High School Sports

Hardeeville players face biggest game of their lives

Coming off the biggest win of his high school career, Jarrell Knighton has learned one thing -- there's not much time to celebrate postseason accomplishments.

Hardeeville High School defeated Denmark-Olar last week to advance to the Class 1-A Division II Lower State championship game. The Hurricanes will travel to Scott's Branch tonight at 7:30 with a trip to the state title game on the line.

For Knighton and nine senior teammates, the journey to this point has been four years in the making. But rather than relaxing and allowing that to sink in, the Hurricanes are looking ahead to tonight's matchup against the Region 6-A champions.

"I'm just ready go," Knighton said. "I'm ready to play. I'm not nervous at all. I want to get on the field and lead my team to a win."

It undoubtedly would be the biggest win in the school's four-year history if the second-seeded Hurricanes (7-5, 5-2 Region 5-A) can pull off the upset against top-seeded Scott's Branch.

The Eagles (10-2, 5-0 Region 6-A) possess a high-scoring offense built on power and size. Much like Hardeeville -- which started the season 0-3 before winning seven of nine -- the Eagles got started off on the wrong foot before turning things around. They enter tonight's game on a 10-game winning streak.

Scott's Branch can credit its turnaround to a running game that overpowers its opponent behind a wall of oversized offensive linemen. It will be an intriguing matchup against the Hurricanes defense. The Hurricanes struggled against the run to open the season but have since solidified their rush defense behind linebacker Dominique Riley, who has tallied a team-high 144 tackles.

"I call it Little League football on steroids," Hurricanes coach Blake Raley said. "They're going to put 10 guys on the line, the quarterback under center, and they're going to come right at us. It's a lot of guys blocking, a lot of guys pulling from every direction trying to hit open space and find gaps."

The Hurricanes will counter with a rushing game that continues to get better each week. Knighton leads the team with 1,212 yards, and fullback Michael Kinlaw has rushed for 733 yards. The duo has combined for 20 touchdowns. Quarterback Donald Scott, who took over under center midseason, provides speed if he can get to the edge. He has rushed for 385 yards.

"Defenses don't just key on me anymore," Knighton said. "Michael can run the football, we have a quarterback that can run and we have more options back there. If they key on me, Michael can have a big game."

Class 1-A Division II Lower State championship

Who: Hardeeville (7-5, 5-2 Region 5-A) at Scott's Branch (10-2, 5-0 Region 7-A)

When: Today, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Scott's Branch, 9253 Alex Harvin Highway, Summerton

Projected starters


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.