Jerry Hatcher's concerns entering this week were on his thin offensive and defensive lines. The special teams unit was, in all likelihood, the least of his concerns.
Whale Branch Early College High School played with just eight linemen -- most of whom went both ways -- at Hilton Head Island High School on Friday night. That lack of depth has made it difficult for Hatcher and Co. to focus on the Warriors' special teams.
That changed Thursday, when Whale Branch finally spent some valuable practice time working on point after attempts. And that work helped the Warriors net their first win of the season, as a blocked extra point by freshman Nyle Pinckney late in the fourth quarter helped seal Whale Branch's 29-28 upset win over the Class 3-A Seahawks.
"Being a 1-A school, we can't practice special teams," an elated Hatcher said afterward. " ... We're behind on special teams. Almost the entire line played offense and defense tonight."
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The block helped the Warriors stave off a furious Seahawks rally, as Hilton Head High erased a 29-13 deficit midway through the third quarter thanks to Michael Julian touchdown passes of 52 and 8 yards to senior wideout Adam Orischak and a 28-yard field goal by Colin White. Julian finished 11 of 24 for 253 yards and four touchdown passes, three of which went to Orischak.
But that's when Pinckney broke through to block White's point after before the Warriors used an 11-play drive to salt the game away. The final blow came on fourth and short at Whale Branch's own 39-yard line, as quarterback Brandon Morton picked up a critical 4 yards to put the finishing touches on the upset win.
"I just used my strength," Pinckney said. "My teammates helped me out. I was able to get my hands up and block the kick."
It was Pinckney and the running game that delivered the final dagger to spoil Hilton Head High coach B.J. Payne's debut, but it was wide receiver Dee Delaney who got the Warriors to that point. The senior, who netted 124 yards in a loss last week at Bluffton, was up to his usual tricks against as he hauled in five catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns against the Seahawks.
"This is a big win right here," he said. "This shows that we can go hard the rest of the season. We know what we have to do."
The wideout's first big play came in the second quarter when he caught a pass near the Seahawks' 40-yard line and turned up field for a 70-yard score. He added another 62-yard touchdown reception late in the first half that sent Whale Branch into the locker room up 21-13.
He dedicated his performance to senior free safety Chavone Simmons, who dislocated his ankle in the first quarter before being taken off on a stretcher. Hatcher didn't want to speculate, but said it was unlikely that Simmons would return this season.
"My home boy, my best friend got hurt," Delaney said. "I put it on my mind to go out and go hard for him."
Warriors tailback Trey Nelson added his second score of the night midway through the third to put the Warriors up by 16 before the Warriors held on thanks to Pinckney's critical block.
"I actually thought about going for two," Payne said. "But you play it safe, you're at home. He just came through and made the play."
Pinckney can thank his point after practice Thursday night for that.
"I finally got it in yesterday," Hatcher reiterated. "I am so glad we did."
Whale Branch 29, Hilton Head High 28
Whale Branch 0 21 8 0 -- 29
Hilton Head High 7 6 6 9 -- 28
HHH--Adam Orischak 48 pass from Michael Julian (Colin White kick).
WB--Dee Delaney 70 pass from Brandon Morton (Delaney rush).
WB--Trey Nelson 1 run (Javonta Delaney kick).
HHH--James Sanders 39 pass from Julian (conversion failed).
WB--Delaney 62 pass from Morton (kick failed).
WB--Nelson 6 run (Glover catch).
HHH--Orischak 52 pass from Julian (conversion failed).
HHH--White 28 kick.
HHH--Orischak 8 pass from Julian (kick failed).
Whale Branch Hilton Head High
First Downs 13 14
Rushes-Yards 38-123 26-161
Comp-Att-Int 7-14-0 11-24-0
Passing Yards 201 253
Punts-Avg 4-28 2-47
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-3
Penalties-Yards 7-48 12-93
Third-Down Conv 4-11 6-11
Fourth-Down Conv 2-3 0-2
WB -- Brandon Morton 7-14-0-201, 2 TD; HHH -- Michael Julian 11-24-0-247, 4 TD
WB -- Michael Dantzler 12-45, Braxton Bowers 11-25, Trey Nelson 6-26, Brandon Morton 6-15, Dee Delaney 2-10, Mark Rivers 1-2; HHH -- Khalil Lewis 14-135, Scott D'Amico 4-10, Michael Julian 3-10, Ty'Shan Green 4-5, Adam Orischak 1-1.
WB -- Dee Delaney 5-193, Terel Hazel 2-8; HHH -- Adam Orischak 4-124, James Sanders 4-74, Jonny Dillon 2-36, Khalil Lewis 1-19.