It wouldn’t be opening night without a few mishaps. Scoreboards and play clocks have a way of malfunctioning at the most inopportune of times. PA systems that worked perfectly earlier in the afternoon, suddenly go silent just before kickoff. The chain crew isn’t quite in midseason form yet. But at least it’s football season.
We had our own technical mishaps trying to get all of our SCISA football preview material posted, but it’s all up now. Written previews of all five area private school teams, as well as special episodes of the LowcoSports Lowdown Podcast for each should keep you busy waiting until kickoff. We hope you enjoy the content and show your thanks to the sponsors who made it possible.
But enough of our hot takes and best guesses. It’s time to play the games. Here’s our SCISA Week 1 Primer:
Dorchester Academy at Hilton Head Christian Academy
A lot has changed in so many ways since the SCISA 2A finalists last took the field. Gone is the reigning Lowco Sports Offensive Player of the Year Hayden Shinn. Now, a brand new offense will take flight Friday night as the Eagles host Dorchester Academy to open a season in an unprecedented year.
Expect to see a mix of Jace Blackshear and senior do-it-all phenom JP Peduzzi at the helm of the offense. That could mean an attack focused on short passes, screens, and option plays compared to Shinn’s aerial show of 2019.
Ron Peduzzi’s “junkyard dog” defense will have to contend with Dorchester’s veteran running back Wyatt Judy, who should give a strong first test to a solid group that performed well down the stretch in the playoffs.
The visiting Raiders will look to avoid another slow defensive start against the Eagles, who flew out of the gates with a 22-point first quarter in last year’s meeting. Dorchester dropped their final six contests in 2019, including blowout losses to Thomas Heyward and Bethesda Academy. The key question will be how quickly the new Eagle offense will gel in week one, but with the amount of pure talent returning, Peduzzi’s dynamic squad should be able to top a Raider group that struggled to find their rhythm last year. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Hilton Head Christian Academy 35, Dorchester Academy 14
WK: Hilton Head Christian Academy 42, Dorchester Academy 24
First Baptist at Thomas Heyward
The quest for a three-peat begins Friday night, and the Rebels will be tested right away. A battle against a strong First Baptist squad awaits to start the 2020 season. The Rebels may have some questions to answer on offense going into the new campaign. Without the better part of the elite running back tandem which led them to glory last fall, it will be up to utility sensation Bruzza Pusha and traditional passer Peyton Bennett to fuel the offense. Nic Shuford will certainly experiment with a variety of weapons in the early parts of the season, but losing offensive line mainstay Dalton Hayes will be a tough cog to replace.
First Baptist impressed again last year, picking up eight wins including a victory over 2A state champion Trinity-Byrnes. The Rebels will have a challenge right off the bat against senior quarterback Will Daniel, elite receiver Sevaughn Washington, and freshman sensation Davon Brown. Daniel took over the Hurricanes’ starting job last year and put together an excellent season, certainly with some unfinished business after a first round playoff loss to Ben Lippen.
The Heyward defense will have to continue their amazing prowess from last season right away. They should get even stronger with the addition of star linebacker Brandon Howard coming over from Ridgeland-Hardeeville, a monster tackler and presence for the Jags a year ago. If Howard and the rest of the Rebel defensive side can channel some more elite play, it should give them a chance in this contest, but they will have their hands full against a talented and deep Hurricanes squad. — Wes Kerr
JJ: First Baptist 27, Thomas Heyward 20
WK: First Baptist 31, Thomas Heyward 20
Hilton Head Prep at Colleton Prep
Life without Stone McDonald starts now for the Dolphins. But they didn’t have him last time out against the War Hawks, either, and they mustered only seven points at home.
It’s senior year for several key Hilton Head Prep pieces, including dynamite running back Tommy Stauffer and defensive menace Carson King. The solid Colleton D certainly knows what Stauffer can do with his legs, and will force the Dolphins’ new signal caller, senior Harrison Green, to make some plays of his own. He’ll have the dangerous King to throw to, who can also produce at the offensive end. Senior receiver Will Gray needs to step up with the departure of reliable Tyrone Calloway, and Hilton Head High transfer Phoenix Betancourt could lend a hand in the backfield.
The War Hawks have a powerful ground game led by junior Drew Murdaugh, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards a year ago, but Prep’s strong linebacking corps is good enough to keep him from breaking tackles and grinding out extra yardage, especially with King shifting to middle linebacker to allow him to cover more of the field.
With a capable quarterback ready to prove himself in his senior season, this Prep team should come into week one hungry. If Green can transfer his hard work over from the summer onto the field and the defensive stars show up, this veteran Dolphin squad will find a way to pull out a massive season-opening victory for coach Dave Adams.
JJ : Hilton Head Prep 21, Colleton Prep 20
WK: Hilton Head Prep 28, Colleton Prep 21
Orangeburg Prep at John Paul II
During a winless campaign a year ago, John Paul II repeatedly found itself in close games late before a lack of depth led to things getting out of hand in the fourth quarter. The Golden Warriors hope that year of seasoning and taking lumps will pay off starting Friday night.
Second-year coach Chris Myers is playing it close to the vest as far as his offensive scheme, hoping to take advantage of the unique circumstances of a season in which opposing coaches have no film from scrimmages and jamborees going into Week 1. But he does know he has an experienced quarterback in Jeremiah Young and a seasoned and improved offensive line, which should lead to a serious uptick from last year’s 14.9 points per game.
JPII’s defense struggled last year, especially in the second half, and will have to be more sound this season to help the Golden Warriors turn things around in 2020. That will be a big challenge against the Indians, who return a number of key players from last year’s team that went 8-3 and reached the SCISA 2A semifinals.
This one should be closer than last year’s 53-19 rout in OP’s favor, but it will be tough for JPII to pull off the upset. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Orangeburg Prep 33, John Paul II 20
WK: Orangeburg Prep 35, John Paul II 28
St. John’s Christian at Beaufort Academy
It’s a bold new world for Beaufort Academy football this season, as the Eagles make the jump from SCISA 8-man ball to SCISA Class 2A and the full-fledged 11-man game, but the new adventure begins with a familiar opponent in the same position.
BA opens its season at 7:30 p.m. Friday against St. John’s Christian Academy, which also will be making its 11-man football debut. The even playing field makes it a bit easier transition for the Eagles, but they still have to contend with a Cavaliers team that beat them 30-14 a year ago and reached the SCISA 8-man state championship game.
The offense will look a little different for BA — and not just because of the extra three players on the field. Star quarterback Dawson Coleman was among a talented graduating class, leaving the Eagles with a revamped offense led by quarterback Kaishawn Jenkins and a stable of talented running backs. Defensive standouts Malakai Steiniger and Braydon Dineen are back to anchor things on that side of the ball for BA.
The Cavaliers are entering their first season under head coach Brandon Clontz, who was previously the defensive coordinator. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Beaufort Academy 33, St. John’s Christian 30
WK: St. John’s Christian 30, Beaufort Academy 20