With all due respect to Thomas Heyward Academy, which opened the season in resounding fashion last Saturday, football season officially arrives in the Lowcountry tonight.
We have a nearly-full slate of games with nine contests featuring area teams, as everyone in the Lowco coverage area kicks off the season save for Beaufort Academy.
As you might imagine, predicting what’s going to happen in Week 1 (we don’t recognize Week 0 on this website) is a tricky proposition. You have new coaches, new schemes, and new players (as well as returning players in new roles), so take this information with a grain of salt.
With that said, here’s your Week 1 primer, so get up to speed before we flip on the Friday Night Lights for the first time in 2018:
A.C. Flora at Beaufort High, 8 p.m.
Excitement is running high at Beaufort, where former Gamecocks star DeVonte Holloman makes his head coaching debut against A.C. Flora. The Falcons were 0-10 last season, their first under former Battery Creek star Collin Drafts. The Eagles are young, but they have enough leadership on both sides of the ball, with quarterback Jeffrey Smyth and linebacker Will Kelley leading the way, to start the season on a high note.
Prediction: Beaufort High 27, A.C. Flora 14
Savannah High at Hilton Head High, 7:30 p.m.
The Seahawks open at home with an interstate matchup, and it’s a favorable matchup for Hilton Head High. Both teams are low on numbers and depth, but the Seahawks have far more experience. It’s the debut for new Savannah High coach Rebel Green, whose team lost 20 starters off last year’s 6-5 team. The Bluejackets lost virtually all of their offensive production, and they return only three of their top 11 tacklers on defense. The Seahawks also have added motivation and will be playing with a heavy heart for coach B.J. Payne, whose mother passed away this week.
Prediction: Hilton Head High 23, Savannah High 19
Bluffton at Screven County, 7:30 p.m.
This rematch of last year’s season opener pits a pair of teams who are trying to rebuild — or at least reload — after losing a ton of key players. The Bobcats are breaking in an entirely new offensive line and a new quarterback, while the Gamecocks return only one offensive starter and no full-time starters on defense from last year’s undefeated squad. It shapes up as a defensive struggle, and the Bobcats have a fair amount back on that side of the ball with Jaylon Thompson and Ronald Reid leading the way. You can watch this one live on WSAV-CW, but you might want to have the mute button ready – yours truly will be on color commentary.
Prediction: Bluffton 20, Screven County 17
Battery Creek at Whale Branch, 8 p.m.
This is the first of two matchups between these cross-town rivals, who also meet in the final week of the regular season. Both teams enter the season with high hopes, as the Warriors expect a big senior class to carry them deep into the playoffs and the Dolphins are trying to build off a promising first season under coach Walt Wilson. Last year’s 23-0 win over Whale Branch was the coming-out party for the “new” Battery Creek, and the Warriors are eager for revenge. Expect a hard-hitting contest.
Prediction: Battery Creek 28, Whale Branch 27
Memorial Day at May River, 7:30 p.m.
The Sharks open with a big test, welcoming Georgia private-school power Memorial Day to The Tank. The Blue Thunder have won the GISA 2A state title in four of the past five seasons, and they return West Virginia commit Winston Wright, a two-way standout at receiver and cornerback. May River has plenty of firepower back from a team that won only two games last year but was competitive in all but one. The Sharks will have a big edge in the depth department, which could be a huge factor on a steamy August night.
Prediction: May River 30, Memorial Day 27
Woodland at Ridgeland-Hardeeville, 8 p.m.
The Wilbert Lampkin era begins with a tough test against a perennial Class 2A playoff team in Woodland. The Wolverines are coached by former Timberland standout Cody Craig, who is in his first year at the helm after two seasons as the offensive coordinator. The Jaguars are a sleeping giant and will flourish under Lampkin, but they might face some growing pains early in the season, especially with several defensive starters banged up.
Prediction: Woodland 30, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 20
Thomas Heyward at Hilton Head Christian, 7 p.m.
We have a little Lowco-on-Lowco action in the SCISA ranks with an intercounty rivalry game, which will be broadcast on tape-delay on WHHI-TV. The Rebels opened the season with an impressive win in the SECIS Kickoff Classic last week in Montgomery, Ala., so they’re likely a little ahead of the curve at this point in the season, while the Eagles are breaking in a new quarterback. HHCA has some serious talent at the skill positions, but THA is strong in the trenches.
Prediction: Thomas Heyward 41, Hilton Head Christian 27
Northside Christian at Hilton Head Prep, 4 p.m.
This is a good matchup for a Dolphins team looking to rebound from last year’s one-win campaign. Northside Christian is making the move up from 8-man football and will be one of few opponents who have even fewer players than HHP. The Dolphins have star quarterback Stone McDonald back in the mix, and he has some weapons at his disposal. The early-evening heat is always a factor at Prep, and it usually plays to the home team’s advantage.
Prediction: Hilton Head Prep 33, Northside Christian 25
Cardinal Newman at John Paul II, 7:30 p.m.
We’ll find out a lot about how well John Paul II can stack up in SCISA 2A when they face a SCISA 3A team, albeit one from the lower tier of the highest private-school classification. The Cardinals only won three games last year, but they played a brutal schedule by SCISA standards. They lost their best offensive player in tight end Patrick Reedy, and dual-threat quarterback T.J. Wise transferred to Spring Valley, but they have 41 players listed on the roster and boast plenty of experience. JPII will have the best player on the field in running back Zach Doe, who has help in the backfield now with Freddie Aiken III coming over from Ridgeland-Hardeeville.
Prediction: John Paul II 27, Cardinal Newman 25
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