Jerry Hatcher has seen enough from Hilton Head Island High School in recent years to deliver the early verdict on the performance of Seahawks coach B.J. Payne.
The Whale Branch Early College High School football coach sneaked out of Hilton Head High with a victory two years ago but has seen a different team as the Warriors prepare for another road game with the Seahawks.
"People used to play Hilton Head for homecoming," Hatcher said. "You don't want to play Hilton Head anymore. They're a good football team."
But the Warriors haven't conceded.
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The Class 2-A/3-A matchup includes an intriguing look at the Whale Branch pass rush of Division I recruits Nyles Pinckney and Treyvon Bryan against upstart quarterback Aidan Hagerty and his downfield threats in the Seahawks' passing game.
Hatcher said Hilton Head High was tricky to prepare for, because defenders read pass in the blocking scheme and push upfield, only to have a running back race downfield.
Last year that back was Khalil Lewis, who carried 10 times for 120 yards and a touchdown. Lewis is gone, but the Seahawks still have capable backs, and the Warriors remember the sting.
Whale Branch didn't expect Hilton Head High's up-tempo style last season and were down big early during the 52-16 loss. Hatcher saw Ridgeland-Hardeeville on film struggle with the Seahawks' pace last week, with defensive linemen at times not in their stance before the next snap.
"Their passing game and run game are tied together almost perfectly," Hatcher said. "It's a good scheme."
For Payne and the Seahawks, Friday's game represents an opportunity to do something that has rarely been accomplished at Hilton Head High for the last 15 years: win their first two games. Last year, the Seahawks broke a 13-game losing streak in openers. This year, they could push to 2-0 for the second straight year. To do it, they'll take on a familiar opponent in the Warriors.
"They line up and pound the ball right at you," Payne said. "There's a ton of repetition with that. With them you're going to get pro formation one way or another. They do some things really nice offensively."
Of course, where Payne feels Whale Branch is at its most dangerous is along the defensive line, where Pinckney can disrupt opposing offenses with relative ease.
"They've got some guys that really play," Payne said.
Offensively, the Seahawks will stick with sophomore P.J. Franklin, who split time with junior Tyliek Smith. Payne said Franklin, who carried 12 times for 58 yards last Franklin, looked good on film. As for quarterback Aidan Hegarty, who tossed three touchdowns without an interception, Payne saw a lot of good things.
"I thought he did a great job in showing his maturity and how he has grown," Payne said. "Mechanically he did things pretty well. I thought he did a great job."
Even with the likelihood that the Warriors pound the ball on the ground, Payne said his secondary will get more looks than a week ago, when Ridgeland-Hardeeville attempted just three passes.
"We'll get an opportunity to see how we cover," Payne said. "They'll mix it up. We have to get that work in."
After dropping a wild game at home to the Warriors two years ago, the Seahawks rolled to a comfortable win in 2013, using their tempo to overwhelm Whale Branch. Payne and the Seahawks will hope for a repeat performance Friday.
FRIDAY'S OTHER GAMES
Beaufort High at Colleton County, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort High 35, Colleton County 12 (2013)
Last week: Colleton County lost 28-27 to Cane Bay.
The skinny: Season-opener for Beaufort High, which finished 9-4 and went to the second round of the Class 4-A playoffs in 2013. ... Cougars were a former region foe for the Eagles, who have dropped to Class 3-A.
Players to watch: Beaufort High RB Jeffrey Tookes starts the season as the primary back in coach Mark Clifford's still run-heavy offense. Colleton County's Tyquan Davis ran for touchdowns of 48 and 65 yards in Week Zero, according to The (Goose Creek) Gazette. Cougars DE Norman Hand Jr. is the son of former NFL DT.
Keys to the game: The Eagles will have to regroup after a couple of tough scrimmages. Colleton County, which last week allowed Cane Bay to snap a 12-game losing streak, would seem a good way to ease into the season. But beware the road game against a Cougars team that has shown improvement in recent years.
Estill (0-0) at Battery Creek (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Estill 22, Battery Creek 20 (2013)
Last week: Battery Creek lost 75-0 at Bluffton.
The skinny: Dolphins coach Jim Shuman said his team suffered several key injuries last week and lost a player for the season. ... Gators finished 9-3 a year ago.
Players to watch: Estill's senior RBs DeAngelo Bryant and Jarvis Singleton combined for 2,600 yards and 30 touchdowns last season.
Keys to the game: The Dolphins' tall order is slowing the Gators' run game. Estill averaged 270 yards per game rushing last season. Bluffton was able to get to the edge against Battery Creek in Week Zero. Expect Battery Creek to try and seal that up.
Beaufort Academy (0-0) at King Academy (0-1), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: King Academy 46, Beaufort Academy 20 (2013)
The skinny: Rematch of last year's King Academy victory in SCISAA 8-man playoffs. BA's debut under first-year coach Scott Richards. The Eagles won six games last year, twice their previous best.
