Beaufort High School's defense, among the best in Class 4-A statistically, will receive a different kind of test tonight at Ashley Ridge.
The Eagles, who have allowed 55 points through seven games -- tops in Class 4-A -- have faced a stretch of teams who like to run the ball. And Beaufort High's defense has responded with three consecutive shutouts.
But Ashley Ridge runs a spread offense. Its quarterback is capable. And Eagles coaches are wary.
"We're good against the run," Beaufort High defensive coordinator Jerry Hatcher said. "We've got to be tested against the pass. We'll get tested this week."
The game marks the first meeting between the schools and is the start of three consecutive Region 8-AAAA opponents for the Eagles. Beaufort High dropped its first region game in September to Fort Dorchester, another team that likes to pass the ball. Hatcher said his players were capable of stopping the pass but looked dazed at times against the Patriots.
"It wasn't anything athletically or schematically," he said. "It was like we were a deer in the headlights, just standing there and letting guys run right by us. They threw three deep passes on us. You take away those three passes, we win a ball game going away."
Beaufort High head coach Mark Clifford said Ashley Ridge, in its third year as a football program, was athletic and confident after a strong start. He said the Eagles' offense would need to get back on track this week to remove some pressure from the defense.
Beaufort High beat Wando last week for its fourth consecutive victory but was held scoreless the first two quarters and managed 62 yards of offense at the half.
"There's lots of truth to the saying that defense wins, because it does," Clifford said.
Eagles defensive back Jalin Mack said Beaufort High's defense had seen enough film of Ashley Ridge to become comfortable with the team's tendencies. Linebacker Kevin Gess said stopping the opponent this week will require a change in mindset.
"It's a little shift in your thinking when you know they're probably not going to run it right at you all the time," Gess said. "The defensive line is working on getting up there and getting pressure on the quarterback. And then everybody else is working on their drops and where they fit in their zone."
Who: Beaufort High (6-1, 0-1 Region 8-AAAA) at Ashley Ridge (5-2, 1-0)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Ashley Ridge High School; 9800 Delemar Hwy, Summerville
Offense: QB Beau Brown, FB Alex Simmons, TB D'Vonta Cohen, TE Tyler Cieplowski, RT Cody Beals, RG Jabari Washington, C Rob Dennis, LG Benji Calderon, LT Tyler Walker, SE Jordan Broussard, FL Keith Carpenter
Defense: DE DeEndre Jefferson-Fields, DE Michael Bedwell, DT Dalvin Broussard, DT Detrell Gantt, ILB Kevin Gess, ILB Maliek Maldonado, OLB Malcolm Dantzler, OLB JaClay Mixon, CB Jalin Mack, CB Calvin Atkins, FS Davonte Green
Special teams: P Kyle Clark, K Kyle Clark, K Mitchell Stewart, KR/PR Luke Smith, KR/PR JaClay Mixon, KR D'Vonta Cohen
Thomas Heyward at Hilton Head Prep
Opposing styles will collide when Thomas Heyward puts its powerful running game up against Hilton Head Prep's explosive passing game in a key SCISAA Region 2-AA matchup this afternoon.
Both teams are battling a number of key injuries. Thomas Heyward running back and linebacker Ryan Day will miss the rest of the season, Shuford said, because he is scheduled to have surgery today after breaking his collarbone for the second time this season in last week's win against First Baptist. The Rebels also will be without defensive end Ward Burrus (shoulder), defensive end Jonathan Lilly (illness) and lineman John Padgett (hand).
Prep is still awaiting the return of LJ Orage (broken fibula) and Patrick Andrews (illness), and two more players -- leading rusher Scott D'Amico (foot) and leading tackler Jeremy Haidon (illness) -- are considered questionable.
But none of those injuries change either team's offensive philosophy.
The Dolphins average 45.7 points and 318.4 passing yards per game, so Shuford said he hasn't seen a blueprint for how to stop Prep's offense on any game video, but he hopes his secondary will be up to the task.
"We've seen some things not to do to defend them. Man, they're good on offense," he said. "We've got some feisty little dudes back there, and I think they're going to be physical with their receivers and hopefully break up some passes."
