Mark Clifford checked the weather online in his classroom midway through the week, pleased with the Friday forecast of showers.
The Beaufort High School football coach knew his team's first-round opponent, Blythewood, had lost to Irmo in the rain a couple weeks earlier.
He thought maybe the Eagles' grind-it-out style would take its physical and mental toll better against the dreary backdrop.
Whether that was the case, Beaufort High was able to control the game from the start, shutting down Blythewood's run game and consuming the clock on the other side. The Eagles won 23-15 and will play at North Augusta on Nov. 22 in the second round of the Class 4-A Division II playoffs. The Yellow Jackets defeated Laurens 42-11.
"They're going to be a problem for North Augusta," said Blythewood coach Dan Morgan, whose team finished 7-5. "The fact that they can control the clock as well as they do is one of the biggest things, and one of the best ways to stop a throwing team like us and North Augusta. Shorten that game and get a little more sense of urgency, a lot of pressure on every series that you've got to get the ball down the field."
The playoff victory was the Eagles' first since 2007, when they reached the state championship game against Clover.
Beaufort High (9-3) held the ball for 25 minutes longer than Blythewood and ran 33 more plays. Eagles backs churned out 274 yards on the ground to play keep-away.
After slowing the run and forcing Blythewood into obvious passing situations, the Eagles were able to contain. Defensive back Malcolm Simmons intercepted two passes on the Bengals' final three drives, one setting up a field goal and the other sealing victory after Blythewood made it a one-score game.
Safety Jordan Clegg also intercepted a pass during the second half, making up ground on a receiver at the last instant and snatching the ball away.
"All we wanted to do was contain them and keep the ball under us so our linebackers could help us out," Simmons said. "We shut down the run early. And we knew they were going to try to come deep, and we just made good plays on the ball."
The Eagles forced sophomore quarterback David Israel, making his first playoff start, into 28 incompletions. He threw for 205 yards, a big chunk coming on an 80-yard scoring strike with 2:07 remaining. That was the Bengals' first score since their second drive.
Penalties hurt the Bengals after a short punt set them up with good field position at the Eagles' 38, down only 17-7 in the third quarter. Blythewood was flagged for an ineligible receiver and unsportsmanlike conduct. Beaufort High's Kentrell Seabrook punctuated the drive with a sack to force a punt on fourth-and-51.
"We've been progressing as a defense the whole year," Simmons said. "We've been working our hearts off, and I love these guys."
Ben Vaigneur and Jeffrey Tookes scored on short touchdown runs for Beaufort High. Brady Cormier kicked three field goals to provide the difference.
The Eagles knew to be sharp on special teams after watching Blythewood film. They converted both extra points, three of four field goals and each of Cormier's kickoffs went for touchbacks.
Beaufort High 23, Blythewood 15
Blythewood 7 0 0 0 8 -- 15
Beaufort High 0 10 7 6 -- 23
BLY -- Aaron Peak 33 run (Greg Huegel kick) 2:01
BFT -- Ben Vaigneur 3 run (Brady Cormier kick) 8:41
BFT -- Cormier 21 FG 2:32
BFT -- Jeffrey Tookes 1 run (Cormier kick) 7:15
BFT -- Cormier 48 FG 4:57
BFT -- Cormier 25 FG 2:25
BLY -- Javon Smith 80 pass from David Israel (Trae Churn pass from Israel) 2:07
First Downs 11 20
Rushes-Yards 12-60 68-274
Comp-Att-Int 14-32-3 4-9-1
Passing Yards 205 50
Punts-Avg 4-45.2 3-31.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-69 6-36
Third-Down Conv 3-10 6-17
Fourth-Down Conv 1-2 3-3
PASSING: Blythewood -- David Israel 14-32-3-205; Beaufort High -- Ben Vaigneur 4-9-1-50.
RUSHING: Blythewood -- Aaron Peak 4-50, Jalen Williams 1-8, Jaquari Blunt 4-8, Joseph Richardson 1-1; Beaufort High -- Eric Blakely 26-152, Jeffrey Tookes 30-83, Ben Vaigneur 10-35, Da'Quan Cason 1-5.
RECEIVING: Blythewood -- Javon Smith 4-111, Lynard Jamison 4-53, Richardson 2-20, Deyon Grayer 2-11; Beaufort High -- Cason 2-33, Stephen Baggett 1-10, Keaton Butler 1-7.