Beaufort High School football coach Mark Clifford is not ready to talk about region play -- still three weeks away -- or playoffs, which are a lot further off.
After back-to-back victories, the only issue at hand is whether his Eagles are ready for Cane Bay, which Beaufort High hosts at 7:30 tonight.
The Cobras present another Class 4-A test for Beaufort High, which defeated Aiken and Groves (Ga.) in consecutive weeks. Beaufort High is 2-1 after an opening-week loss at Wando.
"We've got to continually answer questions," Clifford said. "Like last week, 'Was the Aiken game a fluke?' We had to answer that question and come on and play hard and win. You never know how good you are until you really get into the season and really face some tough opponents, so we've still got the question out there, 'How good are we?' "
After being shut out in Week 1, the Eagles have won their past two games by a combined 72 points. The Cobras, though, bring a stiffer test their first season as a Class 4-A school, having defeated Summerville and Berkeley while losing a tight one to Fort Dorchester in overtime. Cane Bay scored on a kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception return in Week 3.
"They're an opportunistic team," Clifford said. "And Berkeley played them well. They just came up with big plays. They made big plays at the end of the Fort D game to come back. They caused a lot of turnovers in the Summerville game. We've just got to be fundamental and take care of the football."
Cane Bay runs out of the "I" formation but runs plays similar to the Eagles, Clifford said. The Cobras ran for 245 yards in defeating Summerville, according to The (Charleston) Post and Courier's account of the game. They ran for two scores during the victory over Berkeley this past week.
Clifford said the Eagles' defense had prepared to defend the Cobras' option. The coach expects defensive back Kimani Carpenter to be back, if limited, after spraining his ankle during practice last week.
On offense, Beaufort High running back Javon Dudley was banged up in Week 3 but expected healthy for tonight's game. The Eagles again will be without senior Josh Roberts, out indefinitely due to a school discipline issue, Clifford said last week.
Senior running back JaClay Mixon rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns to help defeat Groves. The Eagles used five running backs during the victory.
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Garrett Academy Tech (2-1) at Battery Creek (0-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Battery Creek 22, Garrett Academy Tech 13 (1992)
The skinny: The Dolphins are still searching for their first victory after a loss to Beaufort County rival Hilton Head Island High School in Week 3. Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatch said Battery Creek loooked as physical as he had seen the Dolphins during the Warriors' Week 2 victory, when Battery Creek held Whale Branch without a reception. Running back Deandre Johnson, back from a hand injury last week, scored on a 70-yard run.
Player to watch: Battery Creek's Yuneek Crittendon has emerged as a big-play threat. Against the Seahawks, he hauled in an 80-yard touchdown catch and returned a kickoff 82 yards for another score. At Whale Branch the previous week, Crittendon scored on an 80-yard run.
Keys to the game: A third of the way into the season, the Dolphins will have to keep their morale high after a winless start. There have been encouraging signs early in the season, and coach Jim Shuman has been pleased with certain aspects of his team's execution. But, as he has said, moral victories are not the goal.
Bluffton (4-0) at James Island (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: Bluffton has allowed only eight points through its first four games. The Bobcats have scored an average 51.5 points per game. James Island has allowed an average of 13.5 points through four games.
Player to watch: Bluffton's Kyle Waddell tallied eight tackles, including a pair of sacks, to help lead the Bobcats' shutout at Wade Hampton last week.
Key to the game: Keep it going. The Bobcats will play their largest South Carolina opponent yet, after opening with a Class 1-A school and a pair of 2-A foes. They should move to 5-0 with a victory over Class 3-A James Island, but only if they continueto avoid costly mistakes.
Hilton Head Island High (2-1) at Wade Hampton (0-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Hilton Head High 57, Wade Hampton 6 (2009)
The skinny: The Seahawks have exploded for 106 points their past two games, both victories. Their two wins came by margins of 42 and 28 points. Quarterback Michael Julian, deemed one of the top quarterback prospects in the state before his senior season, has led Hilton Head High with his arm and feet.
Player to watch: Hilton Head High running back Khalil Lewis has emerged as a leader through extra work in practice to protect the ball. He rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns during the Seahawks victory at Battery Creek.
Key to the game: Stay sharp. The Seahawks should have little trouble with winless Wade Hampton. But a sub-par night like during the season-opening loss to Whale Branch could make for a more uncomfortable evening.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (1-2) at Burke (1-2), 7:30 p.m.
The skinny: Ridgeland-Hardeeville scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to overcome a 13-0 deficit against Savannah Country Day and win its first game of the season last week after two ugly losses. After being outscored 88-6 over its first two contests, Burke, as well, notched its first victory of the season, a, 18-14 win over Scott's Branch.
