This tougher schedule, the one that shed traditional Beaufort County rivals Battery Creek and Hilton Head Island High School, was meant in part to mold Beaufort High School's football team into a more attractive, well-rounded playoff team.
The S.C. High School League's points system rewards the tougher path. And the Eagles are hoping to cash in at the end of the regular season.
Four weeks in, though, Beaufort High is feeling the effects of four Class 4-A opponents. Cane Bay, appearing on the Eagles' schedule for the first time, escaped Beaufort High on Friday with a 28-20 victory.
"We've got to come back next week and work harder," senior defensive lineman James Ginn said.
The loss halted Beaufort High's two-game win streak and spoiled another big night from Eagles running back JaClay Mixon, who rushed for 225 yards and a pair of scores.
The Eagles (2-2) did not allow an offensive touchdown in the second half, coming back to make a game of it in the end. But a lost fumble cost them a drive with under five minutes to play, and their final drive stalled at the Cobras' 35.
Cane Bay (3-1) looked a lot like the Eagles on film, Beaufort High coach Mark Clifford said -- committed to the run, with a variety of running backs trusting a scheme rather than an individual. And the Cobras brought it during the first half.
Coaches told the Eagles defense to slow down, to read the play and wrap up the tackle. Cane Bay managed only one first down during the second half and 66 yards on the ground the final two quarters.
"We were playing good football, we just had to wrap up," Ginn said.
But Romonte Frazier's 87-yard kickoff return for Cane Bay to open the second half set back the Eagles.
Mixon kept the Eagles in the game with timely plays.
His 60-yard scoring run, complete with a stiff-arm to shed a tackle and reverse field, briefly brought Beaufort High within a score during the second quarter. He broke free for a 51-yard catch-and-run before backpedaling out of bounds to preserve the clock before halftime for the Eagles' field goal attempt, which Brady Cormier drilled as time expired.
Clifford said the offensive line settled in and took control in the second half, and that he might could have run nothing but "52 Rip," which is Mixon behind lineman Caleb Gee.
But with the Eagles behind and time short, they had to go to the air. Starting quarterback Ben Vaigneur sat after injuring his hip chasing Mixon's big run. His backup, Shuler Black, delivered a couple big completions in his place but couldn't connect with 6-foot-4 receiver Thomas Parker at the goal line at the end.
Cane Bay delivered more blows.
Clifford declared the Cobras an opportunistic bunch after watching them score on an interception return and kick return the previous week. And Cane Bay's first points Friday came on Tracy Gilliard's 41-yard interception return. The kickoff return proved enough to close the door.
"When you play hard, good things happen," Cane Bay coach Russell Zehr said.
Cane Bay 28, Beaufort High 20
CB-- Tracy Gilliard 41 interception return (George Anderson kick) 1:31
CB-- Davon Higgins 6 run (Anderson kick) 11:10
B-- JaClay Mixon 60 run (Brady Cormier kick) 10:48
CB-- David Welch 5 pass from Devin Kilgore (Anderson kick) 7:15
B-- Cormier 33 FG :00
CB-- Romonte Frazier 87 kickoff return (Anderson kick) 11:46
B-- Mixon 1 run (Cormier kick) 7:31
B-- Cormier 48 FG 4:03
Cane Bay Beaufort High
First downs 14 19
Passing yards 103 158
Comp-Att-Int 7-10 9-19-2
Rushing 37-223 42-233
Penalties-yards 2-20 3-20
Fumbles-lost 1-0 3-1
Punts-avg 5-35.4 3-45.7
Rushing: Cane Bay-- Alex King 10-66, Romonte Frazier 9-58, David Welch 5-56, Davon Higgins 9-36, Devin Kilgore 4-7. Beaufort High-- JaClay Mixon 27-225, Deontaye Singleton 3-10, Javon Dudley 4-7, Kareem Robinson 4-4, Ben Vaigneur 3- (-9), Stephen Baggett 1- (-4).
Passing: Cane Bay-- Kilgore 7-10-103. Beaufort High-- Ben Vaigneur 7-13-127-2, Shuler Black 2-6-31.
Receiving: Cane Bay-- Maurice Wesley 3-70, Dustin Singletary 2-20, Davon Higgins 1-8, David Welch 1-5. Beaufort High-- Thomas Parker 7-87, Mixon 1-51, Baggett 1-14, Chris Tealey 1-6.