Players to watch: Eagles RB Reyn Robinson rushed for 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior. He will be in a new system with Richards' spread and will be used in some different ways, but expect similar production.
Keys to the game: Defensively, Richards thought his team looked solid in a preseason jamboree. It will be the offense that might need time to click. The Eagles will have to find some rhythm out of the spread for a chance to avenge last year's loss.
Bluffton (1-0) at Effingham County (Ga.) (1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Bluffton won 75-0 over Battery Creek; Effinghame County won 35-7 at Liberty County (Ga.).
The Skinny: The Bobcats hit the road for the first time in 2014. In Effingham County, an out-of-state opponent, they will encounter a bit of a mystery. Coach Ken Cribb said the Rebels are big and strong, and a "good team," but the schools haven't faced each other. Bluffton will look to go to 2-0 while fine-tuning an offense that looked in mid-season form last Friday.
Players to watch: Shamiek Blackshear steals most of the headlines, but against Battery Creek a host of other Bobcats ran the show. Bluffton wingback Laquan Washington was especially dangerous tallying five catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns along with 43 yards rushing. Cribb was especially impressed with the play of junior offensive guard Dillon Wilson, who helped clear the way for a lot of the Bobcats' 430 rushing yards.
Keys to the game: Maintain tempo. In fact, Cribb said the Bobcats spent much of this week's practices trying to speed things up. That's saying something after dropping 75 points. The Bobcats are going into an undoubtedly tough road environment -- the Rebels went 4-2 at home in 2013 and walloped Liberty County on the road last week -- so this could be a stiff test of Bluffton's mettle. "It's going to be a challenge," Cribb said.
New Hampstead (Ga.) (0-1) at Ridgeland-Hardeeville (0-1) 7:30 p.m.
Last week: Ridgeland-Hardeeville lost 31-0 at Hilton Head Island; New Hampstead lost 54-12 to Calvary Day.
The Skinny: The Jaguars battled all game but couldn't get on the scoreboard in Week 0 in a 31-0 loss at Hilton Head High. They may have a better shot against Savannah's New Hampstead this Friday in coach Jahmaal Nelson's first home game. Ridgeland came out of the Hilton Head game a little beat up, but if they have gotten healthy over the week, things may fall into place enough for the Jaguars to get on the board.
Players to watch: Frank Fields struggled under center last Friday, often rushing to snap the ball immediately after arriving under center, leading to a few illegal procedure penalties. He also did not complete a pass (attempting only three). He'll have an opportunity to improve against the Phoenix. Behind him, RB/LB Craven Howard was perhaps the most impressive of the Jaguars, rushing for 69 yards on nine carries before being hobbled. If he's back to full strength, he could carry the load again.
Keys to the game: Score early. The Jaguars' Gavin Bush cantered into the end zone on the team's opening possession last week, only to have it called back on a penalty. If that had stood, who knows if things could have been different. After being shut out in Week zero, an early score would go a long way to boosting confidence in front of a home crowd. New Hampstead is coming off of a throttling in its opener, so pouncing early could deflate their hopes.
Bethesda Academy (Ga.) (0-0) at Hilton Head Prep (0-0), 5 p.m.
The Skinny: Things seem to be falling into place for the Dolphins, now in their third year under the direction of coach Kevin Wald. They return experience at quarterback, receiver, and offensive line, and have added pieces to the defense that Wald hopes will prompt improvement in stopping the ball. Prep will welcome the Bethesda Academy Blazers, who went 3-7 last year.
Players to watch: Tyler Fox returns at quarterback, and the junior hopes to take full advantage of a deep and experienced corps of receivers. With star back Teron Daley lost to graduation, Wald plans to throw the ball a lot more, and Fox's arm will be a big part of any success the Dolphins have in 2014.
Keys to the game: Find Noah Sulek. As a wide receiver, Sulek hauled in 10 touchdown catches. He'll still split out wide, but this year he'll share time out of the backfield with Gavin Hurlbut.
Thomas Heyward Academy (0-0) at Bible Baptist (0-0), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Bible Baptist 88, Thomas Heyward 47 (2013)
The Skinny: No one knows quite what to expect from the Rebels, not even, it seems, coach Nic Shuford. Friday's Class 1-A Region II game will go a long way toward giving us a clue. The only problem is, they'll be opening up on the road against a team they gave up 88 points to a year ago.
Players to watch: Jared Rountree will carry most of the load for the Rebels, who will most likely go run-heavy with two freshman quarterbacks battling for time. He's a bruiser who is unlikely to outrun anyone, but he's one of the best weapons at Shuford's disposal.
Keys to the game: Gain some experience. The Rebels are young -- very young. They lost 19 of 25 players from last year's team. The new personnel will be asked to grow quickly in a tough road setting.