It's time for another edition of the dating game. Let's meet our competitors.
Contestant No. 1 is always successful. He's been at the top of his game for quite some time and knows what it takes to get there. It isn't always going to be flashy, mind you, but you always know what you're going to get.
Contestant No. 2, meanwhile, hasn't found the same success as his competitor -- at least not lately. He hasn't reached the same heights as Contestant No. 1, but looks well on his way and is doing it with style.
Which one would you take?
"They've been consistent so a bunch of people would pick them. I don't see why you wouldn't," J.D. Tuten said. "They know how to win. But we're 8-0 right now and making our way up. It's a real test. I'd pick us."
Tuten may be a bit biased in his selection of Contestant No. 2, who (in case you're still wondering) is the Thomas Heyward Academy football team. The Rebels, flashy offense and all, will match wits tonight against Contestant No. 1 -- the Hilton Head Christian Academy Eagles.
Call it a matchup of the traditional power and the upstart new kids.
"Hands down it's going to be the game," said Tuten, the Rebels' dual-threat quarterback. "It's what we've all been looking forward to. You expect 100 percent out of those guys. We're 8-0 and we have a big target on our backs.
"Everyone is saying we're the favorites. But they say you're not good until you beat Hilton Head Christian."
The Rebels haven't won a state championship since 1981 and haven't finished as a runner-up since 1992, two years before Tuten was born. The Eagles, meanwhile, have been the polar opposite. They've appeared in five of the last six state championships, taking home three of them.
The state title and region crown -- which the Eagles will look to win for the fourth consecutive year -- run through Hilton Head Christian.
"We would love to be able to duplicate that, but Thomas Heyward is certainly making a case for themselves," Eagles coach Tommy Lewis said.
Lewis has seen the schedule and knows what remains for both teams. He understands the winner has the inside track at the region crown with two games left to play. It's what makes this league match that much more important.
"Any time you can play a team of Thomas Heyward's caliber you look forward to it," Lewis said. "That's what you hope for, is to have fun and be challenged every Friday night. Thomas Heyward certainly fits the bill for that."
The recipe for success is fairly simple for both teams. The Rebels' bread and butter is their ground attack, so stopping the run will be key for the Eagles. Ryan Day has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and has 20 touchdowns this year for the Rebels while Tuten has added more than 900 yards of his own and 11 scores.
"Any time you have two runners like Tuten and Day, that's got to be your No. 1 priority," Lewis said. "You put eight, nine guys in the box, but they have a good enough passing game to hurt you. We'll definitely have to play our best game of the year for that to happen."
Tuten and the Rebels would be fools to expect anything less from the Eagles. And that's why they've spent the last several weeks perfecting that passing game, which features Bryan Lee Wade on the outside.
The Eagles, meanwhile, will look for continued success from their balanced offense, which is led by quarterback Caleb Lewis and running back Tyler Chisholm. The pair will need to keep the Rebels' quick-strike offense off the field in the hopes of keeping the score close heading to the fourth quarter. Thomas Heyward is certainly expecting that with Tommy Lewis at the helm.
"Every time you say Tommy Lewis, I don't care if he has a B-team and you're playing against the New England Patriots. He's got a chance to win," Tuten said. "He's a great coach and that's why they always bring it. We have a special team this year and they're a little down, but he's got them where they need to be. It's going to be a real good game.
"They've been at the top of their game for (a while). But all good things come to an end."
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Orangeburg-Wilkinson (5-3) at Hilton Head High (5-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: A win over the Bruins would clinch a playoff spot for Hilton Head High, which would also run its Region 8-AAA record to 3-0 with a showdown from league favorite Hanahan looming next Friday. The Seahawks scored an upset victory over James Island last week on the road while the Bruins blasted Stall, 63-6.
Players to watch: Orangeburg-Wilkinson CB Jadar Johnson (6-foot-1, 188 pounds) is a Clemson commitment while 6-4 WR Samuel Felder was ranked as the No. 42 prospect in-state in the preseason by the Charlotte Observer. Seahawks QB Michael Julian, who scored his first Shrine Bowl honor this week, will team up with RB Khalil Lewis in the hopes of netting Hilton Head High its sixth win of the season.
Keys to the game: Hilton Head High has been a throw first team in 2012 but will look to the run more often against the Bruins. Julian ran for over 100 last week against James Island while Lewis is averaging over 10 yards per carry so far this year. A ball control style will help keep the Bruins' big play-making offense on the sideline while giving the Seahawks' defense plenty of rest in a year in whch it struggled at times.
Summerville (3-4) at Beaufort High (3-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort High 17, Summerville 7 (2011)
The skinny: Summerville won its Region 8-AAAA opener in Week 7, defeating Fort Dorchester 17-10. Beaufort High dropped its opener at Bluffton, 34-10. Beaufort High has won the past two meetings between the schools, by a combined 13 points. Summerville coach John McKissick, in his 61st year as head coach, needs three more victories to reach 600 for his career.
Players to watch: Summerville lost leading rusher Davon Anderson to a knee injury during a loss to Stratford. Jerrod Tucker has carried the load in Anderson's absence. Green Wave quarterback Sawyer Bridges is only a freshman, but scored the winning touchdown to defeat Fort Dorchester and has impressed coaches this season.
Keys to the game: The Eagles are working to protect the football. They lost three fumbles during a loss at Bluffton and threw two interceptions. Beaufort High had two turnovers returned for scores the previous week at Goose Creek.
