The Hilton Head Island High School football team entered Friday night with every reason to be brimming with optimism.
The Seahawks arrived at their home finale against Hanahan with an outside shot at capturing the Region 8-AAA title and what would ultimately be a first-round playoff game in the friendly confines of Hilton Head Island Community Stadium. Instead, coach B.J. Payne's squad left a few hours later scratching their heads after a 63-28 drubbing that put the Seahawks' chances of a postseason bid in jeopardy.
"All season we didn't put in the work that we should have," quarterback Michael Julian said. "It showed on the field."
Hanahan departed as the region victors. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were left in the middle of the muddled region standings following James Island and Berkeley wins. The outcomes left four teams at 2-2 in league play with a game remaining.
The Seahawks (5-4) will travel to Berkeley on Thursday night with their season on the line. A win would guarantee a postseason bid for Hilton Head High while a loss would leave them looking at tiebreakers and head-to-head matchups in the hopes of earning a bid, which would likely be on the road. The Seahawks' lone region win that will come into play is a 29-25 win over James Island on Oct. 5.
"Honestly, we're going to win next week," said running back Khalil Lewis, who served as one of the lone bright spots with 170 yards on 25 carries. "There's no other way. We have to go in there and win."
The top four teams from the region make the playoffs. With Hanahan's region title wrapped up, a quartet of teams will battle for three remaining spots.
Hanahan's league crown was wrapped up virtually from the start. The Hawks scored on each of their first five possessions and ran a kickoff back 94 yards after Hilton Head High's lone touchdown of the first half en route to a 42-7 halftime advantage. Quarterback Anthony Smalls led the way, completing 8 and 11 passes for 182 yards and a pair of scores while running for three more touchdowns.
"They play that tight man (coverage), shoot, our team can beat the (defensive backs) when we throw it over the top," Smalls said. " ... I knew we would win, but not this bad."
The Hawks (8-1) took advantage of a pair of freshmen cornerbacks who were inserted into the Seahawks lineup to give two-way players Robbie Iulo and Adam Orischak a breather, but the move backfired. Hanahan completed five pass plays of 30 yards or more, punted only twice and registered first-half scoring drives of 97 and 95 yards.
"It's the same old stuff that beats us every game," Julian said. "It's always the deep ball every game. I don't want to say we're used to it. We're expecting it and we're putting too much pressure on ourselves -- especially the offense -- to try and score a bunch of points."
Added Payne: "They're young, but it's extremely frustrating. We put ourselves in situations to make plays and we just miss."
With their season on the line, Iulo said he plans to be back at corner for the regular-season finale. He and the Seahawks will have to pull out all the stops to make sure their 2012 campaign doesn't end in Moncks Corner.
"It's very frustrating for all the guys," he said. "You can see it. Especially at halftime, you saw how frustrated we were. But we'll bounce back. Berkeley is a very beatable team."
A loss would be Hilton Head High's third consecutive to end the season. A year that started with a 5-2 record and region title hopes would finish at .500 and potentially out of the playoffs, due in part to a defense that has given up an average 38 points per game this season.
"I'm not really angry because we didn't play our hardest," Lewis said. "We didn't come out here and perform how we were supposed to, so I don't feel we deserve to be mad."
Hanahan 63, Hilton Head High 28
Hanahan 21 21 14 7 -- 63
Hilton Head High 0 7 0 14 -- 28
HAN--Anthony Smalls 5 rush (Kyle Spigner kick), 9:07.
HAN--Smalls 11 rush (Spigner kick), 5:42.
HAN--Sammy Richardson 30 catch from Smalls (Spigner kick), 2:04.
HHH--Caleb Martin 35 catch from Michael Julian (Colin White kick), 11:15.
HAN--Quan Wade 94 yard kickoff return (Spigner kick), 11:02.
HAN--Smalls 2 rush (Spigner kick), 6:59.
HAN--Sam Denmark 15 catch from Smalls (Spigner kick), 5:46.
HAN--Octavius Hayes 29 rush (Spigner kick), 11:08.
HAN--Mason Schwerzeler 3 rush (Spigner kick), 6:51.
HHH--Kaylon Ford 13 rush (White kick), 10:53.
HAN--Haven Horlback 1 rush (Vedor Winsland kick), 8:59.
HHH--Ford 11 rush (White kick), 7:46.
HHH--Robbie Iulo 70 catch from Julian (White kick), 1:44.
First Downs 20 16
Rushes-Yards 39-254 33-218
Comp-Att-Int 10-13-0 9-23-1
Passing Yards 248 170
Punts-Avg 2-32 4-41
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards X-X X-X
Third-Down Conv 3-7 3-11
Fourth-Down Conv 2-3 1-3
PASSING: Hanahan -- Anthony Smalls 8-11-0-182, Mason Schwezeler 2-2-0-66; HHH -- Michael Julian 9-21-1-170, Jeremy Haidon 0-2-0-0.
RUSHING: Hanahan -- Octavius Hayes 4-99, Haven Horlback 15-77, Anthony Smalls 7-32, Mason Schwezeler 11-31, Quan Wade 2-15; HHH -- Khalil Lewis 25-170, Michael Julian 5-31, Kaylon Ford 2-24, Jamarcus Moradel 1-(-7).
RECEIVING: Hanahan -- Mario Gates 3-124, Sam Denmark 3-85, Sammy Richardson 2-29, Octavius Hayes 1-11, Walt Fagan 1-(-1); HHH -- Robbie Iulo 2-75, Adam Orischak 4-44, Caleb Martin 1-35, Jonny Dillon 1-14, Chase Rinehart 1-2.