It’s not too often that a high school football team that graduated more than half of its starters comes back with even more confidence and enthusiasm, but that appears to be the case at Beaufort High School this fall.
Energized by new head coach Devonte Holloman, the Eagles are eager to begin the 2018 season and see if they can shake their reputation as a team that plays well in the regular season but bows out early in the postseason.
“I think it’s changed the program completely,” senior linebacker Will Kelley said of Holloman’s promotion after serving as defensive coordinator the past three seasons. “We’re working a lot harder, we’re in the weight room longer, we practice faster. Everything’s completely different.”
The changes have gone beyond the field, too, including more community involvement and team-building.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, but we’ve got a lot more people out,” senior quarterback Jeffrey Smyth said. “We’ve worked a lot harder, and it’s going to end up with a better result.”
Indeed, the roster has swollen to nearly 100 players between junior varsity and varsity, giving Holloman plenty of options to replace the six starters lost on each side of the ball. The biggest holes to fill are along the offensive line, where every starter graduated.
“They’re coming along as expected,” Holloman said. “They’re still going to make some mistakes, but with time they’ll end up being a strength for us, if not this year, then next year.”
The offense also has to replace All-Lowco running back Kyliek Middleton, who rushed for 1,260 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago. Logan Adkins and James Dagin will carry most of the load in the backfield for now, but the Eagles will also open up the offense a bit and let Smyth try to get a talented receiving corps involved more.
“We’ll be a balanced offense,” Holloman said. “We’re still Beaufort High, so we’ll run the ball and we’ll play great defense, but you’ve got to be able to pass to be successful and compete against the best.”
The Eagles will find out soon enough how they stack up against top competition. Holloman made a point to beef up the non-region schedule, including home games against Effingham County (Ga.) and Wayne County (Ga.) and a trip to powerhouse Valdosta (Ga.).
“Something that’s happened to us the past couple years is we kind of walk through the regular season and then we get to the playoffs and kind of get hit with a different atmosphere, a different level of competition,” Holloman said. “It’s something I wanted to put our kids in early, that way when it comes playoff time they’re used to the environment and they’re used to playing strong teams.”
BEAUFORT HIGH EAGLES FOOTBALL
Coach: Devonte Holloman
Record at BHS: 0-0 (1st season)
2017 record: 7-3 overall, 3-2 region, lost in first round of Class 4A playoffs
Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 4-3
Top returners: QB/S Jeffrey Smyth, DT Chase Guynup, LB Will Kelley
Notable losses: RB Kyliek Middleton, CB Reggie Jones, OL Isaiah Parker, DL Isaiah WIlson, OL Dylan Williams, OL Woods Langehans, LB Kegan Crowell, DL Reid Daughtry
Breakout candidates: RB James Dagin, WR Trae Heyward, WR Reed Reichel, RB Logan Adkins
PLAYER TO WATCH
Will Kelley, LB: The offensive stars tend to draw more attention, but perhaps the Eagles’ most exciting player is the leader of the defense. Kelley seems to be in on every play and “hits like a truck,” to quote teammate Jeffrey Smyth.
Can the young offensive line get the job done? The Eagles lost seven senior offensive linemen. That’s all of them, if you’re scoring at home. How quickly their young replacements can get up to speed could determine how successful Beaufort High is this season.
REGION AND BEYOND
Region powers Berkeley and Cane Bay are gone and county rival Bluffton moves in, creating a four-team region that appears to be up for grabs. Every region game should be competitive, and the Eagles will be well-prepared by the time region play rolls around.
8/17 — vs. A.C. Flora
8/24 — at Battery Creek
8/31 — vs. Effingham County
9/7 — vs. Wayne County
9/14 — at Valdosta
9/21 — at Blythewood
9/28 — Open
10/5 — at Bluffton*
10/12 — at May River
10/19 — vs. Hilton Head High*
10/26 — vs. Colleton County*
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