Branchville (1-6) at Whale Branch (4-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Whale Branch 20, Branchville 0 (2011)
The skinny: The Warriors have won consecutive games and are 2-1 in Region 5-A. Whale Branch's 53 points this past week against Bethune-Bowman were its most in the program's brief history. The previous high was 50 during a victory over Military Magnet in 2011. Branchville has been outscored by an average of 25.5 points in its four losses.
Players to watch: Whale Branch DE Tyrik Spicer's eight sacks lead the area. RB Mark Rivers had four carries for 79 yards and two TDs during the victory over Bethune-Bowman.
Keys to the game: If the Warriors can run the ball like they did the previous week, there should be no problem avoiding the upset. Whale Branch is coming off a season-high 210 yards and five scores on the ground. They only needed to attempt five passes, and two of the four completions went for touchdowns.
Woodland (6-1) at Ridgeland-Hardeeville (4-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting.
The skinny: Woodland, one of the two teams ahead of Ridgeland-Hardeeville in Region 6-AA, is "as advertised," Jaguars coach Blake Raley said. The Wolverines have good speed, good size, run a spread offense and have a stellar defense. If the Jaguars hope to have a shot at winning this region, they have to be able to compete with the Wolverines.
Players to watch: The Wolverines have several guys to watch on offense. They move playmaker Patrick Sheppard around. The former QB will see time at slot, RB wide-out and under center. Michael Delee has excelled since taking over full-time at QB. On defense LB Ryan Kinsey is the leader and defensive back Rameak Smith comiitted this week to Georgia State. For the Jaguars, running back Deo'Vonte Doe leads the area in rushing.
Keys to the game: The biggest key for the Jaguars is to limit mistakes and not beat themselves. They can't give the Wolverines a short field with turnovers and they need to play ball control to shorten the game. The Jaguars need to be able to execute some passes, and they need to be able to pass when they want to, not when the Wolverines force them to. Woodland has a small roster, as well, so a lot of their guys play both ways. The Jaguars need to take advantage of that.
King's Academy (1-6) at Hilton Head Prep (3-4), 4 p.m.
The skinny: The Dolphins are looking to finish the non-region portion of their schedule with a 4-1 record against a King's Academy team that has struggled so far in 2012. A victory would give Prep a .500 record yet again this season before the Dolphins return to region play with a pair of games against St. Andrew's and Hilton Head Christian.
Players to watch: Senior FB Nicolas Query handles the brunt of the load offensively for the Lions, much in the same way Heath Fisk did earlier this year for Colleton County. Senior WR Jeffrey Tucker contributes in the vertical game for King's Academy. The Dolpinhs will look to LB/RB Teron Daley to shut down the Lions, as the veteran leads Prep so far this season with 80 tackles.
Keys to the game: Prep coach Kevin Wald says the Lions are a very young team that is prone to making mistakes at critical times. So expect the Dolphins to sit back and wait for King's Academy to make an error that Wald and Co. can capitalize on.
Andrew Jackson Academy (0-7) at Beaufort Academy (1-6), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort Academy 54, Andrew Jackson 30 (2011)
The skinny: Andrew Jackson has allowed at least 30 points in each of its seven losses and allowed 50 points or more four times. Beaufort Academy averages 14 points per game. The Eagles are trying to win for the first time since Aug. 31.
Players to watch: Eagles quarterback Gibson Achurch is expected to return from injury this week. Eighth grader Gavin Palmer has continued to be one of the bright spots. He leads the team with 52 tackles, after recording five during a loss to St. John's this past week. Palmer's three sacks are second on the team, behind Brandon Massalon, who has four.
Keys to the game: Let Achurch lead the way. With their best player and senior leader returning, the Eagles have a good chance for a successful home finale. Following its first injury-free game of the season, Beaufort Academy should have some continuity on the depth chart.
Bluffton (7-0) at Ashley Ridge (2-5), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: The Bobcats are gunning for their third consecutive 8-0 start and a 2-0 mark in Region 8-AAAA. Bluffton is taking on an Ashley Ridge squad that entered the year as the favorites in league play but have since struggled en route to just two wins thus far. They did, however, jumpstart league play with a 30-7 win over Colleton County.
Players to watch: Ashley Ridge RB Romelo Doctor, who was named to the Shrine Bowl this week, combined with RB Vernon Moree for 210 all-purpose yards in last week's win over Colleton County, according to the Press and Standard. Bluffton will counter offensively with emerging WR Marquis Webber, who has caught five touchdown passes in the Bobcats' last two games.
Keys to the game: Bluffton coach Ken Cribb is once again looking for a fast start out of his Bobcats, who are playing in their first Region 8-AAAA road game. Cribb says the Swamp Foxes run a similar offense to that of Bluffton, which means his defense should have little trouble matching wits with the Ashley Ridge attack. Bluffton represents the fourth undefeated team that the Swamp Foxes have played so far, all of which have been losses. The Bobcats expect that trend to continue tonight.
Battery Creek (2-5) at North Charleston (1-5), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: North Charleston 24, Battery Creek 20 (2009)
The skinny: Battery Creek has lost its past two games to fall to 2-2 in Region 6-AA. North Charleston is coming off a 34-0 loss to Ridgeland-Hardeeville, a team the Dolphins defeated earlier in the season. The Cougars victory came Oct. 1, a 14-6 win over Garrett Academy.
Players to watch: Dolphins RB Yuneek Crittendon is limited with severe turf toe. And the Battery Creek reserves are thin. DeAndre Johnson and Darrin Peeks will be asked to carry the load on the ground.
Keys to the game: Dolphins coaches have simplified the game plan with a bunch of new faces filling a variety of spots and in the backup roles. Battery Creek will have to execute its patchwork system to get back on track in the region.