What started out as an all-out blitz never turned into a beatdown, but when the clock ran out, Hilton Head Island High School had once again found a way.
This week's victims were the Whale Branch Warriors, who fought valiantly after conceding 20 early points on a pair of big plays and a mistake, but battled the Seahawks the rest of the way. At the final horn -- a 20-6 Seahawks' triumph -- even the victorious home team wasn't exactly sure how to feel about a performance that was never as dominant as the opening seven minutes suggested it would be.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Seahawks senior defensive lineman Markus Merritt said. "There are some people that were mad, some people that were happy. But as a whole, everybody was just feeling kind of weird about the win."
The Warriors were a big part in turning an evening that looked primed for a cakewalk into a cage fight, deploying defensive stars Nyles Pinckney and Treyvon Bryan with devastating effect. Pinckney alone recovered two of Hilton Head High's three lost fumbles and made what was perhaps the play of the game. Receiver Tyler Hamilton took a sweep wide to the left, but could not outrun Pinckney, who tracked the speedster down from behind in the flat.
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It was that kind of effort that left Warriors coach Jerry Hatcher proud of his players, despite the loss.
"We just kept executing our game plan, and I think our kids drew more confidence during the game," Hatcher said. "We won the second half, but unfortunately, you've got to win the whole game."
It was the first quarter that ultimately did the Warriors in, and most of the damage was accrued in the span of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it minute. A spectacular 10-yard touchdown catch by Aaron Frazier gave the Seahawks an early 7-0 lead. Then, with 6:03 remaining, quarterback Aidan Hegarty tore up the middle for a 58-yard score.
The Warriors fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and 10 seconds later, running back P.J. Franklin punched it in from the 2-yard line to make it 20-0 Seahawks.
But that was as much offense as the home team could muster. Plagued by penalties, three turnovers and more drops, including a glaring one by Hamilton, Hilton Head High was stymied for the remainder of the contest.
"The first six minutes, we took it to them; the next 42 minutes, they took it to us," coach B.J. Payne said. "We have to get better. We're flawed in so many areas right now."
Whale Branch found some life on Amagee Stephens' 46-yard touchdown pass to David Lamb in the second quarter, but the Hilton Head High defense saved the day, churning out six sacks and numerous tackles for loss. Merritt did his part despite hurting his neck in the first half.
"Hurt my neck second quarter so went in the locker room, iced up," Merritt said. "Came back out there."
On a night that neither team was willing to give way to the other, that's all you could ask for.
WB 0 0 6 0 -- 6
HHH 20 0 0 0 -- 20
HHH -- Aaron Frazier rec 10 yds from Hagerty (Savannah Reier kick) 9:47
HHH -- Hagerty rush 58 yds (Reier kick MISSED) 6:03
HHH -- P.J. Franklin rush 2 yds (Reier kick) 5:53
WB -- Lamb rec 46 yds from Stephens (Wallace kick BLOCKED) (4:29)
Rushes-Yards 33-175 42-73
Comp-Att-Int 10-22-0 2-6-0
Passing Yards 105 81
Punts-Avg 2-54 5-39.2
Fumbles-Lost 4-3 3-3
Penalties-Yards 9-75 12-58
PASSING: Whale Branch -- Amagee Stephens 2-8-81; Hilton Head -- Aidan Hagerty 9-21-81, Thomas Farrell 1-1-24
RUSHING: Whale Branch --Damjour Davis 16-69, Braxton Bowers 7-50, Stephon Eugene 10-21, Ben Wallace 1-(-12), Amagee Stephens 8-(-55); Hilton Head -- Tyliek Smith 7-78, P.J. Stephens 19-67, Aidan Hagerty 5-35, Tyler Hamilton 1- (-5), Thomas Farrell 1-0
RECEIVING: Whale Branch -- David Lamb 2-81; Hilton Head -- Aaron Frazier 6-64, Tyler Hamilton 3-29, DeAngelo Clark 1-12