The calendar says October today, which means the stakes are rising for high school football teams.
The area’s public schools opened region play Friday, with a couple of them earning big victories that bolstered their region title hopes. Others suffered crushing defeats – and even more crushing injuries.
With the dust now settled, here are Five Things I Think I Know from Week 7.
1. Region 8-4A is going to be a wild ride. One week into region play, if anyone says they know what’s going to shake out in Region 8-4A, they’re lying. Defending champion Berkeley survived a 21-16 scare at Hilton Head High on Friday, and Cane Bay barely squeaked out a 24-17 win over Colleton County. Beaufort High, Berkeley, and Cane Bay remain the class of the region, but it’s clear the Seahawks and Cougars are quite capable of upsetting one or more of those top teams and throwing a wrench into things.
2. Whale Branch is in the driver’s seat in Region 6-2A. For weeks I’ve been saying to wait until the Warriors got a chance to pick on teams their own size, and they proved me right with an impressive 20-14 overtime win at Woodland on Friday. The offensive line that was often overmatched against the big boys from Beaufort County will more than hold its own against other 2A schools, and running back Irvin Mulligan gets his no matter the opponent. The defense also flexed some muscle against the Wolverines. Another win at home against North Charleston on Friday would put the Warriors in position to coast to the region crown and make sure they are healthy for a playoff run.
3. Bluffton still has plenty of room to improve. The Bobcats dodged a bullet with their second-half comeback for a 24-14 win over rival May River on Friday, confirming themselves as the favorite to repeat as Region 8-3A champion. Here’s the frightening thing for the rest of the region – they didn’t play particularly well against the Sharks. The run defense was much better than it has been (though Cam Adams still rushed for 124 yards) but the corners gave up too many big plays down the sidelines, the offense was out of sync for much of the game, and the penalty epidemic continued, yet the Bobcats found a way to win. If they can clean up the little things, the Bobcats will be dangerous in October and November.
4. Thomas Heyward is peaking at the right time. The Rebels were a bit of a disappointment early in the season, but they have turned things up during a three-game winning streak and appear to be contenders not only for a region title, but perhaps much more. They’re “country strong” in the trenches, as usual, and JR Patterson is as good as any running back in SCISA Class 1A. Quarterback Logan Thomas isn’t putting up huge numbers this season because he doesn’t have to, but he doesn’t make many mistakes and can make a big play when needed. Circle the Oct. 13 visit form Dorchester Academy, which is likely to decide the region title.
5. Injuries are everything this time of year. Part of Bluffton’s out-of-sync passing game Friday had to do with the absence of speedy receiver Shamar Sandgren, who will be sidelined indefinitely with a hairline fracture in his fibula — one of 14 injured Bobcats this week. They aren’t alone, of course, and the injury news was even worse for other area teams. Hilton Head Christian Academy lost quarterback Daniel Harrington to concussion-like symptoms in the second quarter Friday, effectively killing the Eagles’ chances of winning at Thomas Heyward. And Hilton Head Prep got even worse news this weekend, learning star quarterback Stone McDonald broke his hand Friday (and kept playing) and could be lost for the rest of the season. Remember, Whale Branch quarterback Marion Smalls was lost to a dislocated elbow a couple of weeks ago, too.
Drink your milk, kids.