Bryce Lybrand knew his defensive line would be special this year. On Friday night in the Shark Tank, they made one heck of a statement.
Led by the beasts up front, the Beaufort Eagles shut down May River’s dangerous rushing attack and put together an all-around offensive clinic to stun the Sharks 37-14 and take full control of Region 7-4A.
“It feels great,” Lybrand said. “Any time you win, it’s a great feeling, but to beat a team like May River means a lot. They’re a really good football team. We kind of caught lightning in a bottle at the end of the first half. We’ve got to clean up a lot of stuff to be the team we really want to be.”
The Eagles asserted themselves right away, clogging up the holes and forcing a May River three-and-out on the opening drive. It was a common theme throughout the night. The Sharks carried a potent three-man rushing tandem into this game, but they ran into a brick wall at the line of scrimmage again and again, heralded by defensive linemen Eamon Smalls and Theo Washington. Beaufort’s defense came into this game red-hot, leading to four straight May River punts to open the contest.
But the Eagle offense let some early chances slip away. An impressive 12-play opening drive was halted in the red zone after a costly third-down fumble, and a tipped pass on their second series led to a Steffin Gadson interception. But the third try was the charm, as Lybrand’s group mixed up some runs and short passes on an 80-yard drive to set up an Amariee Morris 4-yard run, putting the Eagles on the board early in the second quarter.
“We really wanted to be physical tonight,” Beaufort quarterback Tyler Haley said. “They’re a good football team and they can do a lot, so we wanted to be physical and show them what we’re about.”
It looked like the game was finally about to swing May River’s way after a pivotal fourth-down stop, but everything changed on a dime. A pair of Shark miscues late in the first half gave Beaufort an opportunity to stretch the lead, and did they ever deliver. After a poorly-executed pitch play, the Eagles alertly jumped on the football, and Haley and company did the rest. Kacy Fields hauled in a short pass, and navigated his way to the end zone from 10 yards out. But they weren’t done yet. After a pooch kick recovery caught the Sharks napping to give Beaufort the ball back with just 4 seconds left, Haley threw a dime to the back of the end zone, and Marcus Goodwater came up with the catch to give the Eagles a commanding 18-0 lead going into halftime. What was a close, defensive contest turned into a Beaufort beatdown, just like that.
“We work on those two-minute drills every week in practice,” Haley said. “I wasn’t really aiming on that throw, it was more of a prayer, and Marcus made a great play on it.”
The Eagles wasted no time shutting the door out of the break, completing a textbook nine-play drive on the strength of their blocking and run game. Jaylin Housel, Amariee Morris, and Haley were unstoppable on the ground, and Haley finished it off with a 1-yard sneak to make it 24-0.
The Sharks finally showed signs of life with long runs by Ahmad Green and Jayden Jones before Eli Hall found the end zone to put his squad on the board and give the hometown fans hope, but that didn’t last very long. May River needed to get the Eagle offense off the field quickly and had several opportunities to make stops on third down, but the blocking came through in the clutch to drain the clock and eventually put the ball in the end zone to ice the game. The Sharks kept fighting until the very end, but fittingly it was the Beaufort defensive line with the last word, shutting down Ahmad Green on the goal line to cap off a remarkable victory.
After missing last year’s contest against the Sharks, Tyler Haley was the man Friday night, throwing for 184 yards and a pair of touchdowns, on top of 97 yards on the ground with a rushing score. Amariee Morris tallied 85 yards and two touchdowns, and Jaylin Housel added 26, also finding the end zone. Marcus Goodwater put up another fantastic game at wideout, catching three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown while Kacy Fields hauled in five balls for 40 yards with an early score.
Jaiden Jones led the Sharks in the ground game with 93 yards, but Ahmad Green could not find room against a defensive line that was more than ready for the star rushing quarterback. Green was held to just 34 yards on 19 carries, before adding a rushing touchdown late in the game.
With a loss now to their record, May River (2-1) will now have a much tougher road to the postseason, with no room for error if they want to nab a playoff berth in 4A. That’s no guarantee, especially with a pair of tough squads in Colleton County and Hilton Head High on deck.
Meanwhile, the Beaufort Eagles (2-0) have soared all the way to the highest perch of 7-4A, but Lybrand knows their work is far from done. With several tough matchups looming, starting at home Friday against Bluffton and including a date with a dangerous Seahawk squad, the Eagles will have to keep grinding and stick with their many strengths that they displayed in full force Friday night.
“We’ve got some really good senior leadership, and we’ve only got six games this year, so every one’s a big one, so we better play them the right way,” Lybrand said. “We’ll enjoy this one for tonight, and then we’ll start getting back to work tomorrow and get going.”
Written by Wes Kerr
Photos by Justin Jarrett