Whale Branch Early College High School football coaches knew there was a chance of this.
After losing to Allendale-Fairfax at home this past Friday, the Warriors dropped to the No. 4 seed in Region 5-A and earned a road trip to open the Class 1-A Division I playoffs. Their draw for the first round? A second meeting with the Tigers in two weeks.
Whale Branch gave the Tigers their toughest game, a 14-7 Allendale-Fairfax victory after Whale Branch led through three quarters.
So what did the Warriors learn that might be useful for the rematch? Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher was impressed with the Tigers' defense, which allowed 73 points during the regular season.
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"There's a reason why," Hatcher said. "They've got a stout defense."
After seeing the team in person, he praised senior defensive lineman Devontay Moore and freshman linebacker William Ward.
Allendale-Fairfax coach Eddie Ford wanted the Tigers to deny Whale Branch receiver Dee Delaney and to tackle him on the spot when he did catch a pass. The Tigers held Delaney to four catches for 73 yards and no touchdown catches. But the senior did break free for a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown that was good enough for the Warriors' lead through three quarters. And on defense, Delaney intercepted a pass at the goal line to deny the Tigers a score.
"We thought we could tackle him (on punt returns)," Ford said. "That part, we weren't as worried about. But we should have been, in hindsight."
The Tigers won by finally establishing their run game after Whale Branch outmuscled them for much of the game. Allendale-Fairfax rushed for 146 yards during the second half after being held to 29 through two quarters.
Warriors linebacker Trey Nelson said his defense failed to properly shift when the Tigers lined up heavy to one side and were late lining up at times, which he said might have had something to do with fatigue as the game went on.
"We're going to watch film, we're going to fix our mistakes and we're going to work hard," Nelson said. "The way we feel right now, we don't like this feeling, so we're going to work hard so we don't feel this again."
TOUGH GOING FOR THE JAGUARS
Since blanking North Charleston 34-0 on Oct. 5 to get over .500 at 4-3, Ridgeland-Hardeeville has fallen on tough times.
The Jaguars have dropped three straight, falling 54-12 to Woodland, 38-16 to Garrett and 41-8 Friday night to Bishop England.
"It's a part of the process," Jaguars coach Blake Raley said Saturday. "Actually, in defeat (Friday) night, our kids played more together probably since Week 3. People get caught up in the 'Oh, Hardeeville and Ridgeland together, that's so much talent.' There's so much more to it.
"We have such an inexperienced roster this year. We're not a strong team, strength-wise. We've only got seven starters right now who started last year. Our better days are ahead of us."
While he's not happy to lose, Raley isn't troubled by the margin of the last three losses.
"We need those butt-whippings to the Blufftons, Woodlands, the Bishop Englands to push us."
WAIT AND SEE ON CHISHOLM
Hilton Head Christian head coach Tommy Lewis says it's still a waiting game with the Eagles' Mr. Do-it-all Tyler Chisholm.
Chisholm sat out the Eagles' 38-7 win over Hilton Head Prep on Friday after suffering a deep bone bruise, initially thought to be a shoulder or collarbone injury, the week before.
"He is still day-to-day. We were hopeful he'd be back today," Lewis said Friday. "He's definitely still sore. We'll give him another weekend of rest, re-evaluate him (today) and go from there."
The Eagles host Calhoun Academy on Friday in the first round of the SCISAA Class 2-A playoffs.
GET OUT THE VOTE
Visit facebook.com/ipbgsports/ and vote for the Week 10 Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Player of the Week. This week's candidates are:
Hilton Head Christian running back DeAngelo Clark rushed 15 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Battery Creek's Yuneek Crittendon rushed for three touchdowns and two two-point conversions.
Thomas Heyward running back Ryan Day rushed the ball 30 times for 275 yards and five touchdowns.
Bluffton running back Tykeem Major rushed 11 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
Thomas Heyward wide receiver/defensive back Bryan Lee Wade returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and recorded two interceptions.