High School Sports

Wide-open Region 8-AAA gives every team reason for optimism

Almost every high school football team begins the season with the greatest expectations. They all see themselves as region title contenders.

In Region 8-AAA this year, they all might be right.

There’s no clear-cut favorite in the region, or at least not yet. The defending champion, Hilton Head High, lost 22 seniors -- including 14 starters -- off last year’s 8-3 team, leaving the Seahawks facing uncertainty at a number of positions.

The inexperience prompted Seahawks coach Tim Singleton to say just last week that his squad is “an awful football team” right now, as Hilton Head High scrambles to replace its quarterback, its leading rusher and eight starters on defense.

Still, the Seahawks might have as much of a chance at repeating as anyone has of knocking them off.

North Charleston, the region runner-up a year ago and the only Region 8-AAA team to win a playoff game in 2008, brings back four starting offensive linemen and a dangerous collection of skill players — including Denzel Myers, who racked up more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage last year while splitting time between quarterback and receiver. But the Cougars also have to replace six starters on defense, and they have been a wildly inconsistent team in recent years.

With senior running backs Timmy Smith and Zack Frazier back in the backfield, it looked like this might be the year Bluffton challenged for the region crown, but if Saturday’s 18-6 loss to Hardeeville is any indication, the Bobcats have issues on both sides of the ball. Their new Wing-T offense never got moving, managing only 101 total yards (and only 50 rushing yards after racking up 333 against the Hurricanes last year), and the missed tackles that plagued the defense during last year’s 2-8 campaign were present again in the first half Saturday. The defense turned things around and shut out the Hurricanes in the second half, but a loss to a Class 1-A team is an inauspicious beginning for a team that hopes to contend for a region title.

Stall and Lake Marion, last year’s fourth- and fifth-place finishers in Region 8-AAA, have new coaches and inexperienced teams, so they really can’t be expected to do much more than challenge for the fourth playoff spot from the region.

Battery Creek might be as close to a region favorite as there is, especially after a 52-20 drubbing of Wade Hampton on Friday in which the Dolphins answered many of the questions they faced entering the season. Most notably, they allayed their quarterback concerns, as Stedman James threw for 138 yards and three touchdowns in his debut as the starter. Running backs Joshua Fields and Cecil Franklin, charged with the lofty task of replacing Tavaras Pinckney, did their part to boost the offense as well, combining for 161 yards on 17 carries and scoring a touchdown apiece.

Like everyone else in the region, though, the Dolphins have their flaws. They allowed 362 rushing yards to the Red Devils, and teams that can’t stop the run tend to fade when the weather turns colder and region play rolls around.

Every team has reasons for concern, which in turn gives every team reason to hope for great things. And that’s what they’re supposed to do this time of year.