High School Sports

Week 9: High stakes tonight in Berkeley for Bluffton

A region championship, a No. 1 ranking and a pair of winning streaks.

Plenty will be on the line tonight when Bluffton High School travels to Berkeley for a Region 7-AAA contest. The Bobcats can top the region for the second straight year with a victory, but a loss would allow Berkeley to control its own destiny toward a league title.

The Bobcats have won their first eight games of the year and found themselves on top of the S.C. Media Prep Poll this week for the first time in school history. Berkeley is on a roll of its own -- the Stags (4-4) have won three straight games and four of their past five after an 0-3 start to the year.

"I think they'll be fired up. I think we'll be fired up," Bobcats coach Ken Cribb said. "This is why you play this game."

It will provide the Bobcats with a chance of revenge.

A year ago they used a matchup with Berkeley to build confidence. Even though the Stags came out with a 26-25 victory, the previously unbeaten Bobcats figured a competitive game with Berkeley meant they could compete with anyone.

Tonight, the confidence is already there.

"Last year, winning was new to us, so we went into the game a little bit unsure of what to expect," senior running back Zach Scott said. "We got a lot more confidence this year."

With good reason. Bluffton will take one of the hottest offenses in the state into Berkeley -- a pistol shotgun offense that centers around quarterback C.J. Frazier, who has thrown for 31 touchdowns, and his arsenal of weapons.

Cribb expects the Stags to shift their focus to Bluffton's passing attack and try to take away top wideout Dimitri Lowry, who has caught 14 touchdowns this year.

Easier said than done.

"They can't stop everything," Cribb said. "We'll take advantage of what they're allowing us, whether that's the run or the pass."

Berkeley will counter with an emerging offense that has shown great improvement in region play.

The Stags were shut out in their first three games of the year, but led by a speedy two-man backfield of Asanti Dantzler and Shaquille Thompson, they have scored 136 points in three region contests.

"They're very athletic, and they got a good scheme going right now," Cribb said. "We have to play smart, assignment football and not get caught chasing the ball. (If) we do that, I think we'll be OK."

Hilton Head Christian (7-1, 3-0 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at Thomas Heyward (7-0, 3-0), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: The region title -- or at least a share of it -- will be on the line tonight in Ridgeland. The Rebels made sure of that with last week's win over Hilton Head Prep, and they can clinch the title by completing the Hilton Head sweep. The Eagles can't clinch the crown tonight -- they'll still need a win next week over Hilton Head Prep -- but they can lock up at least a share of the title with a victory.

Last week: Hilton Head Christian won 46-14 at Northwood Academy; Thomas Heyward won 18-13 vs. Hilton Head Prep

Key to the game: Both teams want to get their running game going early to help keep their defense off the field. Junior Ryan Day has carried the Rebels all season, averaging 153.4 rushing yards per game with 16 touchdowns. Junior Tyler Chisholm has to have success running the ball to open up the Eagles' passing game.

Battery Creek (1-7, 0-3 Region 7-AAA) at Hilton Head High (3-5, 1-2), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Hilton Head High can clinch another postseason berth with a win tonight against Battery Creek, which remains winless in three region contests. The Seahawks competed with Cane Bay last week, pulling within five points in the fourth quarter before giving up two late touchdowns.

Last week: Battery Creek lost 82-0 at Bluffton; Hilton Head High lost 37-19 at Cane Bay.

Key to the game: The Dolphins have scored only 46 points in eight games this season, so they will need to improve on that number to come away with a region win tonight. The Seahawks defense has improved steadily. They will have opportunities to create turnovers and need to take advantage of those.

Beaufort High (3-5, 0-2 Region 8-AAAA) at Colleton County (0-8, 0-2), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Both teams are searching for their first region win. Eagles running back JaClay Mixon emerged as a possible workhorse after carrying almost 30 times against Ashley Ridge last week. Colleton County's last victory came on Oct. 30, 2009, a streak of 20 consecutive losses.