The Rebels have averaged 412.7 rushing yards per game during their three-game winning streak, which causes concern for the Dolphins, who were hurt by power running teams early in the season. But Prep coach Ron Peduzzi was encouraged by his team holding Northwood Academy to 28 rushing yards on 16 carries in last week's 46-6 win.
"We know it's a challenge, and we will challenge our guys to meet it," Peduzzi said.
Who: Thomas Heyward (5-2, 1-1 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at Hilton Head Prep (5-2, 1-1)
When: Today, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Dolphin Field
Hilton Head Prep
Offense: QB Matt Layman, RB Scott D'Amico, WR Dimitri Lowry, WR Alex Orford, WR Danny Maggard, TE Bo Strimpfel, LT Marc Halseth, LG Tommie Peeples, C Devin White, RG Collins Richardson, RT Patrick Briody
Defense: DE Danny Maggard, DE Marc Halseth, DT Casey Baker, DT Dylan Powell, OLB Bo Strimpfel, OLB Scott D'Amico, MLB Jeremy Haidon, CB Zenon Parker, CB Alex Orford, SS Teron Daley, FS Dimitri Lowry
Special teams: K Colin White, P Matt Layman, KR/PR Dimitri Lowry, KR/PR Scott D'Amico
Offense: QB JD Tuten, RB Logan Mock, RB Hayden Daley, SE James Rumfelt, WR Dylan Crosby, TE Bryan Lee Wade, LT Devon Riley, LG Mercer Clark, C Coulter Bergmann, RG Nick Ashcraft, RT Joe Laycock
Defense: DE Forrest Richardson, DT Coulter Bergmann, NG Devon Riley, DT Josh Mason, DE Joe Laycock, LB Bryan Lee Wade, LB Hayden Daley, CB Logan Mock, CB Anthony Arcuri, FS JD Tuten, SS Dylan Crosby
Special teams: K/P JD Tuten, KR/PR Logan Mock
Bluffton at Battery Creek
In two of the past three seasons, Bluffton High School has missed out on the postseason because of tiebreakers. In just the third week of the Region 7-AAA season, the Bobcats can eliminate the need for any this year.
Undefeated Bluffton travels to winless Battery Creek tonight in search of its third straight win to open its region schedule, which would clinch the Bobcats a playoff spot.
"Three wins and you're in," Bobcats coach Ken Cribb said. "I think everything we've told the guys has come to play. We're accomplishing our goals, one at a time. Our next goal is to get into the playoffs."
With a win, the Bobcats could set up a Region 7-AAA showdown with Berkeley a week from today -- a matchup that could potentially decide the league's winner. Bluffton put itself on solid footing by forcing six turnovers in a 28-13 win at Cane Bay last Friday.
But Cribb has his team -- which may be playing without Desmond Jenkins (turf toe) -- cautious not to overlook Battery Creek.
"That's a dangerous situation," Cribb said. "Nothing would make their season more than beating an undefeated team. I know that's what they're thinking."
To pull off the upset, Battery Creek would have to overcome several key personnel losses. Starting quarterback Leroy Jennette, running back Brent Johnson and receiver Darian Williams all went down with shoulder injuries last week and will not play against Bluffton. Receiver Kevin Sanders, who would have backed up Jennette, has a sore hamstring and is also expected to miss tonight's game.
"We're looking at things to do in the offseason so we don't have these type injuries," Dolphins coach Carlos Cave said.
Who: Bluffton (7-0, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) at Battery Creek (0-7, 0-2)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Dolphin Stadium
Offense: QB Corey Stoner, WB Desmond Jenkins, WB C.J. Johnson, FB Zachary Scott, WR Eric Boyles, WR Marquis Webber, C Chris Tillotson, RG Andrew Nickerl, RT Michael Sulka, LG Yerko Castedo, RT Austin Chittum.
Defense: DE Alfonza Powell, DE B.J. Kitty, DT Anthony Gardner, DT Ladarius Hughes, ILB Michael Grant, ILB Lewis Black, OLB Taylor McDonnell, OLB Jimmy Tillman, CB Tony Burns, CB Anthony Smith, FS Travis Ramsey.
