Before Beaufort High School's football team takes the field for its final home game tonight, the Eagles will try something a little different.
The team will hang out after school is done, meeting in the performing arts center, eating dinner together and watching a movie before leaving for the stadium.
The Region 8-AAAA matchup with Ashley Ridge is an important one for Beaufort High's playoff hopes. And Eagles coach Mark Clifford, trying to help his team own the first quarter, wanted to shake things up a little.
Beaufort High (3-5) heard from two guest speakers during the week, and during Wednesday's practice, players hit harder than they have all season, Clifford said.
"This is a must-win game, do-or-die situation for the playoffs," Clifford said. "They've got to reach down and realize that there are a lot of people in this community supporting them, a lot of people that love Beaufort, that are Beaufort Eagles. It ain't about us right now, it's about everybody around us."
After a loss to Summerville in Week 8, after Beaufort High came out flat at home, the Eagles are 0-2 in the region and need to win their remaining three games for a Class 4-A playoff berth.
Another start like the one last week would doom Beaufort High's chances.
"We know we still have a chance at the playoffs, but they've got to take charge," Clifford said.
Ashley Ridge is 2-6 after giving Bluffton High School its closest call of the season in Week 8. The Eagles are wary of Swamp Foxes senior running back Romelo Doctor, a 2012 Shrine Bowl selection who rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a junior.
The Eagles are fairly healthy. Clifford said offensive lineman Caleb Gee injured a hand during practice and had x-rays taken, but would wrap it up and be ready to play.
Clifford said running back JaClay Mixon has responded well to the increased carries as the season has gone on and that others have stepped up around him, including tight end Stephen Baggett and receiver Chris Tealey, who hauled in a 70-yard touchdown catch against Summerville.
"I know that long ball was late in the game, but it's just a sign of what Chris has been doing," Clifford said. "He's been real sharp lately."
Now for the rest of the Eagles to follow suit.
TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES
Fort Dorchester (4-4) at Bluffton (8-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: Coach Ken Cribb gets his first matchup against Fort Dorchester, where he helped coach the offense before taking the Bluffton job in 2010. The Bobcats, who are looking to stay undefeated, cannot clinch the region title this week but can move a step closer with a win over the Patriots. Fort Dorchester enters fresh off a 42-7 thumping of Colleton County.
Players to watch: Patriots RBs Charles Loftland and Daitwan Commodore ran for a combined five touchdowns in last week's win, according to the Post and Courier. Both tailbacks were on the varsity squad under Cribb, so he is well aware of what they bring to the Fort Dorchester offense. Bluffton LBs Jaquan Campbell and Rogan Ferguson, who have combined for 26 tackles for loss, will be charged with bringing down the talented duo.
Keys to the game: Stopping the Fort Dorchester running game, which includes QB Baptiste Staggers, will be critical for Bluffton. Offensively, Cribb plans to throw his entire offense at the Patriots defense, he said. The Bobcats have yet to unveil all of it this season, but look for that to change tonight.
Hanahan (7-1) at Hilton Head High (5-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Hilton Head High 28, Hanahan 21 (1987)
The skinny: The Hawks can clinch the Region 8-AAA championship with a win over the Seahawks, who can remain in the hunt with a win over their new league rivals. Hilton Head High would have to win tonight, next Thursday against Berkeley and have Orangeburg-Wilkinson lose a game to make that happen. The Seahawks are coming off a 48-42 shootout loss to O-W.
Players to watch: Hanahan QB Anthony Smalls has been a consistent threat on the ground and in the passing game this season. A week ago, he threw for 96 and rushed for 101 more in a 20-point win over James Island, according to the Post and Courier. Tailbacks Quan Wade and Octavius Hayes added 150 more yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win. For Hilton Head High, the youth movement will be key. Coach B.J. Payne revealed plans that he will start a pair of freshman at corner this week in Chris Skager and Jon Baty in hopes of revitalizing the defense.
Keys to the game: Hanahan isn't known for its big-play ability but rather it's time-consuming, 12-play drives. The Seahawks will need to get off the field on third-and-short plays while offensively not making mistakes that the Hawks will likely capitalize on. The Seahawks, while they can still win the league, are also not set on a playoff berth due to a muddled region. Getting a win will be pivotal in order to seal a postseason bid.
St. John's (5-3) at Whale Branch (5-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: The Warriors are assured a winning regular season record for a second-consecutive year. Whale Branch has won its past three games entering tonight's non-region contest. St. John's, from Region 6-A, has won four of its past five games.
Players to watch: Whale Branch WR Dee Delaney continues to impress. He averages 32 yards per catch, caught his seventh touchdown pass last week and also returned a punt 79 yards. Tyrik Spicer led the Warriors' defense last week with 17 tackles.
Keys to the game: Whale Branch will have to avoid looking ahead to its Region 5-A showdown with Allendale-Fairfax, which should be 8-0 after playing Branchville tonight. The last time the Warriors looked past an opponenet, Denmark-Olar handed them their only region loss. St. John's should provide a good test.
Palmetto Christian (7-1) at Hilton Head Christian (7-1), 7 p.m.
