No matter how hard he may try, Khalil Lewis probably won't soon shake the memories of Hilton Head Island High School's season opener three weeks ago against Whale Branch.
Despite tearing up the Warriors' defense for 135 yards on 14 carries, Lewis was benched following intermission by head coach B.J. Payne after the tailback fumbled three times during a difficult first half. The Seahawks went on to lose, 29-28.
Ever since then, it's been all about proving he can carry the load to Payne and his doubters.
"I had to do all I could to not fumble," he said. "My coaches told me, 'If you fumble, then you're not playing.' "
Lewis took those words to heart, and it helped the Seahawks net another win in the process. Behind the junior's 110-yard, two touchdown performance, Hilton Head High won for the second week, knocking off Battery Creek, 52-24, Friday night.
"He's really stepped up," Payne said. "I challenged him as a player and challenged him to step up as a leader on this team. He's a good player. He's worked hard on ball security."
Unlike in the opener, Lewis was there for his teammates when they needed him most. The Seahawks (2-1) built an early 14-point lead thanks to a Michael Julian touchdown run before the quarterback found Adam Orischak from 39 yards out for a 14-0 lead. But the Dolphins (0-3) refused to go away, as Jim Shuman's squad reeled off a 24-8 run to take a two-point lead early in the third quarter.
Yuneek Crittendon was the man responsible for the rally, as the sophomore hauled in an 80-yard touchdown catch after leaping over a pair of defenders before collecting an 82-yard kickoff return for a score after Julian's second rushing touchdown of the night late in the first half.
Battery Creek's rally continued when Deandre Johnson burst through the middle of the Seahawk defense to start the third quarter, as the senior tailback galloped into the end zone for a 70-yard score.
"I was kind of like, 'Dang, we got to pick it up,' " Lewis recalled. "I don't know how my teammates felt, but obviously they felt the same way I did. We had to get back in the game."
They did just that. Lewis started things on the Seahawks' ensuing drive when he took a pitch from Julian, bounced off a pair of defenders and rumbled in for a 30-yard touchdown. Scott D'Amico then punched it in from 4 and 2 yards out before Lewis capped the comeback with a 6-yard run to put the game away.
In all, the Seahawks outscored Battery Creek 30-0 over the final 23 minutes.
"It's like a heavyweight boxing match," Shuman said. "We had them on the ropes. We were one knockdown from a TKO. We just couldn't get that final knockdown."
In the days following the Seahawks' opening-game loss, Lewis went through ball-security drills administered by the Hilton Head High coaching staff. Since then, he's netted more than 200 yards on the ground for the Seahawks, who have won their last two contests.
And, to no one's surprise, Lewis didn't cough it up in either game.
"I didn't like (being benched)," he said. "They didn't listen to me. I'm like 'Yo coach, I'm ready to get in.' The didn't play me. I told them that's not me.
"Fumbling is not me. I don't do that. At all."
Hilton Head High 52, Battery Creek 24
Hilton Head High 14 8 15 15 -- 52
Battery Creek 6 11 7 0 -- 24
HHH--Michael Julian 1 rush (Colin White kick), 11:14.
HHH--Adam Orischak 39 catch from Julian (White kick), 4:13.
BC--Yuneek Crittendon 80 catch from Rawkwon Smalls (kick blocked), 3:51.
BC--Zach Mahan 23 kick, 10:01.
HHH--Julian 1 rush (Scott D'Amico rush), 2:27.
BC--Crittendon 82 kick return (Darrin Peeks rush), 2:12.
BC--Deandre Johnson 70 rush (Mahan kick), 10:57.
HHH--Khalil Lewis 30 rush (White kick), 9:19.
HHH--D'Amico 4 rush (D'Amico rush), 4:59.
HHH--D'Amico 2 rush (D'Amico rush), 8:42.
HHH--Khalil Lewis 6 rush (White kick), 4:39.
First Downs 21 5
Rushes-Yards 41-229 35-175
Comp-Att-Int 14-24-0 2-8-0
Passing Yards 257 92
Punts-Avg 5-40 7-29
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 12-90 8-56
Third-Down Conv 4-11 3-14
Fourth-Down Conv 1-2 1-1
PASSING: HHH -- Michael Julian 14-24-0-257, TD; BC -- Raekwon Smalls 2-8-0-92, TD.
RUSHING: HHH -- Khalil Lewis 12-110, Michael Julian 14-66, Tyshaun Green 9-41, Scott D'Amico 5-11, Jamarcus Moradel 1-1; BC -- Deandre Johnson 11-108, Darrin Peeks 4-61, Yuneek Crittendon 11-14, Caleb Harris 1-4, Raekwon Smalls 8-(-12).
RECEIVING: HHH -- Adam Orischak 3-98, Jonny Dillon 5-71, James Sanders 2-51, Jamarcus Moradel 4-35, Robbie Iulo 1-2; BC -- Yuneek Crittendon 1-80, Steven White 1-12.