There are no newspaper clippings lining the Hilton Head Island High School locker room this week. No past Bridge Bowl outcomes lighting the Seahawks' scoreboard or bulletin board material ready to welcome their rivals from Bluffton.
"For a team like that, you don't have to lift your (players) up," coach B.J. Payne said. "If you have to give a 10-minute, passionate pregame speech, your kids aren't ready for a game like this."
This week is strictly about football for Hilton Head High, no matter the beatdowns Bluffton has administered in previous years or the off-the-field concerns that warranted a meeting with Beaufort County School District officials a year ago. It's merely the latest edition of the Bridge Bowl rivalry, Payne said, which returns for a 10th time Friday at 7:30 p.m.
"It's a big game against a big opponent," he said. "It's an opponent that's dominated this area for the last several years. We have to show up and play."
Never miss a local story.
Big game is one way to put it. The Seahawks are off to their best start in nearly 25 years, as Hilton Head High has sprinted off to a 4-0 start, matched for the best in the area with Beaufort High. They welcome a 4-1 Bluffton team that looks to continue setting the tone in what has lately been a lopsided rivalry.
The Bobcats are going for their sixth straight win in series, having outscored Hilton Head High 290-20 in that span. The latest victory was perhaps the most dominant, an 80-14 thrashing at Bluffton High.
"I think Bluffton has been hungry," coach Ken Cribb said of the Bobcats' turn in the rivalry. "l think what's given us a chance to have success is our desire to have success, our passion, the level of belief that we have and the confidence we have from knowing how hard we've worked."
If ever there were a time for the Seahawks to register another win in the series, it appears to be now. Tailback Khalil Lewis has been the poster child for Hilton Head High's success, having run for 876 yards and 17 touchdowns so far this season.
He will face his toughest task yet, however, in a Bluffton line that features defensive end and South Carolina commitment Shameik Blackshear and possibly tackle K.J. Ford, a senior who has offers from Georgia Southern and N.C. State. The latter has been out with a broken finger for several weeks and his return remains questionable.
"There's no secret who the horse is over there, no doubt about that," Cribb said of Lewis. "We're not deaf and dumb. We've seen him in person and on film, so we know who the horse is.
"But they do a good job using all their players. Their receivers make catches and the quarterback has done a really good job with the football."
Bluffton's recent blowouts in the series may take a backseat this season, if the Bobcats' latest results are any indications. Cribb's team has played three games that have been decided by a total of 10 points, including an overtime win over A.C. Flora and a one-point victory over James Island.
But the Seahawks' defense is still anticipating the best Bluffton has to offer.
"We gave up a big number (last year)," Payne said. "They have to come back, try to earn that back and try to get that respect back."
Those down-to-the-wire finishes have instilled confidence -- not concern -- in the Bobcats, Cribb said. They will use that again come Friday, despite how the game may turn.
"You have that sense of feeling on the sideline, knowing these kids can get it done," he said. "We've had so many games like that and they continue to do it. ... We've done it time and time again. But it'd be nice not to be in that situation."
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Beaufort High (4-0) at Carolina Forest (1-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort High 42, Carolnia Forest 28 (2012)
The skinny: Last of four consecutive road games for Beaufort High. The Eagles' first four opponents are a combined 4-18. Carolina Forest earned its first victory of the season last week at Myrtle Beach, winning 41-35. The Eagles return home Oct. 4 to play host to Goose Creek, which enters Week 5 at 4-0.
Players to watch: Beaufort High QB Ben Vaigneur has impressed on the road. The senior threw two touchdowns at Cane Bay and ran for another. He has thrown for 381 yards and five touchdowns through four games, with two interceptions. Carolina Forest QB Will Brunson has already thrown for 1,428 yards, with 14 touchdowns to five interceptions.
Keys to the game: The Eagles' experienced defensive backfield probably hasn't faced a passing attack like the Panthers'. The tandem of Kyle Balack and Zavier Jones has combined for more than 1,100 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns, each with a score longer than 70 yards. Beaufort High can use its rushing attack -- JaClay Mixon ran for 263 yards and four touchdowns against the Panthers in 2012 -- to help control the pace.
Estill (3-1, 0-0) at Whale Branch (1-4, 1-0 Region 5-A), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Estill 20, Whale Branch 13 (2012, Class 1-A playoffs)
The skinny: Teams played twice at Estill in 2012. Warriors won 32-20 during the regular season. Gators have defeated Windsor Forest, Battery Creek and Bamberg-Ehrhardt, with a loss at Wade Hampton on Sept. 6.
Players to watch: Estill RBs Jarvis Singleton and DeAngelo Bryant might be the fastest tandem in the state. Singleton averages 163 yards per game. Whale Branch defensive lineman Treyvon Bryan is second on the team with six tackles for loss. He forced a fumble on a crushing hit during the Sept. 20 victory over Denmark-Olar and recovered a fumble.
Keys to the game: The Warriors have to find a way to contain the Gators' speed. Singleton and Bryant have each scored on runs longer than 80 yards this season. Singleton manages 13.9 yards per carry and Bryant 9.9. Whale Branch is in for a long night if they get loose.
Beaufort Academy (3-1, 2-1 SCISAA 8-Man Region I) at Charleston Collegiate (2-2, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Charleston Collegiate 65, Beaufort Academy 0 (2008)
The skinny: The Eagles have won consecutive games and are tied with James Island Christian atop Region I at 2-0. Beaufort Academy is averaging 322 rushing yards per game. Charleston Collegiate won 59-22 at Faith Christian last week.
Players to watch: Beaufort Academy RB Reyn Robinson surpassed 1,000 yards for the season during the victory last week.Junior defensive back Clay Melville averages 10 tackles per game.
Keys to the game: The Eagles will try to slow dual-threat QB Manny Smalls, who has rushed for nine touchdowns on almost 10 yards per carry. Smalls has thrown for 333 yards and two scores.
Hilton Head Prep (2-2) at Northwood Academy (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Northwood Academy 41, Hilton Head Prep 13 (2012)
The skinny: Both teams are looking for their first region win of the season. Both teams are also coming off shootout losses, as Prep dropped a 56-50 decision to Florence Christian while the Chargers were downed by Hilton Head Christian Academy 48-41.
Players to watch: Dolphins QB Tyler Fox had his best game under center last week for the Dolphins, tossing six touchdowns passes as Prep rallied for 27 points in the fourth quarter. His presence took some of the burden off RB Teron Daley, who had shouldered the load offensively early in the season. Chargers QB Will Lloyd leads the Northwood offense, despite throwing just two touchdowns against 10 interceptions this year.
Keys to the game: Both defenses gave up a combined 104 points last week, so whichever unit delivers the better performance should get the victory. Establishing a rhythm offensively should be key for Prep, as the Northwood defense has only recorded two interceptions and one sack through four games this season.
Thomas Heyward Academy (3-2) at Thomas Sumter Academy (0-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Thomas Heyward 54, Thomas Sumter 14 (2012)
The skinny: Thomas Heyward has won three straight after an 0-2 start. Thomas Sumter is still looking for win No. 1. Last week, the Generals lost 29-6 to Calhoun Academy, a team the Rebels routed.
Players to watch: WR/KR Seth Jones has turned into quite the playmaker for the Rebels, rushing 35 times for 397 yards and four tuchdowns, whle catching 13 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He also averages more than 47 yards per kickoff return and 19 yards per punt return.
Keys to the game: If Thomas Heyward holds onto the ball and doesn't make big mistakes on defense, the Rebels should be 4-2 by the end of Friday night.