High School Football

Beaufort Academy, Thomas Heyward signal football’s return

Thomas Heyward ballcarrier Blake Bannon looks for room to run during Friday?s game with Hilton Head Prep.
Thomas Heyward ballcarrier Blake Bannon looks for room to run during Friday?s game with Hilton Head Prep. jkarr@islandpacket.com

Scott Richards let his players have the final say.

If Friday was too soon to play football after Hurricane Matthew, Beaufort Academy could ask Coastal Christian to come Saturday or even Monday. But it quickly became apparent to the BA coach those were not the preferred options.

“I was having to try to convince them what the benefits of playing on Saturday or Monday could be,” Richards said. “They didn’t want to hear it. ... They decided to play Friday, and I want to play when they want to play.”

And so the Eagles will kick off Friday night — the first athletic event in Beaufort County since Matthew struck the Lowcountry last weekend.

Thomas Heyward also is set to resume its season, albeit on the road with a visit to Dorchester Academy as the Rebels seek to remain unbeaten in SCISA region play.

“We never talked about not playing it,” said coach Nic Shuford, who doubles as THA’s athletics director. “They were just checking with us if everything was OK down here; I was asking if their field was good up there. On Tuesday we finally said, ‘Let’s get this done.’ 

The area’s public schools will spend another week on hiatus, as the South Carolina High School League opted to tack this week’s games onto the end of the regular season. Next Friday will bring the area’s first full slate of games since September.

Richards tried not to attach too much significance to being first back on the field, saying the Eagles were focused on winning a game and getting into the SCISA 8-man playoff picture. At the same time, he acknowledged the game could provide a little respite for those weary from hurricane cleanup.

“They can come out and get away from looking at all the downed trees,” the coach said. “I know I’ve been cleaning up myself for three days. It’s been a relief to take a break from that and go play football for two hours.

“Maybe that gets the community back together a little bit. It’s something other than chainsaws and blowers. If that’s the result of us playing, for anyone, that’s great.”

The Eagles (2-4) have been practicing since Tuesday, spending most of their time running through their playbook to sharpen timing. They have won two of the past three outings, capped by a win over Faith Christian before the unscheduled break.

Thomas Heyward (4-2) will seek a fourth straight victory and perhaps a third consecutive shutout, unscored upon since a win over Calhoun Academy on Sept. 16.

“The way we look at it, we haven’t been scored on in a month,” Shuford quipped.

Any concerns about rust were alleviated quickly, too, with Shuford calling Tuesday and Wednesday “probably the two best practices we’ve had all year.”

“It all starts with excitement and enthusiasm,” he said. “They were just excited to get back on the field.”

Jeff Shain: 843-706-8123, @jeffshain