The relief of finally having clinched a playoff spot was barely enough for Hilton Head High football coach Tim Singleton to crack a smile after another week with the rigors of the dreaded rebuilding year gnawing at him.
"It's like being a butcher with dull knives," Singleton said with a grin. "You're going to cut through that meat some kind of way, but it's just all butchered and nasty."
Despite being outgained by visiting Battery Creek, the Seahawks managed to carve out their second Region 7-AAA victory, winning 21-8 in their final home game of the season to clinch a playoff berth.
"It was an ugly win, but nevertheless, we jumped on them early and did what we needed to do," said Singleton, whose team wraps up the regular season at rival Bluffton High School next week.
The Seahawks (4-5, 2-2 Region 7-AAA) built a 21-0 halftime lead by winning the field-position battle.
They ended Battery Creek's first two possessions with interceptions -- two of four picks in the game for the Hilton Head High defense -- and set themselves up with good field position after Michael Julian's 58-yard punt.
After their first two drives stalled, senior running back Matt Bex capped a five-play, 35-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead.
Bex finished with 104 yards on 20 carries and scored twice.
"The defense gave us good field position early, which helped get us going," Bex said. "I think we just needed to get our rhythm. Once we saw what was working, we stuck with it and followed through."
The Seahawks had success getting Bex outside the tackles with quick sweep plays, but they didn't have much luck with anything else, finishing with 152 total yards compared to Battery Creek's 190.
Julian completed 5 of 11 passes for 37 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown to Desmond Bush.
"We took what they gave us," Singleton said. "They were determined to not let us run the option, so we were able to run the sweep and throw the ball inside a little bit and got what we needed to get a victory."
Battery Creek (0-9, 0-4 Region 7-AAA) found itself in a tough spot on offense from the start. Quarterback Leroy Jennette was injured on the second series, prompting backup Kevin Sanders to take over and hampering the Dolphins' game plan.
"That totally changed everything we wanted to do offensively," Battery Creek coach Carlos Cave said. "(Sanders) is a heck of an athlete, but it's tough when you've got to go to the No. 2 guy and still try to do everything that we worked on."
Sanders rushed for a team-high 56 yards on 10 carries and completed 11 of 30 passes for 86 yards with two interceptions. Keena Wright added 49 yards on 12 carries and scored the Dolphins' lone touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. They close the season at home against Lake Marion next week.
"The kids played hard. It's just been a long season," Cave said. "I hate it for the kids that it's nine consecutive now. That's tough."