Special Teams: K/P Mallie Sprouse, KR Eric Boyles.
Offense: QB Keenan Wright, RB Javon Livingston, RB O.J. Richardson, WR Jamario Williams, WR Jaylan Briggs, WR Ryan Halley, LT Spencer Butler, LG Frank Price, C David Ratliff, RG Ben Lee, RT Bear Childers
Defense: DL O.J. Richardson, DL Daquan Jamison, DL Justin Frazier, LB Javon Livingston, LB Jaylan Briggs, LB Dakody Mersino, LB Carlton Linnen, CB Ryan Halley, CB Jayron Sneed, S Keenan Wright, S Jamario Williams
Special Teams: K Matthew Kardohely, K Okasea Blagrov, P Donald Furman, KR Jaylan Briggs, KR Javon Livingston
Cane Bay at Hilton Head High
Hilton Head High earned arguably its most important and most impressive win of the year last week -- a 24-21 overtime victory at Lake Marion in a game in which the Seahawks were forced to come from behind late in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks will have a chance to get an even bigger win this week when Cane Bay visits Hilton Head Island Community Stadium.
The pair of one-loss teams trail Region 7-AAA leaders Bluffton and Berkeley, but both teams remain in the hunt to host a home playoff game next month.
"Our interest is to strictly go out and compete -- if we compete hard and we execute our plan, we win," Seahawks coach Tim Singleton said. "We're talking victories, but we're trying to get better. Playoffs would be great, but the forefront of our minds is getting better."
The Seahawks have certainly done that. Defensively, they buckled down last week and held Lake Marion to 21 points, the second lowest total they have allowed all year.
Offensively, Hilton Head High continues to try to become less predictable by moving players all over the field. M.J. Simmons has worked his way into the backfield rotation, allowing Matt Bex to make plays as a slot receiver while also pushing Desmond Bush out wide.
"That's going to help generate more offense for us but more importantly, it doesn't allow people to read what we're doing," Singleton said. "We're trying to break up the monotony so people can't key on what we're doing."
Who: Cane Bay (3-4, 1-1 Region 7-AAA) at Hilton Head High (3-4, 1-1)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Hilton Head Island Community Stadium
Hilton Head High
Offense: QB Michael Julian, RB Matt Bex, FB Mike Fotia, WR Robbie Iulo, WR Adam Orischak, TE/WR Desmond Bush, LT Hunter Anderson, LG Robert Moody, C Jake Morris, RG Cole Catazanzarite, RT Justin Keller.
Defense: DE Corey Parrott, DE Taylor Place, DT Melvin Fields, DT Raheem Williams, OLB Luke Barsness, OLB Jacob Lewis, MLB Tim Rivers, CB Shakane Simmons, CB Tony Clark, SS Lamond Wililams, FS Kevin Champen.
Special Teams: K Weston Mott, P Michael Julian, KR Matt Bex.
Northwood Academy at Hilton Head Christian
After picking up a key SCISAA Region 2-AA win at St. Andrew's last week, the Eagles try to maintain their hold on first place in the region standings when they play host to the team they beat in last year's state title game tonight.
Despite leaning on the running game early in the season, Hilton Head Christian turned to its passing game in its 44-26 win against the Saints, as Luke Sirgo completed 19 of 22 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns.
After seeing Hilton Head Prep's Matt Layman pass for 395 yards and four scores in a 46-6 win against Northwood Academy last week, the Eagles might look to the air more often again tonight.
"We definitely worked on the passing game this week and may emphasize it a little more than we have the past couple weeks," Eagles coach Tommy Lewis said. "But we think we have an advantage up front, so we're not going to shy away from the running game either, and we hope to use that advantage in the trenches on defense, too."
The Eagles hope their size up front will equate to shutting down the Chargers' running game and getting pressure on quarterback Ty Powell, who has completed 60 percent of his passes for 976 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Powell is also the team's leading rusher with 297 yards and five touchdowns.
Hilton Head Christian has scored 39 points or more in all five of its wins.
The Eagles will be without starting center Alec Westmark, who will miss the game because of illness.