Last week: Beaufort High lost 35-31 to Ashley Ridge; Colleton County lost 41-0 to Stratford

Key to the game: With a big game at region rival Summerville next week, Beaufort High will have to remain in the moment against the Cougars. If the Eagles' offense clicks, they should coast. Colleton County has not scored more than two touchdowns in a game this season.

Bethune-Bowman (2-6, 1-4 Region 5-A) at Whale Branch (5-3, 2-3), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: After a close loss last week, the second-year Warriors again will try to top last season's victory total -- overall and in the region. Bethune-Bowman's lone region victory was an 8-6 win over Hardeeville on Sept. 30.

Last week: Whale Branch lost 32-27 to Estill; Bethune-Bowman lost 26-14 to Ridgeland.

Key to the game: Back at full strength after four players received a two-game suspension, Whale Branch will have to find its chemistry and execute in a game it should win. The Warriors have dropped three of their past four games since starting the season 4-0. They have to avoid looking past this game to a showdown with region power Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

First Baptist (0-9, 0-3 SCISAA Region 2-AA) at Hilton Head Prep (4-3, 2-1), 4 p.m.

The skinny: The Dolphins will celebrate their seniors in all fall sports at halftime of what they hope to be an easy region victory in their final tune-up before facing rival Hilton Head Christian on the road to close the regular season. The Hurricanes have been shut out in seven of their nine games, including each of the last four. Prep will have an interest in the outcome of tonight's Hilton Head Christian-Thomas Heyward game, too. If the Eagles win, Prep will still have a chance to force a three-way tie for first with a win next week. If the Rebels win, next week's cross-island rivalry will be for second in the region and a first-round home game.

Last week: First Baptist lost 32-0 vs. St. Andrew's; Hilton Head Prep lost 18-13 at Thomas Heyward

Key to the game: The Dolphins shouldn't have any trouble with the Hurricanes, even with eighth-grader Aidan Hegarty making his first start at quarterback. The biggest key for Prep will be keeping everyone healthy for the regular-season finale and the playoffs.

Estill (4-4, 4-1 Region 5-A) at Ridgeland (5-3, 3-2), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Estill has won four of five in region play after losing three non-region games to open the season. The Gators average 33.5 points per game in their victories. Ridgeland should be back to full strength after missing 20 players to suspension the past two games.

Last week: Estill defeated Whale Branch 32-27; Ridgeland defeated Bethune-Bowman 26-14

Key to the game: Keep Torray Amlett rolling. The Jaguars' versatile back accounted for three touchdowns during last week's victory, a win that came with Ridgeland severely short-handed. Back to full strength, the Jaguars will look to close strong in their remaining two region contests.

Hardeeville (0-8, 0-5 Region 5-A) at Branchville (1-7, 0-5), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: With two weeks left in the regular season, the Hurricanes are still in search of their first win, and they have a shot to get one tonight at Branchville, which is on a five-game losing streak.

Last week: Hardeeville lost 38-0 to Allendale-Fairfax; Branchville lost 55-0 to Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

Key to the game: The Hurricanes have scored just 43 points in their eight games, an average of 5.3 points per contest. Branchville has allowed 252, though, the second most in the region. Hardeeville will have to find a way to put the ball in the end zone more than once to come away with their first win.

Clarendon Hall (8-0, 4-0 SCISAA 8-man Region 2) at Beaufort Academy (2-7, 1-3), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: The Eagles will look to snap a three-game losing streak, but they'll have to do it against one of the state's top eight-man teams in Clarendon Hall. The Saints have held all but one of their opponents to eight or fewer points, including three shutouts and a forfeit.

Last week: Clarendon Hall won 50-0 vs. Trinity Collegiate; Beaufort Academy lost 58-22 vs. Coastal Christian Prep

Key to the game: The Eagles will have to play the perfect game -- and even then, they might need to get a few breaks -- to hang with the powerful Saints, who haven't lost since falling to Wardlaw Academy in last year's playoffs.