The bizarre weather pattern this week did nothing to mute the Battery Creek High School football team's enthusiasm this week.
A cold and rainy Tuesday melted into a mid-70s Wednesday, and the Dolphins' practice still had the pop, players happy to finally have a healthy unit as they prepare to travel to Wade Hampton on Friday to open the Class 2-A Division I playoffs.
"This will be one of the weeks our full lineup is out there -- one of the couple of weeks," Battery Creek senior Isaiah Sloan said. "We've had to have a lot of patience with the new guys -- first of all to know it, and then to have the confidence to do it.
"I think that made us better as a team this year, believing in each other."
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Ninth-seeded Battery Creek (5-5, 4-3 Region 6-AA) is taking a business approach to its trip to Hampton, where Jim Shuman was head coach before taking over the Dolphins in 2011. In 2012, Battery Creek won its first playoff game in 10 years before falling in the second round.
The expectation now is to finish at least a step further, no easy task with top-seeded Dillon waiting in the second round after a bye.
The Dolphins stayed home for their playoff win a year ago but are comfortable with the short trip to face the eighth-seeded Red Devils, who are 4-6 and finished 2-3 in Region 5.
"(The seniors) want their season to continue," Shuman said. "They know they're in that third season where if they lose there is no next week.
"They don't want to see that happen."
Shuman still recognizes some Red Devils' names from his time there, including 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver Daniel Gordon. But for the most part, this Wade Hampton team is new.
Senior quarterback Sheldon Swofford, a transfer from Patrick Henry, leads multiple looks on a Red Devils' offense that favors the zone read.
"We've got to make sure everybody is on the same page, everybody knows their responsibility," Sloan said. "That's the key to stopping their offense. That's what our defense understands."
A healthy roster and the rise of some younger players has allowed Shuman to maximize the personnel is his 3-5 defense.
Defensive end Eric Freeman was moved to outside linebacker. Yuneek Crittendon will move from linebacker to free safety Friday to help protect against the Red Devils' vertical passing threat.
Raekwon Smalls, once the Dolphins' starting quarterback, is fully recovered from a knee injury and being used multiple places, including running back, cornerback and on special teams.
A healthy team allowed the Dolphins to scrimmage this week, for one of the few times this season.
"Nothing but good things to say about this group and the week of preparation," Shuman said. "Except for the crazy weather."
Friday's playoff games
Class 3-A Playoffs
Hilton Head High (7-3) at Socastee (10-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Socastee 23, Hilton Head High 20 (2009)
The skinny: The Seahawks and Braves meet for just the second time, as Socastee won the first and only matchup between the two schools in the 2009 playoffs. Hilton Head High comes in a loser of three straight games and will need to spring an upset to avoid losing four in a row to end a second consecutive season.
Players to watch: The Seahawks are the healthiest they have been seen the Region 8-AAA opener, coach B.J. Payne said. That starts with RB Khalil Lewis, who is back to full strength after dealing with a nagging high ankle sprain for the last several weeks. QB Ben Oliff will start as he continues to heal from a leg injury. Braves QB Hunter Renfrow, a Shrine Bowl selection, leads the Socastee triple option. The senior, who also splits time at corner, has offers from Appalachian State, Presbyterian and others.
Keys to the game: The Seahawks must establish their tempo offensively as they try to overcome the sluggish performances that plagued them over the last several weeks of the regular season. Running Lewis may keep the Seahawks in it, but it is the defense that will decide this one, as Hilton Head High tries to shut down the slippery Renfrow. DL Poona Ford may move around from his tackle position as he and the Seahawks look to confuse the Braves offense.
Lake City (2-8) at Ridgeland-Hardeeville (6-4)
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: The winner of this game would a trip to the Pee Dee to face No. 10 Loris.