Who: Northwood Academy (4-3, 1-1 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at Hilton Head Christian (5-1, 2-0)
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Eagles Stadium
Hilton Head Christian
Offense: QB Luke Sirgo, RB JaBrook Tucker, WR Alex Martin, WR Josh Mousseau, WR Eric Farr, TE Ryan Emery, LT Kyle Weaver, LG Cole Malphrus, C Ryan Smith, RG John Taylor Stones, RT Nick Borghi
Defense: DT Cole Malphrus, NG Kyle Weaver, DT Reed Shindell, OLB Ryan Smith, ILB Tyshawn Walls, ILB Clay Oliver, OLB Zach Reynolds, CB Tyler Chisholm, CB J.D. Reichel, SS Devan Fitzhugh, FS Ryan Emery
Special teams: K Tyler Chisholm, P Luke Sirgo, KR Tyshawn Walls, KR JaBrook Tucker, KR Tyler Chisholm, PR Alex Martin
Hardeeville at Allendale-Fairfax
Hardeeville opened the Region 5-A season with three consecutive wins, but Bamberg-Ehrhardt put a halt to the Hurricanes' region title hopes with a 28-12 win on the Hurricanes' home field.
Hardeeville will try to earn a bounce-back victory tonight on the road, but it certainly won't come easy. Allendale-Fairfax has spent most of the season ranked in the top-10 in the Class 1-A poll, though it fell out of the poll this week following a 35-22 loss to Ridgeland.
"Allendale-Fairfax is one of the biggest teams we will face all year," Hurricanes coach Blake Raley said. "They must average somewhere between 290 pounds and 305 across the offensive line, and they feature some elusive scat backs."
Hardeeville wasn't able to stop Bamberg-Ehrhardt's running game, but a bigger factor in the loss was the 21-0 deficit the Hurricanes faced midway into the second quarter.
The Hurricanes will undoubtedly need a better start to pull off a victory tonight, and that starts with the offense, which managed only seven total yards in last week's first half.
Hardeeville is currently tied for second place in Region 5-A with Ridgeland and Allendale-Fairfax.
"This is our biggest game of the year," Raley said. "... I think the big key for us is getting off to a good start. Obviously that was something that hurt us last week."
Who: Hardeeville (3-4, 3-1 Region 5-A) at Allendale-Fairfax (4-2, 3-1)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Allendale-Fairfax, 3581 Allendale-Fairfax Highway, Allendale
Offense: QB Donald Scott, RB Michael Kinlaw, RB Jarrell Knighton, WR Brandon Blackshear, TE Dominique Riley, WR Charlie Morrison-Ford, OL Jamal Kinlaw, OL Christopher Campbell, OL Landon Johnson, OL Xavier Gist, OL Demetrius Garvin.
Defense: DL Landon Johnson, DL Demetrius Garvin , DL Gabriel Washington, DL Philip Harris, LB Amar Wilkins, LB Dominique Riley, LB Brandon Blackshear, LB Terrell Knighton, DB Donald Scott, DB Charlie Morrison-Ford, DB Aaron Grant.
Special teams: P Charlie Morrison-Ford, K Philip Harris.
Bethune-Bowman at Ridgeland
After an up-and-down start to the season, Ridgeland delivered an important victory in Week 7, handling region rival Allendale-Fairfax.
The Jaguars will carry their three-game win streak into tonight's home game with Bethune-Bowman, which is winless in Region 5-A.
Ridgeland coach Richard Kirkland said the victory over Allendale was big for his program and that his team had shoved aside its problems from earlier losses, including a close loss to undefeated Bluffton and dropping the region opener to Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
"We've always had the talent," Kirkland said after his team's win last week. "We stopped ourselves in the losses to Bluffton, Wade Hampton and Bamberg. That was Ridgeland stopping Ridgeland."
If all goes well, the Jaguars should continue their win streak tonight. Bethune-Bowman enters 0-4 in region play. The Mohawks have dropped their past six games.
Ridgeland's Torray Amlett and Jerry Scott have combined to average 218 yards rushing per game. The duo has scored 24 touchdowns.
