The Hilton Head Island High School football team had just scored a big road win over region rival James Island, and coach B.J. Payne had a question for his star quarterback Michael Julian.
"I asked him on the way back, 'Did you ever think you would have a game where you would have 23 carries?' " the Seahawks coach recalled. "He laughed and said no."
It's been that kind of season for Julian, who seemingly finds different ways to win every week for Hilton Head High. The senior signal-caller was at his finest against the Trojans, when he holstered his throwing arm in favor of the run game and rolled up 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
That versatility has scored Julian a coveted invitation to the 76th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which pits the best seniors from South Carolina against those from North Carolina. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Dec. 15 at Wofford's Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg.
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"It's an opportunity to show what I have, have fun and see the level of competition that I'm going to be seeing at the next level," Julian said. "It was one of my goals, but it wasn't at the top of my list. It's a great accomplishment. I'm really happy."
Julian -- who was the only player from Beaufort County named to the team and the first from Hilton Head Island since wide receiver Eddie Cohen in 2002 -- said he is looking forward to the chance at showcasing his abilities once more. He already has been named the top senior quarterback in the state by SCVarsity.com and holds double-digit offers from NCAA Division I schools.
"I do feel like a lot of people do doubt me and don't believe that I can do what people say I can do," he said. "This is just another opportunity for me to show what I can do."
Julian is tops in the area with 1,501 passing yards and is second behind Bluffton quarterback C.J. Frazier with 16 touchdown passes. He's completed 56 percent of his passes, has a 165.75 pass effeciency and just three interceptions, and has also run for 522 yards and eight scores on 65 carries.
"He's a guy we hang our hat on," Payne said.
Julian is one of two quarterbacks on the Sandlappers roster, not including Conway quarterback/athlete Mykal Moody. Joining him is Union County signal-caller Keiston Smith, who stands 6-foot-2, 234 pounds. Smith has completed 145 passes for 2,321 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing 73 times for 533 yards and nine touchdowns.
But Julian isn't concerned about competition. If he can't get in the game behind center, he said he has no qualms with playing receiver should Stratford coach Ray Stackley put him there, seeing how it's a position he is being recruited to by a handful of schools.
"I'll do whatever they need me to do," he said.
Nothing he does come December will surprise Payne, who predicted way back when he first arrived in January that Julian would have a shot at the high-profile game.
"It's very well-deserved," Payne said. "He's worked extremely hard to get this honor, not just on the field but in the classroom as well."
What: 76th Annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas
Who: N.C. Tarheels vs. S.C. Sandlappers
When: 1 p.m., Dec. 15, Gibbs Stadium, Spartanburg
Tickets: $15 advanced, $20 at the gate
Last year: N.C. won 26-19
Series history: S.C. leads 41-30-4
Area selections since 2000
2011: WR Eric Boyles, Bluffton; LB Michael Grant, Bluffton; DL Wesley Scott, Ridgeland
2009: LB Justin Parker, Beaufort
2008: DB Jimmy Legree, Beaufort
2007: LB Brandon Mattis, Beaufort; LB Devin Taylor, Beaufort
2003: WR Tremel Kline, Battery Creek
2002: WR Eddie Cohen, Hilton Head Island
2001: LB Antonio Williams, Battery Creek