Players to watch: Against Scott's Branch, Bulldogs quarterback Craig Williams ran for two scores and threw for another, while recording 1 1/2 sacks on defense. But he did fumble twice and throw two interceptions. Jaguars running back Deo'vonte Doe has 294 yards rushing and three of the team's four total touchdowns this season.
Keys to the game: After taking their lumps the first two weeks, the Jaguars proved they could put together a rally and come together to win against a team they matched up with favorably. Now that they've hit region play, they have to play a complete game and continue to improve on both sides of the ball.
Whale Branch (2-1) at Denmark-Olar (0-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Whale Branch defeated Denmark Olar 7-0 in preseason region jamboree
The skinny: Region 5-A opener for both teams. Whale Branch is coming off an open date in Week 3. Warriors coach Jerry Hatcher said the team used the extra time to heal and work in the weight room.
Player to watch: Warriors offensive lineman Nathan Guernsey stepped in for injured linebacker Trey Nelson and recorded seven tackles and recovered a fumble against Battery Creek. The sophomore should see more time on defense today, with Nelson still limited.
Keys to the game: Regain the balance. The Warriors are content to run the ball out of their splitback sets but need the passing game to keep opponents honest. Battery Creek held Whale Branch without a completion. Quarterback Brandon Morton and receiver Dee Delaney will look to re-establish their connection.
Beaufort Academy (1-2) at Cathedral Academy (2-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Cathedral 46, Beaufort Academy 14 (2011)
The skinny: Beaufort Academy lost running back Charlie Humphries for the season with a broken clavicle. Cathedral lost 54-8 ;last week at St. John's Christian. The Generals had scored 66 points the previous week during a victory over Charleston Collegiate.
Players to watch: Eagles running back Reyn Robinson will carry the bulk of the load with the senior Humphries out. Ashton Guest will also be asked to take on more carries.
Keys to the game: The Eagles are happy with the way they have prepared in practice. Their execution has not carred onto the field Friday night, particularly during the second quarter, for whatever reason. "We've got to play four quarters of football and cut out mistakes," Beaufort Academy coach Wheatley Alford said.
Thomas Heyward (4-0) at Lee Academy (0-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Thomas Heyward 48, Lee Academy 12 (2011)
The skinny: The Rebels demolished Colleton Prep 48-14 last week behind a tough defense and four touchdwns (two rushing, two passing) by quarterback JD Tuten. The Cavaliers lost at home, 20-14, in a tough contest to King's Academy.
Players to watch: According to Rebels coach Nic Shuford, Cavaliers quarterback Zach Grantham "does a good job of running their offense and throws the ball pretty well." Of course, Shuford has a pretty good QB of his own in Tuten, who has rushed for 537 yards and eight touchdowns, while passing for 351 and five more scores.
Keys to the game: For Thomas Heyward to move to 5-0, the Rebels need to do what they do well -- move the ball on the ground with Tuten and Ryan Day and shut down Lee Academy's I-formation offense. "We just want to keep getting better," Shuford said. "We want to be more consistent."
Hilton Head Christian (2-1) at Northwood Academy (0-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Hilton Head Christian 46, Northwood Academy 14 (2011)
The skinny: The Eagles routed Dorchester Academy 45-6, while Northwood Academy continued to struggle, falling 41-21 to Florence Christian.
Players to watch: For the Chargers, Tre Orr is a dangerous receiver with 11 receptions so far, while Tyler Lares is a skilled punt returner who also has two interceptions in the defensive backfield. For the Eagles, DeAngelo Clark scored on offense and defense last week.
Keys to the game: According to Eagles coach Tommy Lewis, the Chargers are a talented team who have struggled with turnovers. They are fast and young at the skill positions and experienced on both lines. The Eagles will win this game if they play consistently, cut down on missed blocking assignments and do more with their perimeter players. "The team that plays the most consistently tomorrow will come out on top," Lewis said.
Hilton Head Prep (2-1) at Palmetto Christian Academy (3-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: N/A
The skinny: The Dolphins beat Bible Baptist 20-0 in a game called after one quarter because of lightning. Palmetto Christian beat Trinity-Byrnes, 40-20.
Players to watch: Eagles quarterback JT Waters leads the team in rushing with 417 yards and has scored eight touchdowns. Teammate Ryan Roe has 387 yards rushing and four scores. Teron Daley scored a touchdown russhing, receiving and passing for the Dolphins last week in just a quarter. " Daley could have a big game running the ball this week," Prep coach Kevin Wald said.
Keys to the game: The Dolphins have to remain alert, according to Wald. The Eagles are very aggressive. They take what you give them, go for two after every score and love to onside kick. "You better have your kids ready," Wald said. "Be awake and don't go to sleep or it can get away from you in a hurry. Two to three minutes is all it takes for a game to get away from you." The Dolphins running game, which looked good for a quarter last week, will be key.