Sorry, it’s muscle memory this time of year. The high school football playoffs kick off in just a few hours, and nine area teams are still clinging to hopes of winning a state championship, however fleeting those hopes might be. We’ll know a lot more by the end of the night.
Here’s the full slate of games involving local teams:
SCHSL CLASS 4A
Beaufort (7-2) at Myrtle Beach (6-4)
The Eagles reminded us last week how good they are when Kyleik Middleton is healthy. It’s no secret that Beaufort’s offense is one-dimensional, and having a dominant running back is critical to their success. But … Myrtle Beach has only lost once since an 0-3 start, and that was to undefeated North Myrtle Beach in a tough 24-19 game. The Seahawks have put up 189 points in their past three games, and senior quarterback Lawson Cribb is the real deal. Beaufort’s secondary will have its work cut out, and the defensive front will need to keep Cribb under pressure to give the Eagles a chance.
Prediction: Myrtle Beach 41, Beaufort 34
SCHSL CLASS 3A
Hanahan (4-6) at Bluffton (6-3)
Speaking of outstanding running backs, they have given the Bobcats fits and Hanahan has one in Quincy Mitchell (1,328 rushing yards, 17 TDs). The Hawks have been inconsistent, though, and have only two wins over teams with winning records. Bluffton is still learning to live without receiver Shamar Sandgren and tight end Lee Kirkland, but Josh Staple has emerged as a solid option in the ground game and I’Kiem Jefferson has become the Bobcats’ X-factor. Expect a shootout that might come down to who has the ball last.
Prediction: Bluffton 37, Hanahan 35
Battery Creek (4-5) at Bishop England (6-3)
In the moments after their regular-season ending win over May River, Battery Creek coach Walter Wilson advised his team that Bishop England was a potential playoff opponent and reminded them of “that day in the mud” – alluding to a preseason scrimmage with the Bishops. Saying the Dolphins are a different team now is an understatement, as Wilson has changed the culture and has Battery Creek not only playing solid football but also believing it can win. The Dolphins will have their hands full with Bishop England’s ground game led by Leo Albano (1,355 yards, 23 TDs) and Christian Greavu (706 yards, 4 TDs), but Battery Creek will be prepared, and if the Dolphins can hang in early and gain confidence, an upset is not out of the question.
Prediction: Battery Creek 23, Bishop England 21
May River (2-7) at Timberland (7-3)
The Wolves lost three of their first five games, but those defeats look pretty impressive in the rearview mirror – they came against undefeated North Myrtle Beach and Class 4A top-10s Berkeley and Cane Bay. They’ve won five straight since and beat Bishop England 28-6 last week for the region title. Despite the ugly record, the Sharks made a huge leap forward this season and nearly knocked off region champion Wade Hampton last week. Quarterback Ahmad Green (whose status will be a game-time decision) and running back Cam Adams are an excellent one-two punch in May River’s read-option scheme, but Timberland has allowed more than seven points only once during it’s five-game winning streak.
Prediction: Timberland 27, May River 13
SCHSL CLASS 2A
Buford (7-3) at Whale Branch (5-4)
The Warriors seem to have played two distinctly different schedules – the non-region slate in which they got beaten up by their big brothers from around the county, and the region schedule in which they played the role of bully. The playoffs figure to fall somewhere between the two. You won’t find too many 1 vs. 5 matchups (yes, the Class 2A bracket is odd because there are only seven regions) in which the road team has a better overall record, but don’t be deceived – the Warriors should be the better team tonight and Irvin Mulligan will be the best player on the field, as usual.
Prediction: Whale Branch 36, Buford 20
SCISA CLASS 2A
Hilton Head Christian (5-4) at Robert E. Lee Academy (9-2)
The Eagles have won two straight against overmatched opponents, but the competition level spikes again for the first round of the playoffs. The Cavaliers have an impressive resume that includes a win over SCISA 1A power Dillon Christian, but they have had some difficulty on defense, and HHCA quarterback Daniel Harrington presents a challenge. The Eagles can pull off the upset, but they will need to force some turnovers and take advantage of them to make it happen.
Prediction: Lee Academy 33, Hilton Head Christian 26
SCISA CLASS 1A
Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach (6-4) at Thomas Heyward (8-2)
The Rebels roar into the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak, and their 29-14 win at Colleton Prep last week was the closest of those contests. The Saints are a tough draw as a No. 4 seed, though, and they have an offensive balance that is rare in small-school football. Senior quarterback Braden McCauley has tossed 18 touchdown passes and rushed for six scores, and running back Christian Gaskins (1,166 yards, 13 TDs) has topped 200 rushing yards three times. The Rebels also are balanced and have a senior leader under center with Logan Thomas, who has thrown 15 TD passes and rushed for five more, as well as one of the top backs in SCISA in freshman JR Patterson (1,645 yards, 15 TDs). In other words, the scoreboard operator might be busy tonight in Ridgeland.
Prediction: Thomas Heyward 47, Christian Academy 27
John Paul II (6-4) at Dillon Christian (8-2)
I’ve lost track of my record picking games this season, but I do know it’s pretty, pretty, pretty good … except when it comes to JPII. The Golden Warriors continue to vex me with their inconsistent play, but when they play well, they play really well. The school is hyped for the first playoff game in program history and is taking a busload of fans to Dillon. JPII is also taking Zack Doe. Will that be enough to upset the defending state champs on the road? Dillon Christian has won seven straight and has a dynamic offensive duo in quarterback Diaz Alexander (13 pass TDs, 1,303 rushing yards, 22 TDs) and Demontez Alford (1,298 rush yards, 15 TDs). JPII fans might be relieved to see my pick.
Prediction: Dillon Christian 38, John Paul II 20
SCISA 8-MAN I
Holly Hill Academy (2-7) at Beaufort Academy (4-6)
I won’t pretend to have a great handle on the SCISA 8-man landscape, but here’s one thing I do know: De’Shaun Epps is the real deal. The Eagles have been virtually unstoppable when Epps is healthy, and he racked up 451 rushing yards and five touchdowns in last week’s 76-50 win over Cathedral Academy. That’s all I really need to know this week.
Prediction: Beaufort Academy 62, Holly Hill Academy 40