B.J. Payne had a feeling he would get this type of performance out of his Hilton Head Island High School football team. It was hard to expect much else given the Seahawks' struggles from a week ago.
Hilton Head High, a week after being dominated 80-14 by rival Bluffton, once again sputtered early on defense Friday night against Stall. But an improved effort in the second half helped the Seahawks hold on for a 46-35 win, giving Payne and Co. an early leg up in Region 8-AAA.
"It wasn't the best week of practice and it obviously showed up tonight," Payne said. "I don't know where the focus is, but we've got to get it back, and we've got to get it back fast."
Hilton Head High (4-2, 1-0) led wire-to-wire against the pesky Warriors, but a quartet of turnovers and some missed tackling helped keep Stall (2-4, 0-1) within a possession at halftime.
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The Seahawks had built a 31-13 advantage late in the first half. Michael Julian took a draw 16 yards to the end zone on Hilton Head High's opening drive before connecting with Khalil Lewis and Jonny Dillon on touchdown passes of 34 and 43 yards, respectively. Scott D'Amico added to the scoring binge with a run from 4 yards out midway through the second.
But defensive meltdowns plagued the Seahawks over the final two minutes. It started with Stall quarterback Jordan Carswell, who turned a sneak on third and short into a 79-yard touchdown run, pulling the Warriors within seven. After Lewis fumbled on the ensuing possession, Stall launched a time-expiring touchdown pass from 31 yards out to Dominique Richardson, trimming the deficit to 31-26 at the break.
"We played very sloppy in the first half, had (four) turnovers," Payne said. "Defensively we're in spots but we're not making plays."
So the first-year coach challenged his team at the break, and they responded emphatically. The Seahawks held Stall to just nine fourth-quarter points, two of which came on a safety after the Warriors turned it over on downs at the 1. Carswell later found Lavonta Green in the corner of the end zone, but by then the game was in hand.
A pair of third-quarter touchdowns from the Seahawks helped salt the game away. D'Amico started the run with a 2-yard plunge before Julian hit Jamarcus Moradel from 14 yards out to put Hilton Head High up 46-26.
"Our coaches gave us a talk in the locker room and we picked it up," said Julian, who finished 14 of 25 passing, and had 344 total yards and four touchdowns. "We had heart in the second half."
The win helped the Seahawks match last year's win total and gave Hilton Head High its best start since 2008, which was also the last time the Seahawks captured a region title.
But this year's team has a long way to go before thinking of league crowns, Payne said.
"We were able to get a region win, which is important," he said. "But we've got a lot of aspects on the game that we've got to get better in and fast."
Hilton Head High 46, Stall 35
Stall 7 19 0 9 -- 35
Hilton Head High 18 13 15 0 -- 46
HHH--Michael Julian 16 rush (Scott D'Amico rush), 10:31.
HHH--Colin White 35 field goal, 3:20.
S--Dominique Richardson 45 catch from Jordan Carswell (Joe Vasquez kick), 2:10.
HHH--Khalil Lewis 34 catch from Julian (White kick), 0:48.
S--Carswell 71 rush (kick failed), 11:46.
HHH--D'Amico 4 rush (kick failed), 6:22.
HHH--Jonny Dillon 43 catch from Julian (White kick), 2:04
S--Carswell 79 rush (Vasquez kick), 0:38.
S--Richardson 31 catch from Carswell (rush failed), 0:00.
HHH--D'Amico 2 rush (White kick), 8:23.
HHH--Jamarcus Moradel 14 catch from Julian (D'Amico rush), 0:33.
S--Lawrence Kinlaw safety of Lewis, 6:17.
S--Lavonta Green 6 catch from Carswell (Vasquez kick), 2:38.
First Downs 16 25
Rushes-Yards 34-184 33-279
Comp-Att-Int 12-31-1 14-25-0
Passing Yards 203 228
Punts-Avg 6-28 2-28
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 4-3
Penalties-Yards 8-57 9-68
Third-Down Conv 5-16 2-6
Fourth-Down Conv 1-2 1-1
PASSING: S -- Jordan Carswell 12-30-1-203, 3 TD, Adario James 0-1-0-0; HHH -- Michael Julian 14-25-0-228, 3 TD.
RUSHING: S -- Jordan Carswell 18-145, Shaquille Moultrie 7-20, Deron Little 5-12, Adario James 3-5, Theodore Holmes 1-2; HHH -- Michael Julian 10-116, Khalil Lewis 13-113, Scott D'Amico 8-47, Ty'Shan Green 2-3.
RECEIVING: S -- Shaquille Moultrie 3-87, Dominique Richardson 2-76, Adario James 2-22, Jacqui Johnson-Drayton 1-13, Lavonta Green 1-6, Deron Little 1-(-1); HHH -- Theodore Holmes 2-15, Nelson Cedeno 1-9, HHH -- Jonny Dillon 3-81, James Sanders 5-48, Jamarcus Moradel 4-48, Khalil Lewis 1-34, Jordan Rozek 1-17.