This is the one we've all been waiting for.
For five weeks now, it seems like Bluffton and Hilton Head Island High have been building toward this Friday night. The Bobcats suffered through an unexpected slip-up at South Effingham, but other than that the two rivals have taken care of business.
The Bridge Bowl is set for tonight and both teams enter with a combined 8-1 record. The Seahawks, as you are probably aware, are off to their best start in quite some time. The Bobcats are hoping to bring them back down to Earth in much of the same fashion as they've done in recent memory.
There's no need to rehash the same numbers you have heard from me over and over again. Bottom line: Bluffton has owned this rivalry over the last several years and expects to build on that at Hilton Head Island Community Stadium.
The Seahawks believe they have the capability of dethroning the Bobcats and registering their first victory in the series since 2009.
"Everybody is excited," Seahawks coach B.J. Payne said. "We've had a couple great days of practice so far. ... I think it's something that they're anxious about. Obviously it's a big game and the kids understand that."
Things appear to be trending upward for Hilton Head High. Payne said the Seahawks have had their best practice of his tenure this week, and the team is expected to get quarterback Aiden Hegarty back under center. The sophomore was lost following Week 1 with a broken hand, but was recently cleared to play.
The burden of a victory will likely fall on the Seahawks defense, however. Bluffton has thrashed the unit in recent memory, but Hilton Head High appears to be improved on that side of the ball while the Bobcats have taken a step back offensively following the departure of several key players.
"It's going to be how well we contain their best and how well they contain our whole, because we're not a one-horse team here," Bluffton coach Ken Cribb said. "We share the wealth really evenly and they don't use as many, but they've got a couple strong key players. It's just two different systems."
The Seahawks will look to establish the run -- something the Bluffton defense has struggled with for chunks of this season -- with tailback Khalil Lewis. Look for him to run right at Bobcats defensive end Shameik Blackshear, who has been even better when opposing offenses run the other way. His speed catching runners from the backside has been key for the Bluffton defense.
Hilton Head High's defense, meanwhile, must play assignment football. The Bobcats can get defenses out of sync quickly with the number of motions and play action passes they employ.
"We can't get caught up in the smoke and mirrors and everything like that," Payne said. " ... "They have to stay in their assignments and stay disciplined."
Prediction: The safe bet is picking Bluffton, which has run roughshod over the Seahawks over the last five meetings. But Hilton Head High appears to be a better football team than in previous seasons and will likely challenge the Bobcats for the first time since 2009. Bluffton has found itself in three down-to-the-wire games so far this season and will find another one Friday. Bluffton wins, 42-36.