Rayquan Singleton knew his was a big job this week.
The Beaufort High School defensive lineman and his teammates watched video of Fort Dorchester gashing teams up the middle in the run game. And Singleton, who started at nose guard, was the first line of defense.
The junior blew up a fourth-down run play during the first half and helped set the tone for a Beaufort defense that turned back Fort Dorchester during a 24-21 victory at Eagles Field.
"They were pretty physical with the center and the guards," Singleton said. "It was intense.
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"We just had to step up and be players. I was really proud of them."
Beaufort High improved to 7-3 overall and 2-2 in Region 8-AAAA, snapping a two-game losing streak in the region and erasing the taste of a blown lead at Ashley Ridge the previous week. The Eagles could be headed for a Class 4-A playoff berth for the first time in three seasons after a final home game against Colleton County next week.
"We've got to win," Beaufort High coach Mark Clifford said. "You can't have a letdown."
Linebacker Jason Senn had an interception and a fumble recovery and fellow linebacker T.J. Watts used his wheels to chase down Patriots quarterback Kobe Garrett, when he could.
After tight end Stephen Baggett and defensive lineman Kentrell Seabrook earned North-South all-star selections this week, Clifford told his team a lot of good things had happened this season, but to finish strong.
A 21-7 lead had slopped away at Ashley Ridge. And the Eagles were in danger of dropping three straight.
Fort Dorchester (6-4, 2-2 Region 8-AAAA) was coming off consecutive victories at Colleton County and at home against Bluffton during which the Patriots combined for 118 points.
After Beaufort High built a 24-7 lead Friday, Fort Dorchester answered with two quick scores in the final 3:30 of the third quarter to cut the lead to three. The rain had picked up and the homecoming crowd was antsy.
But Beaufort High stopped the Patriots to start the fourth quarter, recovering a fumble in the end zone on fourth down as Fort Dorchester pushed for the go-ahead score. A nine-play Patriots drive ended in a turnover on downs at the Eagles' 27.
"They deserved to win," Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad said. "We didn't do anything to win.
"We got what we deserved."
Beaufort High ran out the final 4:32 behind hard running from Jeffrey Tookes and quarterback Ben Vaigneur.
"They're definitely a great football team, and we knew that," Vaigneur said. "We played our butts off."
Vaigneur scored twice on the ground. The Eagles' primary back, Eric Blakely, carried for 171 yards -- 127 before halftime.
The Eagles could have built a bigger lead early.
A holding penalty stalled the opening drive and ended in a missed field goal. Blakely's 53-yard run gave Beaufort High first-and-goal from the Patriots' 3 during the first quarter. The Eagles turned it over on downs.
The scoreless first quarter dissolved into a fast-paced second quarter. Vaigneur scored on a 13-yard run after a facemask penalty. Blakely added a 15-yard score before halftime.
Singleton's stop in the backfield on a fourth-down run protected the Eagles' lead in the final minute before halftime.
"You could hear his name throughout the stadium all night," Vaigneur said. "That's big for him, big for us, and we're super proud of him."
Beaufort High 24, Fort Dorchester 21
Fort Dorchester 7 0 14 0 -- 21
Beaufort High 0 14 10 0 -- 24
B -- Ben Vaigneur 13 run (Brady Cormier kick) 8:19
FD -- Matt Murrary 16 (Corey Rawlings kick) 4:50
B -- Eric Blakely 15 run (Cormier kick) 2:53
B -- Vaigneur 4 run (Cormier kick) 10:07
B -- Cormier 25 FG 3:48
FD -- Kobe Garrett 80 run (Rawlings kick) 3:30
FD -- Eurndraus Bryant 1 run (Rawlins kick) :23
First Downs 21 22
Rushes-Yards 46-375 46-323
Comp-Att-Int 8-14-1 4-6-0
Passing Yards 91 60
Punts-Avg 2-41.5 2-40.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-55 5-50
Third-Down Conv 4-9 4-6
Fourth-Down Conv 1-4 0-1
PASSING: Fort Dorchester -- Kobe Garrett 6-12-1-91; Beaufort High -- Ben Vaigneur 4-6-60.
RUSHING: Fort Dorchester -- Garrett 15-197, Matt Murray 14-103, Nahshon Cyrus 14-68, Eurndraus Bryant 3-7; Beaufort High -- Eric Blakely 21-171, Jeffrey Tookes 13-85, Ben Vaigneur 10-40, Da'Quan Cason 2-28.
RECEIVING: Fort Dorchester -- Joseph Hutchinson 3-24, Rashad Palmer 2-28, D'Monte Bailey 2-27, Corey Rawlings 1-12; Beaufort High -- Keaton Butler 2-20, Stephen Baggett 1-34, Cason 1-6.