You can’t rightly say there’s a chill in the air when the high reaches the 80s, but it feels a little bit like football weather in the Lowcountry — or at least as close as we get in September.
And the cooler the weather, the more we’re starting to know about who is a contender and who is a pretender. This week’s slate of local games should help in that department, as some of the area’s powerhouse teams face their toughest tests thus far, and a couple of teams looking to turn around tough starts to the season face measuring-stick games tonight.
We’re just a few hours away from kicking off Week 4 of the high school football season. Here’s your weekly primer:
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Pee Dee Academy (1-1) at Thomas Heyward (3-0)
The Rebels look to continue their dominant run in a rematch of last year’s SCISA 1A championship game — and a perhaps a preview of this year’s title clash.
This has become one of the best cross-regional rivalries in all of SCISA football, as the teams have met in the postseason three straight years. The Eagles bounced Thomas Heyward from the playoffs in 2016 and 2017, but the Rebels returned the favor with a thrilling 35-31 win in last year’s championship game.
Pee Dee lost a number of key players off the team that reached back-to-back state title games but has looked to reload on offense around freshman quarterback Hudson Spivey and freshman running back Coleby Sinclair.
The Rebels also had several key players graduate, but they have not missed a beat thus far, outscoring their first three opponents 142-37 to run their winning streak to 16 games. It hits 17 tonight as the powerful offensive line and veteran defense continue to dominate.
Prediction: Thomas Heyward 42, Pee Dee Academy 20
Beaufort High (0-2) at Valdosta (Ga.) (4-0)
The difficult schedule continues for the Eagles with a trip to face Georgia powerhouse Valdosta. The Wildcats sent Beaufort High home with a 49-20 defeat last season, and Valdosta has picked up right where it left off, outscoring opponents 196-90 during a 4-0 start. It’s another tough assignment for a Beaufort team that is trying to improve each week and build toward region play.
Prediction: Valdosta 47, Beaufort High 20
Bluffton (1-2) at Hartsville (2-1)
Coming off their first win of the season, the Bobcats face a difficult test on the road against the No. 6 team in Class 4A. The Red Foxes lost a number of key offensive players off last season’s team that went undefeated in the regular season and lost to eventual state champion Myrtle Beach in the Lower State title game, but their defense is still strong. Hartsville’s lone defeat was a 41-27 loss to Class 3A No. 3 Camden. The Bobcats achieved great offensive balance last week and will hope the combination of quarterback Lee Kirkland, running back Kylan Simmons, and receiver Rakim White can put up big numbers again tonight.
Prediction: Hartsville 33, Bluffton 20
Colleton County (1-2) at May River (2-0)
The Sharks aim for their third consecutive win over a Region 7-4A opponent to start the season. It has been smooth sailing thus far for May River, which has won its first two games by an average of 38 points, but the coaching staff is ready for a challenge from the Cougars. Despite a 1-2 start, Colleton County boasts excellent team speed and a dangerous offensive weapon in Trakell Murray, who has racked up 526 yards from scrimmage through three games. The Cougars have struggled to get stops on defense, though, and May River’s offense is tough to slow down, especially the ground game with quarterback Ahmad Green and running back Melik Frost.
Prediction: May River 40, Colleton County 21
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (1-2) at Hilton Head High (1-2)
Both of these teams could really use a win to steer their seasons in the right direction after tough games last week. The Seahawks were unable to get anything going on offense in a loss at May River, as running back Lavarus Brown was nursing an injury and quarterback Gaston Moore had a tough time hooking up with his receivers. This week provides an opportunity to get the offense back on track, but the Jaguars have the talent on defense to make that difficult. The Jags have some dynamic players on offense, including running back Joseph Robinson and receiver Brandon Howard, and the versatile Ky’Juan Swinton has provided big plays on offense, defense, and special teams, but Seahawk defensive stars Cole DeMarzo and Christian Miller will try to limit what they’re able to do. Ridgeland-Hardeeville will have to reduce its careless mistakes to pull off the road win.
Prediction: Hilton Head High 28, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 20
Battery Creek (0-2) at Legion Collegiate (2-1)
After losing two early-season games, the Dolphins picked up a road trip to Rock Hill to face first-year charter school Legion Collegiate. The Lancers are playing just their third game ever (one of their two wins was by forfeit), and they’re coming off their first win — a 62-0 pounding of Calhoun Falls Charter — so it’s hard to gauge this matchup. Battery Creek’s offense has struggled through two games, but the defense has shown signs of being pretty strong. It’s a tough task to get off a bus ride that long and play a football game, but the Dolphins are hungry for a win.
Prediction: Battery Creek 20, Legion Collegiate 13
Hilton Head Christian Academy at St. Andrew’s (Ga.)
Expect plenty of offense, which is usually the case when the Eagles are on the field. HHCA put up 57 points in a win over Bethesda Academy last week and is averaging 40.3 points per game, but the Eagles will need to play better defense and limit their penalties to win on the road against a solid Lions team. Quarterback Hayden Shinn and his stable of skill position players led by JP Peduzzi will do enough on offense. It’s just a question of whether the defense can make enough stops to win.
Prediction: Hilton Head Christian Academy 37, St. Andrew’s 22
Orangeburg Prep (2-0, 0-0) at Hilton Head Prep (1-2, 0-0)*
The Dolphins were hopeful star quarterback Stone McDonald would be ready to return for region play after suffering a broken nose in a preseason scrimmage, but Prep will once again be short-handed on offense. That’s a tough assignment against an improved Orangeburg Prep team that is coming off a 21-14 win over defending SCISA 2A champion Florence Christian. The Indians have emerged as one of the favorites to contend for the region crown and have a strong quarterback of their own in Will Shaw. The Dolphins’ defense should be able to keep it close, but the depleted offense might not be able to keep pace.
Prediction: Orangeburg Prep 27, Hilton Head Prep 13
John Paul II (0-3) at Bethesda Academy (1-1)
The Golden Warriors aim for their first victory of the season with a road trip to Savannah to face a dangerous Blazers team. Bethesda went toe-to-toe with Hilton Head Christian Academy in a 57-40 loss last week and has a dynamic offense led by quarterback Antjuan McKay and running back Jaden Wright, who has accounted for 544 yards from scrimmage in just two games. JPII has shown improvement on both sides of the ball and gave SCISA 2A No. 2 Carolina Academy a challenge in a 41-22 defeat last week. The Golden Warriors will continue to close the gap, but their defense might have a tough time matching up with the Blazers’ offense.
Prediction: Bethesda Academy 33, John Paul II 27
Beaufort Academy (0-2) at Holly Hill Academy (1-1)*
The Eagles are having a tough time in their SCISA 8-man title defense, thus far, and it won’t get much easier this week against a much-improved Holly Hill team. The Raiders beat Calhoun Academy 34-8 last week after opening with a narrow 30-28 loss to a solid Jefferson Davis squad. BA won a wild one last year, 49-42 in overtime at home. The Eagles better hope this one is not as high-scoring, because their offense isn’t yet ready for a shootout.
Prediction: Holly Hill Academy 32, Beaufort Academy 26