Finally, that first Saturday in September. Get up early, put on your school colors, head out early to the stadium to tailgate.
Hold off on the garnet/orange/scarlet/etc., though, at least until mid-afternoon. Thanks to Tropical Storm Hermine, we can apply our Saturday college routines to high schools. Without delay, this week’s “Five to Watch” while avoiding tree branches and low-lying puddles in the road...
1. Three weeks is too long to wait to play the first home game in program history.
This would have topped the list even amid a sun-kissed week with gentle breezes blowing in from off the water. Mix in wind, water and one day’s postponement from Hermine, and May River’s party has the potential to seem more like a slog.
The young Sharks are 0-2, with last week’s loss of the hide-your-eyes variety. No school Friday meant no pep rally. It’s a holiday weekend, so a certain segment of Shark Nation may be bound by out-of-town plans that couldn’t accommodate Saturday.
Hopefully, the sunshine accompanying a noon kickoff vs. Whale Branch can match the atmosphere of a Lowcountry evening under the lights.
“We’re going to try to make it a special event as far as our first entrance,” said May River coach Rodney Summers. “The energy they get from the fans and from the atmosphere will hopefully carry over into how we play.”
You can’t plan around storms, of course, but it really shouldn’t have come to this. A brand-new team in a brand-new stadium should have its celebration while everything is still fresh. Build off that buzz; let the excitement peak.
Of course, there’s one surefire way to make the day memorable in spite of everything. Notch that first win.
2. Beaufort’s visit to Bluffton should offer an early window into the area’s best team.
Hilton Head Island might have something to say about that, of course. Or even a resurgent Ridgeland-Hardeeville team that already has matched last year’s win total. But the Eagles and Bobcats have shown both spirit and strength in their matching 2-0 records.
Beaufort scored the final three touchdowns to return home from Wando with a 26-17 opening victory, then showed off some of its new aerial offensive in thrashing Battery Creek 49-0. Likewise, Bluffton rebounded from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Screven County (Ga.) in the final minute, then exercised its will over May River 77-3.
“We’ve got another tough one in Beaufort coming up,” Bluffton coach Ken Cribb said even before the field cleared from the May River game.
The Eagles still run effectively — Wyatt Sherpensky, Omar Cummings and Kyleik Middleton have six touchdowns between them — but Clayton Ruff’s passing offers a new dimension. Bluffton also can attack multiple ways, with the pass-oriented Hunter Eldridge or Jermaine Patterson operating a read option.
3. Battery Creek could use something positive right now. This may not be the week.
If anyone thinks May River has been star-crossed in its first few weeks, check out the Dolphins.
Battery Creek began the week licking its wounds from that 49-0 loss to Beaufort. Then six players were suspended for their role in a sideline scuffle that didn’t appear as ugly as the penalties. Two Dolphins were suspended for two games. Losing Thursday’s practice cost time to work in stand-ins.
Then just to rub salt in it all, this week’s home game got shifted to Hilton Head to avoid drainage concerns relating to Hermine.
“We’re just trying to get through,” said BC coach Fred Hamilton, who estimated he’ll be down as many as seven starters when they take the field against the Seahawks.
4. You could dub this week the North of the Broad/South of the Broad Challenge. Just remember where you heard it first.
Hey, it works in college basketball, where the ACC/Big Ten Challenge has been part of its landscape for years. And the Big Ten has its annual Saturday where it seems everyone is matched up with a Mid-American Conference school.
Not only does Beaufort County’s six public schools all matched against one another this week, each one pits a North of the Broad team against a Southsider.
Though you can probably write in a Hilton Head victory, the NOB schools can claim bragging rights if Beaufort and While Branch rise up.
5. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend, Hilton Head Christian and Hilton Head Prep.
Granted, it’s impossible to craft a schedule that’s guaranteed to be completely immune from storm havoc. But there’s no doubt the Eagles and Dolphins caught the right timing with this week’s open dates.