The first leg of Hilton Head Christian Academy's quest to defend its SCISAA Class 2-A football title began with a home victory against Florence Christian.
The Eagles hope the second leg starts the same way.
Hilton Head Christian will open the playoffs at 7 tonight with a home game against Florence Christian, a team the Eagles beat 49-37 on Sept. 3 to start their season.
The 12-point margin from the first meeting is a bit misleading. Hilton Head Christian opened a 26-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and Florence Christian rallied against the Eagles' second-string defense.
Hilton Head Christian coach Tommy Lewis said his defense focused this week on stopping the pass -- Florence Christian threw for 277 yards in the first game -- but he expects his young secondary to be more prepared for Florence Christian's passing game this time around.
"They've gotten a little better since then, so I think we're ready for them, and we'll give it our best shot and hope to move on," Lewis said.
The Eagles rolled up 408 rushing yards on 33 carries in the first meeting -- quarterback Luke Sirgo led the way with 191 yards and three touchdowns, and JaBrook Tucker added 160 yards and three touchdowns.
The Eagles know what could be waiting next week -- a semifinal rematch with rival Hilton Head Prep, who the Eagles beat 49-28 in last week's regular-season finale -- but Lewis isn't concerned about his team looking ahead.
"With some teams in some years, that might be a concern, but these guys have shown that they're pretty mature about it," Lewis said. "They know how and when to focus and prepare for a game, so I'm not overly concerned about that."
Three Hilton Head Christian starters -- receiver Alex Martin, cornerback Tyler Chisholm and outside linebacker Ryan Smith -- were limited in practice this week, but Lewis said he hopes all three will start.
Who: Florence Christian (3-7, 2-3 SCISAA Region 1-AA) at Hilton Head Christian (8-1, 5-0 SCISAA Region 2-AA)
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Eagle 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 Alec Westmark, RG John Taylor Stones, RT Nick Borghi
Defense: DT Cole Malphrus, NG Robert Campos, DT Reed Shindell, OLB Cody Hilton, OLB Tyshawn Walls, ILB Clay Oliver, ILB Zach Reynolds, CB Ryan Cash, CB J.D. Reichel, SS Devan Fitzhugh, FS Ryan Emery
Special teams: K Tyler Chisholm, P Luke Sirgo, KR JaBrook Tucker, KR J.D. Reichel, KR Tyshawn Walls, PR Alex Martin
Hilton Head Prep at Pee Dee Academy
The Dolphins' biggest weakness all season has been their difficulty stopping the run, and Prep will face a standout runner in Pee Dee Academy's Storm Page when it opens the SCISAA Class 2-A playoffs on the road tonight.
Prep coach Ron Peduzzi said he "absolutely" is concerned about his team's ability to stop Page, who has rushed for 1,730 yards (8.8 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns this season despite missing one game with a concussion. Page has topped 150 yards in eight of the 10 games he has played this season, including last week's win against Williamsburg Academy, in which he ran for 199 yards and two scores.
"He's a good running back," Peduzzi said. "They like to run the ball. Very good running back."
The Dolphins have a solid running back of their own in Scott D'Amico, but he missed most of last week's 49-28 loss to Hilton Head Christian with a foot injury and his status for tonight is up in the air.
"I don't know who's going to start at running back," Peduzzi said. "If Scott doesn't have to play, he's not going to play."
Regardless, Prep's prolific passing game should be able to take advantage of a Pee Dee secondary that features three freshmen.
Peduzzi all but guaranteed a first-round victory after last week's loss, vowing the Dolphins would win to earn a rematch with their rivals in next week's semifinals.
"I hope the boys don't make me a liar," he said.
Who: Hilton Head Prep (7-3, 3-2 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at Pee Dee Academy (7-4, 3-2 SCISAA Region 1-AA)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: 2903 E. Highway 76, Mullins
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 Dylan Powell, C Devin White, RG Collins Richardson, RT Patrick Briody
Defense: DE Danny Maggard, DE Patrick Andrews, NG Marc Halseth, 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/KR/PR Dimitri Lowry, P Matt Layman, KR/PR Scott D'Amico