Their helmets held high in the air Friday night at Jasper County Stadium, Battery Creek High School football players allowed themselves to celebrate like few Dolphins teams have in recent years.
Everybody soured on losing or hearing about losses from the past several years. And after the Dolphins fell apart at home in losing to Hilton Head Island High School two weeks ago, Battery Creek coaches instituted some firmer conditioning.
Every player would execute an up-down exercise for each "loaf," or mistake counted during the previous game. Eighty-two up-downs made for a long practice the Monday after falling to the Seahawks.
The Dolphins were in better shape Friday night, battling back from an early deficit to defeat Ridgeland-Hardeeville 26-18. Battery Creek improved to 2-0 in Region 6-AA and won consecutive games for the first time since 2003.
"We're real happy," senior Deandre Johnson said. "We expected to come in here and win. We're tired of losing. We know we can win."
Quarterback Raekwon Smalls, who again earned praise from coach Jim Shuman for his progression, scored on a 1-yard sneak early in the fourth quarter to put the Dolphins ahead for good. Johnson returned a fumble 25 yards for another score later in the quarter.
Late gaffes and adjustments by the Dolphins' defense kept the Jaguars from threatening to tie late in the game.
Battery Creek won despite losing five fumbles, tossing an interception and having a punt blocked.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville running back Deo'vonte Doe earned the Dolphins' attention during the week of practice. And the Jaguars were able to race out to a 12-0 lead by breaking some big gains. But Battery Creek adjusted to contain the outside.
Doe rushed for 108 of his 166 yards before halftime.
"Ridgeland-Hardeeville did a great job of attacking our perimeter," Shuman said. "And we made adjustments on the perimeter."
Yuneek Crittendon produced another big game for Battery Creek, rushing for 127 yards, catching a pair of passes and intercepting a Jaguars' pass to force a turnover late in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins' ground game opened up their tight ends in the passing game.
Isaiah Sloan slipped free for a 15-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter to give Battery Creek its first lead.
Battery Creek has been boosted by the return of senior offensive lineman Justin Frazier, who dislocated his knee cap early in the season and was expected to miss six weeks. He sat only two and returned to his place at left tackle while being limited on defense.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville coach Blake Raley said the Jaguars knew to look for Crittendon, knew the Dolphins liked to run behind Frazier. He said he was surprised by the Jaguars' problems with the center-quarterback exchange and took issue with a 5-yard facemask penalty he thought should have been a 15-yarder with his team needing a fourth-down conversion late in the fourth.
"They're coming off a high last week," Raley said of the Dolphins. "They're Year 2 in the program, whereas we're three months in."
Battery Creek 26, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 18
R-H-- Michale Horton 12 run (pass failed) 9:12
R-H-- Derrell Myers 13 run (run failed) 3:43
BC-- Yuneek Crittendon 43 run (Zach Mahan kick) :51
BC -- Isaiah Sloan 15 pass from Raekwon Smalls (Mahan kick) 2:31
R-H-- Deo'Vonte Doe 1 run (run failed) 6:15
BC-- Raekwon Smalls 1 run (kick failed) 9:46
BC-- Deandre Johnson 25 fumble return (kick failed) 7:05
First downs 17 12
Passing yards 73 0
Comp-Att-Int 6-9-1 2-7-1
Rushing 39-224 39-234
Penalties-yards 12-95 9-70
Fumbles-lost 5-5 5-3
Punts-avg 0-0 1-22
Rushing: Battery Creek-- Yuneek Crittendon 12-127, Deandre Johnson 10-39, Raekwon Smalls 10-31, DJ Franklin 3-14, Darrin Peeks 4-13. Ridgeland-Hardeeville-- Deo'vonte Doe 19-162, Marquis Griffin 9-48, Michale Horton 6-32, Caylon Morrison-Ford 2-8, Derrell Myers 3- (-14).
Passing: Battery Creek-- Smalls 6-9-73-1. Ridgeland-Hardeeville-- Myers 1-6-0-1.
Receiving: Battery Creek-- Isaiah Sloan 2-30, Crittendon 2-8, Trevon Howard 1-20, Teyvon Jennette 1-15. Ridgeland-Hardeeville-- Doe, 1-3, Gavin Bush 1-0.