With all due respect to the SCISA teams who have already played a handful of region games, the high school football season turns serious tonight.
The warm-up is over for SCHSL squads, and the playoff implications will hit with a full head of steam when Week 7 kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Of course, the biggest game of the week doesn’t need any postseason implications to lend importance, because it’s part II of the 2017 B-Town Showdown, a rematch of a Week 2 classic between Bluffton and May River in which the Bobcats survived a scare from the Sharks and broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to preserve a 24-16 win.
That was the start of an impressive run for May River, which has since beaten Whale Branch (22-6) and lost two more heartbreakers to undefeated Beaufort High (9-7) and Manning (28-27).
You better believe the Sharks have the Bobcats’ full attention going into the rematch.
“We’re not going in thinking they’re the same team they were last year, we’re going in thinking they’re the best team in this area,” Bluffton coach John Houpt said. “We have to play up to that level.
“I think everybody should be here, and if they’re not, they’re missing out on a great show.”
Here’s tonight’s full slate with my predictions. I went 7-1 last week to improve to 35-6 on the season. Not too shabby.
May River (1-4) at Bluffton (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
The first meeting was evenly matched, and both teams are playing better than they were in Week 2. Bluffton’s run defense is still a concern, and the Sharks can run it with dynamic quarterback Ahmad Green and running back Cam Adams. The Bobcats’ passing game is clicking, though, and Jermaine Patterson has been unstoppable, compiling at least 100 receiving yards and catching a touchdown pass in every game this season. The atmosphere will be incredible, and the game should match.
Prediction: Bluffton 30, May River 27
Berkeley (4-1) at Hilton Head Island (3-1), 7:30 p.m.
Berkeley routed the Seahawks 63-28 last year en route to going undefeated in region play and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The Seahawks are playing well and have the offense clicking after a 53-12 win at Ridgeland-Hardeeville last week, and Sterling White will always be one of the most dangerous players on the field. HHIHS has been tough on the run but will be tested against Keshawn Wicks (534 yards, 6 TDs). The Stags have won four straight since a season-opening loss to Daniel and are coming off a 28-0 win over Timberland last week.
Prediction: Berkeley 34, Hilton Head High 24
Beaufort High (4-0) at R.B. Stall (2-2), 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles had a bye week to get healthy heading into region play, and if all goes well, their starters won’t need to strain themselves too much in the Region 8-4A opener. The Warriors have won two straight following an 0-2 start, but they haven’t played a team of Beaufort High’s caliber. Beaufort’s Kyleik Middleton should have a big game, and the Warriors will have a tough time moving the ball against a stingy Eagles defense.
Prediction: Beaufort High 41, Stall 13
Battery Creek (2-3) at Wade Hampton (2-4), 7:30 p.m.
The culture is changing at Battery Creek, where the Dolphins have won two straight and look like a playoff contender. To make the postseason, the Dolphins have to win one region game, and this one is one of their best chances. The Red Devils have had a hard time finishing games, but two of their losses came in one-score games against teams that still haven’t lost, so they’ve been tested. Hampton is a tough place to play, too, and the home-field advantage could be the difference.
Prediction: Wade Hampton 33, Battery Creek 26
Whale Branch (0-4) at Woodland (2-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Region 6-2A picture appears to include three potential title contenders, and these are two of them. Woodland handed Whale Branch its only loss in region play a year ago, and the Warriors would like to return the favor. After being shut out in their first two games, the Wolverines have the offense rolling now, averaging 29 points over their past three contests. Whale Branch went back to basics on offense last week and had success running the ball with Irvin Mulligan, who will need to have a big game for the Warriors to come home victorious.
Prediction: Whale Branch 27, Woodland 26
Hilton Head Christian Academy (3-1) at Thomas Heyward (3-2), 7:30 p.m.
HHCA has surprised some folks with three straight wins, and the Eagles’ only loss was in double-overtime to John Paul II in Week 1. But … Thomas Heyward is coming on strong and has a star in the making in freshman running back JR Patterson, who rolled up 307 rushing yards last week against JP2. HHCA quarterback Daniel Harrington is dangerous and will keep the Eagles in it, but the Rebels are too tough in the trenches.
Prediction: Thomas Heyward 40, Hilton Head Christian 21
Carolina Academy (2-2) at John Paul II (3-3), 7:30 p.m.
This one is a toss-up. The Golden Warriors have come back to Earth a bit with consecutive losses, but they still have one of the best backfield duos in SCISA with Zack Doe and Melik Frost. It’s also homecoming in Hardeeville, so JP2 will have a home-field advantage. If the Golden Warriors can limit their mistakes, they’ll get back in the win column.
Prediction: John Paul II 27, Carolina Academy 25
Hilton Head Prep (1-4, 0-1) at Bethesda Academy (0-6, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The young Dolphins don’t have too many realistic chances to win on their schedule this season, but this is one of them, and they have to take advantage. Hilton Head Prep quarterback Stone McDonald will be the best player on the field and will exploit a Bethesda defense that has allowed at least 50 points in four of six games.
Prediction: Hilton Head Prep 33, Bethesda 27
Beaufort Academy (3-2, 1-0) at Faith Christian (2-3, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles have won three straight and have one of the most dynamic players in SCISA 8-man in running back De’Shaun Epps. There’s no reason to believe they’ll let up this week against a Faith Christian team that gave up 50 points to Calhoun Academy, which BA beat 55-18 last week.
Prediction: Beaufort Academy 53, Faith Christian 16