Last meeting: HHCA 56, Palmetto Christian 16 (2011)
The skinny: The Eagles can clinch the region title Friday with a win, as a victory would move HHCA to 3-0 in the league standings with a victory over Thomas Heyward already in hand. Palmetto Christian, however, is still in the same boat with the Eagles. They are 2-0 but still have Thomas Heyward left on the schedule in next week's finale. This is the final regular season home game for HHCA, which travels to rival Hilton Head Prep next week.
Players to watch: QB J.T. Waters has done it all this year for Palmetto Christian, most notably on the ground. The junior has run for over 1,400 yards and 25 touchdowns while throwing for nearly 1,000 more and six scores. Junior RB Ryan Roe has also made contributions in the running game, as he's recorded 902 yards and nine touchdowns this season. HHCA LBs Will McCutchen and Clay Oliver will need to be at their best to stop the talented duo. McCutchen leads the Eagles with 78 stops this year while Oliver is second on the team in tackles and first with eight for loss.
Keys to the game: Stopping the Palmetto Christian ground attack is priority No. 1 for Hilton Head Christian. The Eagles are facing a second consecutive opponent that likes to pound away at the other team, as they took on Thomas Heyward a week ago, so the Eagles are certainly well-versed in their game plan. HHCA will need to score with more efficiency this week in order to win, as the Eagles went just 2 of 6 in the red zone last week while recording just 11 points in those opportunities.
Northwood (2-6) at Thomas Heyward (8-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Thomas Heyward 41, Northwood 14 (2011)
The skinny: After a tough loss in its showdown with Hilton Head Christian, the Rebels may have to handle the Chargers wihtout QB JD Tuten, who wil be a gametime decision.
Players to watch: Rebels backup QB Davis Owens could be the key to this game for the Rebels. "He does a good job maaging the offense," coach Nic Shuford said. For the Chargers, Darrett Drayton and Chris Williams have combined for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns on 165 carries out of the backfield.
Keys to the game: According to Shuford, Northwood may have more speed on the edges than Thomas Heyward, and the Rebels will have to cope with it if they are to win. The Chargers average 27 points a game. It's stopping the other team where they struggle. Tuten or no Tuten, the Rebels have to capitalize.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (4-4) at Garrett Academy Tech (4-4), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: First meeting
The skinny: Despite the rough loss last week, the Jaguars are still in the Region 6-AA playoff picture, and this is a winnable game.
Players to watch: RB Deo'Vonte Doe has rushed for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season for the Jaguars, while LB Amar Wilkins leads the team with 71 stops.
Keys to the game: If the Jaguars take care of the ball -- turnovers on three straght possessions last week turned a lead into big hole -- and play solid defense, the falcons won't be able to stop the Ridgeland-Hardeeville running game.
Battery Creek (3-5) at Burke (1-7), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Battery Creek 20, Burke 13 (1991)
The skinny: Battery Creek is trying to win four games for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins are 3-2 in Region 6-AA and can ensure a winning region record with a victory. Burke's lone victory was a 18-14 win over Class 1-A Scott's Branch on Sept. 7.
Players to watch: Battery Creek's Jason Green leads the Dolphins' defense with 104 total tackles, including five sacks, and an interception. Burke DL Ryan Bowman leads the Bulldogs with 66 tackles.
Keys to the game: The Dolphins will have to stop Burke through the air. The Bulldogs average only 63.5 rushing yards per game, but have thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of their past seven games. Burke's receivers average 17 yards per catch.
Hilton Head Prep (4-4) at St. Andrew's (3-5), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: HHP 30, St. Andrew's 12 (2011)
The skinny: The Dolphins can guarantee themselves of at least a .500 record under first-year coach Kevin Wald with a win tonight. The two teams have split the last six meetings, but St. Andrew's has struggled this season en route to a 3-5 record. Prep closes out its regular season schedule next week at home against Hilton Head Christian.
Players to watch: St. Andrew's has struggled a bit offensively this season, but when they are successful it usually comes thanks to RB Wright Wallace. The junior leads the Lions with 796 yards on the ground this year to go along with four touchdowns. The job of stopping him will likely fall to Teron Daley and Logan Mallett, who are 1-2 in tackles for the Dolphins.
Keys to the game: Prep looks to be the better team on paper, so the Dolphins just need to come out and play their game to be successful. Wald and Co. need to avoid committing turnovers while not getting in a big hole early in order to keep the home fans out of the game. Should they do that, the Dolphins will likely welcome their HHCA rivals to Prep next week with a winning record in hand.
Beaufort Academy (1-7) at James Island Christian (3-5), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: James Island 30, Beaufort Academy 20 (2011)
The skinny: This is the first of two road games to close Beaufort Academy's season. The Eagles lost to Andrew Jackson 20-12 last week at home, what was probably their best chance at a second victory. James Island has won two of its past three games, scoring more than 60 points in each of those victories.
Players to watch: Beaufort Academy sophomore Tucker Trask has seen significant time at quarterback the past two games. He completed 8 of 15 passes against Andrew Jackson, including two touchdown passes. QB Gibson Achurch moved to receiver and caught five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown but will miss the rest of the season with an injured ankle. James Island RBs Josh Black and Johnathon Hickman have combined to rush for 22 TDs and 1,400 yards.
Keys to the game: The Eagles will try to slow James Island's run game. The Lions average more than 300 yards per game on the ground and their line takes pride in the pancake block.