With just one week left in the high school football regular season (seriously, how is that possible?) we’re left with a lot to digest.
Whale Branch has locked up a region title, Thomas Heyward is on the cusp of one, and Bluffton, Battery Creek, May River, Hilton Head Christian, and John Paul II are all in the playoffs. Beaufort High still controls its own destiny to keep playing in November (though Hilton Head High hopes to have something to say about that), as does Beaufort Academy.
Friday’s games did a lot to sort all of that out, and here are Five Things I Think I Know after the dust settled on Week 10:
1. It’s not how you start … You know the rest. Not so long ago, Thomas Heyward was sitting at 1-2 and had some serious concerns on defense, and Whale Branch was 0-4 heading into region play. Now both are poised to run through their regions undefeated and prepared to do some serious damage in the postseason. On the flip side, Beaufort High was the last Lowcountry team to lose, starting 6-0 for the first time since 2008, and now the Eagles have lost two straight and need a win at Hilton Head High on Friday to make the playoffs.
2. Injuries are everything. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a repeat from a few weeks ago, and it’s still just as true. Hilton Head Prep hasn’t scored a point since losing quarterback Stone McDonald to a broken throwing hand, and losing star running back Kyleik Middleton to a sprained shoulder has played a major role in Beaufort High’s back-to-back losses. Show me a team that is playing well at the end of a long season, and I’ll probably point to a squad that has avoided major injuries.
3. Not the “same old Creek.” I went on record on the first day of practice in August to say Walter Wilson would turn things around quickly at Battery Creek, and I’m pleased to say he is proving me write. Wilson recognized from day one that the task of building the Dolphins into a winner began with changing the culture, and every time I’ve heard him address his team he has referenced “the old Battery Creek.” Well, the old Battery Creek is no more. The Dolphins put together an outstanding all-around effort in Friday’s 31-20 win over May River, and if some unsuspecting No. 2 seed sleeps on them in the playoffs, they’ll be at home earlier than expected.
4. This area is blessed with some great coaches. Wilson isn’t the only coach doing an admirable job this season. How about Kevin Wald, who has taken John Paul II from winless to 6-4 and playoff-bound? How about Jerry Hatcher, who achieved the difficult task of keeping his Whale Branch team positive in light of an 0-4 start against the county’s big boys? How about Nic Shuford, whose Thomas Heyward team has won six straight, all by 22 points or more? That’s just a short list. Guys like Mark Clifford and B.J. Payne get the most out of their teams every year, and Ron Peduzzi and John Houpt are the kind of guys I would want my son to play for, regardless of whether he ever won a game. I have great respect for every football coach in this area, and that’s pretty remarkable.
5. The Seahawks are not going quietly. Speaking of Payne, his Hilton Head High team has been snake-bitten this year, sitting at 4-4 despite all four losses coming by a combined 17 points – including one in overtime and one in which the Seahawks gained and lost the lead in the final minute. Nonetheless, the Seahawks go into Friday’s home game against Beaufort High with their slim playoff hopes intact, and you can bet they’ll be fired up.
It should be a great regular-season finale weekend.