Who: Bethune-Bowman (1-6, 0-4 Region 5-A) at Ridgeland (4-3, 3-1)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Jasper County Stadium, Ridgeland
Offense: QB Xavier Capers, RB Tyboshie Mikell, RB Jerry Scott, RB Torray Amlett, WR Hamilton Harris, WR Tyron Mikell, OT Jacque Polite, OT Aaron Watson, OG Larry Jackson, OG Wesley Scott, C Damon Jackson
Defense: DT Jaquel Howard, DT Larry Jackson, DE Jacquel Polite, DE Wesley Scott, LB Derrick Solomon, LB Damon Gadson, OLB Jerry Scott, OLB Shaquille Grant, CB Immanual White, CB Xavier Capers, FS Tyron Mikell
Special teams: K Xavier Capers, P Tyron Mikell, R Torray Amlett, R Shaquille Grant
Whale Branch at Estill
Whale Branch will try for a second consecutive Region 5-A win after it enjoyed a respite last week.
The Warriors rolled past Branchville to earn their first region victory after dropping three consecutive region games. Estill defeated Bethune-Bowman a week ago to improve to 2-2 in region play. Before that, the Gators had dropped four of five.
But Estill's two region losses, to Hardeeville and Bamberg-Ehrhardt, came by a combined seven points.
Whale Branch has done much of its damage on the ground as of late. Quarterback Stedmon James enjoyed his second game of rushing for three touchdowns during the Warriors' win last week. James, and running backs Josh Fields and Andrew Byam, have combined for 16 touchdowns on the ground.
James rushed for 140 yards against Branchville, with touchdown runs of 34, 25 and 1 yards.
The Warriors' inaugural regular season closes with three road games, starting tonight. Whale Branch then plays at Bethune-Bowman before traveling to currently undefeated Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
Who: Whale Branch (4-3, 1-3 Region 5-A) at Estill (3-4, 2-2 Region 5-A)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Estill High School; Estill, S.C.
Offense: QB Stedmon James, RB Joshua Fields, RB Robert Evans, RB Andrew Byam, WR Dee Delaney, WR Frank Washington, LT Howard Allen, LG Donald Middleton, C Max Minter-Ford, RG Matthew McCray, RT Jay Delaney
Defense: LB Trey Nelson, LB Davon Mack, LB Stedmon James, LB Andrew Byam, DE Tyrik Spicer, DE Jay Delaney, DT Mytae Jackson, DT Pop McKee, FS Frank Washington, CB Charles Giles, CB Dee Delaney
Special teams: K Charles Jiles, P Stedmon James, LS Trey Nelson, R Joshua Fields, R John Little
Ridge Christian at Beaufort Academy
Beaufort Academy will look to get back on the winning track tonight, possibly without two of its top playmakers. Lineman Bennett Fultz is out with strep throat and explosive return man Nathan Akers is a game-time decision, fighting an infection.
Still, head coach Wheatley Alford is confident his squad can earn its second win of the season.
"We think we're still in pretty good shape," Alford said. "We had a really good week of practice. Last week (against James Island Christian), we didn't play as bad as the score reflected. Even though it was a 39-8 defeat, we were inside their 10-yard line four times and kept shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties. If we can cut out our own mistakes, we can make some big plays."
Beaufort Academy has had its share of struggles this season, but so has Ridge Christian. The Paladins are a first-year program and are off to a 1-7 start, thanks to numerous injuries to key players.
"We've seen them on film and I think we will be the aggressor and we will be the ones to come out victorious," Alford said.
Who: Ridge Christian (1-7, 1-4 SCISAA 8-man Region 2) at Beaufort Academy (1-6, 0-3)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Merritt Field; 240 Sams Point Road, Beaufort
Offense: OL Brandon Massalon, OL Jordan Littleford, OL Adam Chahin, WR Leif Kopernaes, WR Charlie Humphries, WR Jack Griffith, WR Billy Dailey, QB Gibson Achurch.
Defense: DL Jack Dailey, DL Jordan Littleford, DL Adam Chahin, DL Leif Kopernaes, DL Gibson Achurch, LB Charlie Humphries, LB Billy Dailey, S Jack Griffith.
Special teams: K/P Gibson Achurch KR/PR Jack Griffith