2) at Hilton Head Christian (0-2), 7 p.m.
Last meeting: HHCA 45, Dorchester Academy 6 (2012)
The skinny: Hilton Head Christian has not lost more than two games in a season since 2008, when the Eagles went 8-4 under then-coach Tommy Lewis. The team will try to avoid that honor Friday against a Dorchester Academy team that is also seeking its first win of the season.
Players to watch: Eagles coach Ryan Mitch has preached more physical play from his offensive and defensive lines and spent the early portion of this week focusing on that front. How Hilton Head Christian responds in the trenches will determine whether it picks up the first victory of the Mitch era.
Keys to the game: The Eagles have been saddled with ill-timed penalties and defensive struggles in the first two games of the season. Eliminating flags and becoming a more physical defense will be key for Hilton Head Christian. The Eagles have performed well offensively thus far, accounting for over 450 total yards of offense in each of the first two games, and will need a repeat performance against Dorchester Academy.
Bible Baptist (3-0) at Hilton Head Prep (1-1), 5 p.m.
Last meeting: Hilton Head Prep 20, Bible Baptist 0
The skinny: Prep is coming off its first loss of the season, a 39-16 loss to Lawrence Manning. The Dolphins had a 16-13 advantage at halftime but turnovers plagued coach Kevin Wald's team in the second half. Prep returns home to face a Bible Baptist team that has already beaten area foes Thomas Heyward and Hilton Head Christian.
Players to watch: Bible Baptist QB Keynnard Campbell may be the best athlete in SCISAA, Wald said. The senior signal-caller has accumulated over 1,100 total yards of offense in just three games, including an 88-point outburst against Thomas Heyward. Wald may use LB Teron Daley as a spy as he tries to keep Campbell in the pocket while also bringing pressure from the Dolphins back seven.
Keys to the game: Wald's team will lean on its run-heavy offense to slow down the Braves attack, as Daley and Co. look to grind out a victory on the ground. The Dolphins have "looked like a contender" at times, Wald said, but must eliminate some of the self-inflicted mistakes that led to a loss last week. Keeping the Bible Baptist offense on the sidelines and playing smart football will be vital for the Dolphins.
Beaufort High (2-0) at Groves (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort High 37, Groves 0
The skinny: The second game of the Eagles' four-week road trip. Beaufort High shut out Aiken 21-0 in Week 2. Groves lost 34-0 at Screven County on Aug. 30.
Players to watch: Beaufort High DE Andrew Jezewski leads the defense with four tackles for loss. Groves QB Shabari Davis carried 12 times for 49 yards and a touchdown in his team's only game. WR Jerry Davis had three catches for 84 yards in the loss.
Keys to the game: Beaufort High only needs to maintain focus on the road to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2009. The Eagles probably wouldn't mind a faster start after a scoreless first half at Aiken. Three big plays in the second half helped bury the Hornets.
Whale Branch (0-3) at Wade Hampton (1-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: The Warriors' 0-3 start is the worst in the program's four seasons. The three losses all came to schools in larger classifications. Wade Hampton beat Estill 12-6 in Week 2.
Players to watch: Whale Branch RB Malik Brown averages 10 yards per carry through three games. LB Elijah Green leads the team with 27 tackles, including five for loss.
Keys to the game: Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher is searching for consistency on offense. The Warriors have been shutout twice their first three games. Hatcher thinks the troubles start with blocking, and he switched up formations at Battery Creek to try and help.
Thomas Heyward (1-2) at Colleton Prep (1-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Thomas Heyward 49, Colleton Prep 14 (2012)
The skinny: The Rebels are coming off their first win after a rough 0-2 start. Colleton Prep has no depth, dressing just 17 players.
Players to watch: After the rough start, the Rebels' offense has picked up where it left off last year. Gone are QB J.D. Tuten, RB Ryan Day and WR Bryan Lee Wade. But QB Davis Owens, RB Jared Rountree and Seth Jones aren't too shabby. In three games, Owens has thrown for 385 yards and an area-best four TDs, Rountree has rushed for 363 yards and four TDs and Jones has rushed for 279 yards and two TDs while catching seven passes for 181 yards and two more TDs.
Keys to the game: The War Hawks will try and control the ball with their wishbone attack. If they can't, they'll be in trouble. They simply lack the athletes needed to stop the Rebels' offense.
Beaufort Academy (1-1) at Faith Christian (2-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Faith Christian 42, Beaufort Academy 13 (2012)
The skinny: The Eagles play three of their next four games on the road. Faith Christian averaged 48 points in its two victories and lost to King Academy 50-8.
Players to watch: Reyn Robinson continues to do it all for Beaufort Academy. He scored on a 76-yard kick return against Jefferson Davis and on a pair of 15-yard runs. Look for Clay Melville, who also had a touchdown run last week, to help complement him.
Keys to the game: Conditioning was a concern after Beaufort Academy faded against Jefferson Davis after leading 20-8 during the first half. Jefferson Davis scored the final 26 points. Coach Brock Vaigneur said a weather-shortened opening week didn't help. Look for the Eagles to be in better shape Friday.