Greetings and happy gameday from the city that never sleeps.
Yes, you read that right, this intrepid sports reporter is in the concrete jungle of New York City. See, my wife and her twin sister had the audacity to be born during football season, and this is a big one — I’m not dumb enough to share their age, but know it is a milestone birthday — so duty calls.
Before you turn against her, you have to understand that my wife might as well be the patroness saint of LowcoSports. Without her blessing, and her willingness to be a single mom every Friday during the fall (today excluded) and put up with my crazy work schedule, this website wouldn’t exist.
So forgive me if the Twitter updates are a little more sparse tonight than usual — and if you’re at a game, please help remedy that by posting scoring updates on the *free* Scorestream app — but know you’ll still be able to wake up Saturday morning and catch up on all the local action right here.
And we have some mighty good games on tap, so let’s take a look at tonight’s slate. My picks went 6-2 last week, with the only whiffs coming in a pair of three-point games. Not bad for Week 1.
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LOWCOSPORTS.COM GAME OF THE WEEK
Bluffton (0-1) at May River (0-0)
The sixth installment of the “Hometown Showdown,” as some seem to have dubbed it (I was partial to B-Town Showdown, but OK), looks like it will be a good one. After two lopsided Bluffton wins in 2016, the Sharks closed the gap in a pair of close games in 2018 and beat the Bobcats 35-21 last season.
Can they retain the town title for another year? It’s hard to handicap, because we haven’t seen the Sharks play a regular-season game yet and they have tons of key players to replace off last year’s outstanding team.
May River’s offensive line was ravaged by graduation, but dynamic quarterback Ahmad Green is still working behind the big fellas, albeit without star running back Brandon Morales. It’s another big challenge for a Bluffton defensive front that was hurt on the ground in a 44-41 overtime loss to Screven County (Ga.) in Week 1. If the Bobcats load up to stop the run, Green can hurt them downfield.
Bluffton committed in the offseason to establishing the run, but the Bobcats went back to the air often last week, as Lee Kirkland passed for 326 yards and four TDs and Rakim White had a huge game. Slowing down that duo will be the key for the Sharks, whose secondary is the most experienced unit on the defensive side.
The teams are fairly even, but the matchup favors May River, and the Sharks will be in “The Tank,” always a factor in a close game.
Prediction: May River 34, Bluffton 28
Battery Creek (0-1) at Beaufort High (0-1)
The Dolphins haven’t beaten crosstown rival Beaufort High since 2003, which dates back before some of the players in this year’s clash were born. The Eagles’ average margin of victory during the streak is 33.1, so it hasn’t even been competitive. Could Battery Creek turn the tide this season and end the streak? Sure, but the Dolphins will have to play far more disciplined than they did in last week’s 9-6 loss to Whale Branch. Beaufort had a tough time running the ball in last week’s 37-21 loss at A.C. Flora, so look for the Eagles to try to exploit a Battery Creek secondary that was untested last week, facing only one pass attempt. The Dolphins couldn’t get anything going in the passing game last week, either, and they’ll need to be more balanced to end the streak.
Prediction: Beaufort High 33, Battery Creek 6
Hilton Head High (1-0) at St. James (1-0)
The Seahawks had little trouble in a 38-13 win over Savannah High last week, building a substantial lead early and getting the reserves some valuable playing time. That experience could come in handy this week, with a road trip against a St. James team that is trying to turn things around following a one-win season a year ago. The Sharks won a 32-28 thriller over Loris last week, as Deondray Stanfield scored the game-winning touchdown with 24.2 seconds left. Hilton Head High’s star-studded defense will be tested a bit more this week than last, but I expect Cole DeMarzo, Christian Miller, Elijah Thompson and company to be up to the task, and the Seahawks’ offense looks like it has the potential to be more balanced than last season.
Prediction: Hilton Head High 35, St. James 20
Estill (1-0) at Ridgeland-Hardeeville (0-1)
Another big non-region rivalry matchup as the Jaguars play their home opener. The Jags have won three straight meetings, including 29-0 and 47-0 wins the past two seasons, but the Gators appear to be a team on the rise, evidenced by a 16-13 win over Allendale-Fairfax last week. RHHS got off to a quick start last week against a strong Marlboro County team but couldn’t keep pace in a 40-14 loss. The Jags have enough playmakers on both sides of the ball to produce a better outcome this week.
Prediction: Ridgeland-Hardeeville 26, Estill 13
Cross (1-0) at Whale Branch (1-0)
The Warriors rolled to a 47-0 road win over the Trojans a year ago, but this year’s matchup will look completely different. The Trojans are a senior-laden team that opened the season with a 16-14 win over Burke, while the Warriors had to grind out a 9-6 win at Battery Creek as they break in a bevy of a new starters and players in larger roles. Whale Branch’s offense is awfully one-dimensional, but the power-speed combination of bruiser De’Arius Hazel and shifty quarterback Jaylen Reeves, combined with a hard-nosed defense, should be enough for the Warriors to improve to 2-0.
Prediction: Whale Branch 27, Cross 12
Colleton Prep (0-1) at Hilton Head Prep (1-0)
The Dolphins opened the season with a 37-27 win over Memorial Day without star quarterback Stone McDonald, and they’ll have to do it without him for at least one more week as he recovers from a broken nose. That’s the bad news. The good news is Sam Liberatore did a solid job of filling in, and the Dolphins have some weapons around him, including versatile threat Tommy Stauffer. Colleton Prep is always a tough matchup, as the Warhawks typically are a hard-nosed team with a powerful ground game. It will be another grind, but playing under the hot August sun in another early-season Sea Pines special will be a big advantage for the home team.
Prediction: Hilton Head Prep 24, Colleton Prep 20
Thomas Heyward (1-0) at John Paul II (0-1)
The Rebels have showed no signs of letting up after last year’s undefeated campaign, as they beat a strong Hilton Head Christian Academy team by 24 last week. That’s a scary proposition for the Golden Warriors, who are in rebuilding mode in new coach Chris Myers’ first season. Thomas Heyward will have an edge in almost every facet of the game and shouldn’t have too much trouble running the win streak to 15 games.
Prediction: Thomas Heyward 41, John Paul II 13
Beaufort Academy (0-0) at Clarendon Hall (0-0)
The Eagles kick off their SCISA 8-man state title defense with a rematch of last year’s 52-33 loss in coach Mark Clifford’s BA debut. BA enjoyed a meteoric rise after dropping the opener to the Saints, but the Eagles have a number of key holes to fill from last year’s state championship squad, including star running back De’Shaun Epps and defensive leader Edward McCormick. BA will endure some growing pains early again this season, and Clarendon Hall is a tough team to open with, especially on the road.
Prediction: Clarendon Hall 37, Beaufort Academy 33
Memorial Day (0-1) at Hilton Head Christian Academy (0-1), 7 p.m. Saturday
In a rare Saturday game, Hilton Head Christian looks to pick up its first win of the season against a rebuilding Memorial Day team. The Eagles got beaten up by Thomas Heyward in their opener, but that’s going to happen to a lot of teams on the Rebels’ schedule. Hilton Head Prep backup Sam Liberatore had a solid game against the Matadors, and the Eagles’ passing attack is dynamic with Hayden Shinn passing to a bevy of talented receivers. The Eagles should soar Saturday night.
Prediction: Hilton Head Christian 42, Memorial Day 27
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