Players to watch: Lake City plays two quarterbacks who are both productive -- Andreus Hammond and Ricky Turner. LBs Cliff McFadden and Jamal Brown lead Lake City in tackles with 82 and 81, respectively. The Jaguars' defense has 14 interceptions for the season, led by Tre Robinson's five.
Keys to the game: Of course the Jaguars are excited about hosting a playoff game. But with a team as healthy as it's been all season and an offensive line that has started to gel, Ridgeland-Hardeeville coach Blake Raley has reason to feel good about his team going into Friday night's game. "Overall, there are a lot of things that we can run at them to take advantage of them," Raley said. "We think we can create some mismatches and we can get ahead of them."
Thomas Sumter (2-7) at Hilton Head Christian (7-2), 7 p.m.
Last meeting: HHCA 54, Thomas Sumter 14 (Oct. 4)
The skinny: The Eagles begin the SCISAA 2-A playoffs at home against a Thomas Sumter team they beat by 40 points earlier in the year. Hilton Head Christian is going for a third straight state championship, and enters having won seven straight games following an 0-2 start. A win would set up a home meeting next week with the winner of Palmetto Christian and Calhoun Academy.
Players to watch: RB Deo'Vonte Doe has rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season and is expected to carry the offense during the Eagles' playoff run. QB Brad Meccariello has joined him as a complementary running threat, with the senior providing a handful of passes each Friday night to keep the defense honest. Thomas Sumter RB Jordan Adams rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown in this year's regular season matchup between the two schools.
Keys to the game: The HHCA defense limited Thomas Sumter to just 39 rushing yards on 19 carries in the regular season, an average of just 2 yards per rush. Slowing down the Generals running game will be important for the Eagles once again, as they look to control the clock with their own ground attack. Look for a big game from Doe, who ran for five TDs in the two teams' last meeting.
Thomas Heyward Academy (7-4) at Florence Christian Academy (9-1)
Last meeting: Thomas Heyward Academy 61, Florence Christian 25 (2012, first first round of SCISAA playoffs)
The skinny: If the Rebels can pull the upset on the road, they would have a good shot at reaching the championship and a likely rematch with rival Hilton Head Christian. They would face the winner of Northwood, a team they've already beaten 52-44, and Spartanburg Christian, a team with a losing record.
Players to watch: The Eagles feature a trio of dangerous runners led by Gordon Washington (1,853 yards, 12.5 avg., 23 TDs). Alex James (15.19 avg., 7 TDs) and Bryce Broach (10.74 avg., 5 TDs) are nice complements. Of course, Seth Jones leads the Rebels with 1,405 yard rushing and 14 scores. Jared Rountree (873 yards, 9 TDs) and Zach Belger (637 yards, 9 TDs) can tote the rock, as well.
Keys to the game: Coach Nic Shuford said the Rebels must tackle better that they have of late and don't miss any opportunities on offense. "I think it's going to be a fairly quick game," Shuford said. "We're running the ball, they're running the ball. The clock is going to be running. We've got to make the most out of our possessions. When we get the ball, we've got to score. We need to put points on the board when we've got the ball."
Beaufort Academy (6-4, 5-2 SCISAA 8-man Region I) at King Academy (10-1, 6-1 Region II), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: King Academy 48, Beaufort Academy 34 (2011 regular season)
The skinny: BA coach Brock Vaigneur has led the Eagles to the playoffs in his first season. The Knights' lone loss was to Carolina Academy on Oct. 18. King Academy averaged 43 points per game during the regular season.
Players to watch: Eagles RB Reyn Robinson needs 282 yards to reach 3,000 for the season. He averages 272 yards per game and has 27 TDs. Knights QB Alex Berry has thrown for more than 1,000 yards, with 12 TDs to four interceptions.
Keys to the game: Beaufort Academy's defense will have to stop a balanced Knights' attack. Berry is completing more than 60 percent of his passes, and four Knights running backs have at least 300 yards rushing. The Eagles will probably need their best defensive effort of the season and yet another big game from Robinson.