It’s hard to imagine more going wrong for a team than what befell Hilton Head Prep’s football team a year ago. The Dolphins’ already thin roster was wracked by injuries, and the skeleton crew that was left was shut out four times in its season-ending six-game losing streak.
HHP enters the 2018 campaign with renewed hope, buoyed by a deeper roster, a more seasoned – and healthy – crop of returning players, and the justified belief that the Dolphins are due for better fortune.
“Last year we probably finished the season with about 16 or 17 players,” said senior Logan Blair. “Guys like me and Hunter (Hopman) probably came off the field like four times in the last three games. To be able to get a few plays off is really going to help our energy as the games go on.”
Among the injuries that depleted the roster down the stretch last season was a season-ending broken throwing hand for quarterback Stone McDonald, who is healthy and poised to lead an offense with the potential to put up some points. The Dolphins flashed some offensive prowess before McDonald’s injury, scoring 29 or more points in three of their first six games, and virtually all of their top skill position players are back, including Hopman, Blair, Gage Hurlbut, and Tommy Stauffer.
The Dolphins also are armed with the motivation to avoid another season like last year’s one-win campaign.
“We’re mostly a returning team, and we know what it’s like to have a rough season like that,” Hopman said. “We knew what it was going to take to build it up and hopefully have the kind of season we want to have this year.”
Of course, the Dolphins could be much improved and it might not show up in their record, considering eight of their nine losses last year came by 30 points or more. With two winnable games to start the season, though, it’s possible HHP could surpass last season’s win total before the end of August.
“We just have to go out and execute the game plan,” Hurlbut said. “Sometimes you can’t always measure success in wins, but we want to go out and have fun and play as hard as we can. If we do that, we can’t really be mad how it turns out.”
HILTON HEAD PREP DOLPHINS FOOTBALL
Coach: Dave Adams
Record at HHP: 4-14 (3rd season)
2017 record: 1-9 overall, 0-5 region
Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense
Offensive scheme: Double wing/spread
Defensive scheme: 50
Top returners: QB/FS Stone McDonald, RB/LB Hunter Hopman
Notable losses: OL/DT Davis Puckey
Breakout candidates: WR/DE Carson King, RB/CB Tommy Stauffer
PLAYER TO WATCH
Hunter Hopman, RB: The obvious answer here is McDonald, but we already know what he can do. Hopman showed big-play potential last season, and if he can become a more reliable threat on offense it will open up the field for McDonald while also helping preserve the quarterback. Every time Hopman carries the ball is one fewer hit McDonald has to absorb.
Can the offensive line protect the quarterback? McDonald is good enough, and has enough talent around him at the skill positions, for the Dolphins to have a pretty potent offense, but only if the line can give him enough time to operate and keep him upright.
REGION AND BEYOND
The Dolphins certainly will be improved from a year ago, but it’s hard saying whether that will translate into wins in region play. Despite a slight region shakeup, HHP played all four of this year’s region foes a year ago – and they outscored the Dolphins 187-33, though two of those games were played without McDonald.
8/17 — vs. Northside Christian
8/24 — at Colleton Prep
8/31 — Open
9/7 — at Thomas Heyward
9/14 — at Orangeburg Prep*
9/21 — vs. John Paul II*
9/28 — vs. Carolina Academy
10/5 — at Bethesda Academy
10/12 — vs. Dorchester Academy
10/19 — at Northwood Academy*
10/26 — vs. Hilton Head Christian*
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