HSFB: LowcoSports Week 7 primer

We won’t know for sure for a few more weeks, but there’s a good chance several games on tonight’s local high school football slate will end up directly determining who goes to the playoffs and who calls it an early winter.

The Region 7-4A round robin begins tonight with Bluffton at Beaufort High, and we have a clash of frontrunners in SCISA Region 2-2A (Hilton Head Christian Academy at Orangeburg Prep) and a top-10 Class 2A showdown (Barnwell at Whale Branch), not to mention several other region contests that will help sort out the playoff picture.

There are eight games featuring local teams on the Week 7 slate, and here’s your snapshot of what to expect from each one, along with my predictions. I struggled to an 8-3 mark last week, moving the season total to 49-8.

Bluffton (1-5, 0-0) at Beaufort High (0-5, 0-0)

It is a rare occasion when these two get together this late in the season with only one win between them, which certainly adds a different sort of urgency to this year’s meeting. Even though it’s the region opener for both teams, it kind of feels like a must-win game. In a four-team region, every game is huge, and there are no easy wins on the Region 7-4A schedule, so each game carries extra weight. 

Both teams have played brutal non-region schedules, which accounts somewhat for the poor records, but both also have enough talent to compete for a region title, and tonight is our first real chance to see how that translates in Region 7-4A.

Bluffton’s passing game has been potent with Lee Kirkland flinging it around the field and Rakim White putting up huge numbers receiving and on special teams (five kick return TDs). The Eagles’ secondary has had a tough time slowing down strong passing attacks, and it will face another challenge tonight. 

Beaufort High’s offense has been inconsistent, due in part to facing some stout defenses, but running back James Dagin is capable of putting up big numbers on the ground, and the Eagles have had some success in the passing game. It’s hard to get a read on how good Bluffton’s defense can be, considering the high level of competition the Bobcats have faced, but tonight will provide a clearer picture.

This one could easily turn into a shootout, which would be a whole lot of fun.

Prediction: Bluffton 38, Beaufort High 28

Lake Marion (0-6, 0-1) at Battery Creek (1-3, 0-1)

The Dolphins picked up their first win of the season last week, and they have an excellent chance to make it two in a row tonight. Battery Creek’s offensive line was dominant in a 31-6 win over Creekside Christian, and they should be able to push around the Gators, too, creating plenty of running room for Tre Booth and Jaeon Allen. The Dolphins’ defense has played well all season, and that should continue against a Lake Marion team that has scored only 20 points all season and has been shut out in four of its past five games. 

Prediction: Battery Creek 28, Lake Marion 6

Ridgeland-Hardeeville (1-4, 0-0) at May River (5-0, 1-0)

The Sharks have hardly been challenged this season, outscoring opponents 234-30, and while the Jaguars have made strides and have some excellent individual talent, they don’t have the quality depth required to hang with May River. Ridgeland-Hardeeville has had success with Joseph Robinson running the ball behind Jeremiah Orr, but May River’s defensive front is too good to be beaten by the run without a significant passing threat. The Sharks also are too balanced on offense for the Jaguars to hold them at bay for long.

Prediction: May River 45, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 6

Barnwell (7-0, 1-0) at Whale Branch (4-1, 0-1)

The Warriors didn’t get much time to lick their wounds after a brutal 37-36 overtime loss at Woodland last week, as they host No. 2 Barnwell in another region matchup. The Warhorses are no joke, having outscored their first seven opponents 334-73 — and that includes a 28-21 overtime win over Class 3A No. 7 Wade Hampton. The Warriors will have their hands full slowing down Barnwell’s powerful offense led by quarterback Craig Pender (1,300 yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs) and running back Jamari Chisolm (1,038 yards, 20 TDs). Whale Branch’s ground game has been rolling, too, with quarterback Jaylen Reeves and running backs De’Arius Hazel and Jadon Grant leading the way, but this will be the toughest defense the Warriors have faced.

Prediction: Barnwell 35, Whale Branch 20

Hilton Head Christian Academy (5-1, 1-0) at Orangeburg Prep (4-1, 2-0)

The region title could very well be on the line tonight in the sense that the Eagles and Indians are the last two unbeaten teams in the region, and thus the only ones who control their own fate. The Eagles appear to be the more talented team, boasting a dual-threat quarterback in Hayden Shinn and an overflowing receiving corps, but Orangeburg Prep is the type of team that could give HHCA problems. The Indians are hard-nosed and physical, and you can bet they left the lawnmower in the shed and ran the sprinklers this week to ensure a slow track in an effort to neutralize HHCA’s speed. The Eagles can get the job done, but they’ll have to work for it.

Prediction: Hilton Head Christian Academy 31, Orangeburg Prep 28

Bethesda Academy (3-1) at Hilton Head Prep (2-4)

The Dolphins will be glad to be back home after two straight on the road, including last week’s 41-18 loss to Carolina Academy. The Blazers would love to turn this game into a track meet — they average 51.4 points per game — and the Dolphins certainly will have their hands full trying to contain quarterback Antjuan McKay and dynamic back Jaden Wright. Bethesda’s defense has clamped down of late and shut out Colleton Prep 49-0 last week, but its weakness has been the pass, so perhaps Stone McDonald will have a big night and give the Dolphins a chance in a shootout.

Prediction: Bethesda Academy 37, Hilton Head Prep 30

Thomas Heyward (6-1, 1-0) at Spartanburg Christian (2-4, 0-2) 

I do no envy Spartanburg Christian. The Warriors have the unfortunate distinction of having to face the Rebels the week after their first loss since 2017, and that does not seem like it would be even a little bit fun. Spartanburg Christian’s record is somewhat deceiving, because the Warriors have played a tough schedule and been competitive with some solid competition, but they’re not ready to hang with the Rebels, even without any added motivation. THA shouldn’t have any trouble establishing the run, and the defense will be looking for redemption after giving up 55 points last week.

Prediction: Thomas Heyward 47, Spartanburg Christian 14

John Paul II (0-6, 0-2) at Northwood Academy (1-4, 0-1)

This might be John Paul II’s best (last?) chance to pick up a win this season. The Golden Warriors showed glimpses of putting it all together in a 34-26 loss to Hilton Head Prep two weeks ago, then regressed terribly in a 53-19 loss to Orangeburg Prep last week. JPII certainly will have the two best athletes on the field in Reco Anderson and Jeremiah Young, who should be able to do some damage if they can get the ball in the open field. Northwood’s offense is awfully vanilla, so if the Golden Warriors tackle soundly, they should be able to find the win column.

Prediction: John Paul II 23, Northwood Academy 20

Andrew Jackson Academy (6-0, 3-0) at Beaufort Academy (1-4, 1-2)

A lot has changed since BA ended the Confederates’ dominance in last year’s SCISA 8-man state championship game. Well, only on one side, actually. The Eagles have come crashing back to earth after losing their top players on both sides of the ball, and AJA is just as dominant as ever. The top-ranked Confederates have shut out four of their six opponents and held another to six points, all while averaging 56 points per game. The Eagles are getting better, but AJA is on another level. This one could get ugly in a hurry.

Prediction: Andrew Jackson Academy 48, Beaufort Academy 12

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