Hilton Head Island High School's perfect start seems so very far away now.
The Seahawks were shut down and nearly shut out, 26-6, by Berkeley on Friday night, giving coach B.J. Payne's team its third straight defeat after the group sprinted out to an improbable 7-0 start and No. 8 ranking in Class 3-A earlier this year. The latest defeat saddled the Seahawks with the final seed from Region 8-AAA, meaning Hilton Head High must travel to unbeaten and third-ranked Socastee next Friday for the first round of the playoffs.
"It's the little things," Payne said. "We were doing the little things the first seven weeks. Taking care of our responsibilities and making sure we were doing everything right. For some reason, we've gotten away from that."
The Seahawks couldn't seem to do anything right on this night. Hilton Head High (7-3, 2-3 Region 8-AAA) found the end zone just once against the stingy Berkeley defense, which limited quarterbacks Ben Oliff and Aiden Hegarty to a combined 6 of 15 performance with a pair of interceptions.
The offense netted just 53 yards through the air and finished with nine first downs, a handful of which came in the fourth quarter with the game's outcome already determined.
"I just thought our kids had a great week of practice," Stags coach Jeff Cruce said. "They took the challenge of knowing how big the game was. We had to win. We wanted to finish third, we didn't want to go to Socastee.
"We went there last year. Socastee is pretty good."
Instead, it will be the Seahawks who get that honor. By virtue of its victory, Berkeley (5-5, 3-2) earned the right to travel to Myrtle Beach for next week's postseason opener, as the Seahawks moved to 6-4 following an upset of 8-2 North Myrtle Beach.
"Our defense played great," Cruce said. " ... They kept us in the ballgame. And our kicker kicked the ball well."
Vance Bailey booted four field goals for the Stags, the last of which came from 44 yards out. Tailback Joshua Sellers had 149 yards on 14 carries, 77 of which came on his touchdown run early in the second half, while quarterback Joshua Dress added 75 yards and a 26-yard score.
Their efforts were enough to get past a Seahawks offense that sputtered despite the return of senior Khalil Lewis. The tailback led the team with 107 yards on 17 touches, but was largely ineffective due to the struggles of the Hilton Head High quarterbacks.
Hegarty left late in the game with a nagging foot injury while Oliff continued to hobble on a leg he injured last month at Orangeburg-Wilkinson. The two have failed to get much going for a team that has been outscored 114-34 over the last three games.
The quarterbacks did find receiver Aaron Frazier twice for 43 yards, giving him the new school record for receiving yards in a single season. His 794 yards to date were enough to best his older brother, Victor Frazier, who set the mark in 2009 with 767 yards.
"Offensively, we were in about a million different directions tonight," Payne said. "That falls on us as a staff. We made some critical errors."
They will have to get it fixed before taking the four-hour ride to Socastee, where the Seahawks will attempt to stave off a four-game losing streak to end what started as such an encouraging season. Hilton Head High suffered a similar fate a year ago, when a 5-2 start was derailed with four straight defeats to end Payne's inaugural year.
The group was outscored 224-122 during that stretch.
"The thing that's frustrating is we work extremely hard to be able to finish," Payne said. "That's the disappointing thing now, that we've dropped three in a row. If we don't get it straightened out, it will be four in a row."
Berkeley 26, Hilton Head High 6
Berkeley High 3 3 17 3 -- 26
Hilton Head High 0 0 6 0 -- 6
BRK--Vance Bailey 26 kick, 7:48.
BRK--Bailey 20 kick, 11:11.
BRK--Joshua Sellers 77 rush (Bailey kick), 10:36.
HHH--Tyler Hamilton 4 rush (kick failed), 8:53,
BRK--Joseph Dress 26 rush (Bailey kick), 4:49.
BRK--Bailey 35 kick, 1:50.
BRK--Bailey 44 kick, 7:54.
First Downs 16 9
Rushes-Yards 48-308 36-168
Comp-Att-Int 3-15-1 6-15-2
Passing Yards 52 53
Punts-Avg 2-42 6-36
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-30 4-25
Third-Down Conv 3-14 2-10
Fourth-Down Conv 2-2 0-2
PASSING: BRK -- Joseph Dress 3-12-1-52, Chris Richardson 0-3-0-0; HHH -- Ben Oliff 4-9-1-49, Aiden Hegarty 2-6-1-4.
RUSHING: BRK -- Joshua Sellers 14-149, Joseph Dress 8-75, Jonathan Washington 12-61, Leon Simmons 10-41, Chris Richardson 4-(-18); HHH -- Khalil Lewis 17-107, Aiden Hegarty 7-49, Tyler Hamilton 6-20, Jestin Morrow 2-(-3), Ben Oliff 4-(-5).
RECEIVING: BRK -- D.J. Whitherson 2-43, Dylan Baker 1-9; HHH -- Aaron Frazier 2-43, Tyler Hamilton 3-6, Jestin Morrow 1-4.