HSFB: Playoff Primer, Nov. 9

Prepare yourselves, folks, because tonight marks the time of year when it can all come crashing down. From this point on, every week will mark the potential end to high school football season in the Lowcountry.

It isn’t likely to come tonight — not with undefeated May River and Thomas Heyward playing at home and three more higher-seeded teams hosting playoff games — but it could. That impending finality is part of what makes playoff football — or elimination games in any sport — so exciting. The games are played with so much emotion and intensity, with the knowledge that falling short means the end of the road for so many seniors.

It is heart-pounding, but can also be heart-breaking. Let’s hope for more of the former for our local teams tonight.

If you’re headed out to a game, download the free ScoreStream app and keep your fellow fans updated. You can check the scoreboard on the app or on LowcoSports.com.

Here’s your playoff primer:

Brookland-Cayce (6-4) at Beaufort High (5-5)

The Eagles have righted the ship after a midseason swoon and won two straight in impressive fashion, and they had the benefit of a week off before the playoffs. The offense has put up 33 and 34 points the past two games, but more importantly the switch to a 3-4 defense has taken hold and resulted in a big improvement on that side of the ball. The defense will have its hands full chasing quarterback Reed Charpia, who is mobile and is able to extend plays while keeping his eyes downfield. Beaufort’s offense is dangerous when the passing game is clicking, but if the Eagles become one-dimensional they’ll be in trouble.

Prediction: Brookland-Cayce 34, Beaufort 31

Wilson (5-5) at Bluffton (5-4)

The Bobcats got a tough draw with the at-large berth coming from an absolutely loaded Region 6-4A. The Tigers are a strong 5-5 team, as they have one-point losses to top-ranked Hartsville and Marlboro County, as well as a win over No. 10 North Myrtle Beach. Wilson’s offense has struggled to put up points, and Bluffton’s defense has played much better in the second half of the season. The Tigers are tough on defense, but the Bobcats have the speed on the edges to break a couple big plays, which could be the difference in a low-scoring game.

Prediction: Bluffton 20, Wilson 14

Hilton Head Island (4-6) at North Augusta (8-2)

The Seahawks limp into the postseason on a five-game losing streak but still received an at-large berth. They hit the road to face Region 5-4A champion North Augusta, which has won four straight — the last two in dominant fashion. The Yellowjackets are led by dual-threat quarterback Tanner White, and mobile QBs have given the Seahawks trouble. Hilton Head will have to find a gear that has been missing for the past six weeks to keep its season alive.

Prediction: North Augusta 37, Hilton Head High 20

Ridgeland-Hardeeville (4-6) at Dillon (8-0)

The Jaguars are riding high going into the postseason after consecutive wins, including one over Hilton Head High last week, but they’re about to face one of the best teams in the state at any classification. The Wildcats have outscored opponents 371-54, and their closest game was a 29-point win in their season-opener. The late surge was a solid building block in coach Will Lampkin’s first season, but the Jaguars will need something approaching a miracle to pull off the upset tonight.

Prediction: Dillon 49, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 13

Battery Creek (2-8) at Aynor (7-1)

The Blue Jackets might be the best No. 2 seed in Class 3A, as their only loss was to top-ranked Dillon — albeit a 48-0 thrashing. Any momentum the Dolphins had built with consecutive region wins over Lake Marion and Ridgeland-Hardeeville was quelled by consecutive losses to May River (49-7) and Whale Branch (23-0) to close the season. Battery Creek will put up a fight, but Aynor is just too strong.

Prediction: Aynor 42, Battery Creek 23

Lake City (3-7) at May River (10-0)

Last week was a best-case scenario for the Sharks, who rested many of their stars but still escaped with a 37-26 win at Colleton County to preserve their undefeated season. They shouldn’t have too much trouble in their first-round matchup with the Panthers, who have lost three straight. Ideally, the Sharks would build a big lead by halftime and give their workhorses the rest of the night off to save their bullets for later this month.

Prediction: May River 41, Lake City 13

Whale Branch (6-4) at Oceanside Collegiate (8-2)

The Warriors still feel like a dangerous team in the playoffs, because they’re loaded with seniors, but they won’t have an easy time in the first round. The Landsharks are in the playoffs for the first time behind a powerful offense led by running back Keegan Williams. The Warriors have their own star running back in Irvin Mulligan, but Whale Branch hasn’t been able to put up many points lately. That will have to change to advance.

Prediction: Oceanside Collegiate 27, Whale Branch 25

Robert E. Lee Academy (8-3) at John Paul II (6-4)

In one of the weirdest twists you’ll ever see, the Cavaliers will play their second consecutive *road* game on the same field. Lee upset Hilton Head Prep on JPII’s home field last week, only to make the return trip to Hardeeville because the Golden Warriors won at Greenwood Christian. The Cavs gave up some long running plays to the Dolphins last week, which could bode well for a JPII team that can break some long ones with Zach Doe, but Lee is an awfully tough No. 4 seed. This one could go either way.

Prediction: John Paul II 28, Lee Academy 27

Carolina Academy (7-3) at Thomas Heyward (11-0)

The Rebels face their toughest test in a long time against a Bobcats team coming off a 42-22 win over Colleton Prep — a team that pushed THA to the brink early this season. Even without top running backs Trey Pusha and JR Patterson, the Rebels routed Thomas Sumter 70-10 last week — their seventh straight win by at least 35 points. Pusha is expected to be back tonight, and that should be enough to ensure the Rebels don’t falter in the semifinals for a second straight year.

Prediction: Thomas Heyward 42, Carolina Academy 20

Beaufort Academy (8-2) at Jefferson Davis (11-1)

The Eagles didn’t have any trouble in the first round, but the competition steps up in the semifinals. The Raiders’ only loss was to perennial champion Andrew Jackson — who also accounted for one of BA’s two losses — but they got a scare in a 62-46 win over Palmetto Christian last week. Jefferson Davis’ defense has given up some big point totals to quality teams, and BA’s offense is very real, and the Eagles’ defense keeps getting better.

Prediction: Beaufort Academy 62, Jefferson Davis 50

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