The temperature might not suggest it, but we’re past the midway point of October, which means region titles and playoff spots are on the line every week from here on out, even in this unusual, abbreviated high school football season.
The Region 7-1A title could be settled tonight (or we could have a tiebreaker situation that requires a calculator), and the Region 7-4A playoff picture will come into much clearer focus before the final whistle sounds Friday night.
We have five games on the SCHSL Week 4 schedule involving Lowco teams, including a Lowco-on-Lowco battle between Bluffton and Beaufort High. Here’s your primer:
Whale Branch (3-0) at Cross (2-1), 7:30 p.m.
The stakes don’t get much higher than they’ll be for the Warriors, who will either be region champs or crunching numbers to find out if they’ll even make the playoffs by the end of the night.
Whale Branch is the only undefeated team left in Region 7-1A, and a fourth straight victory to open the season would make the Warriors the undisputed region champs. But if the Trojans can defend their home turf and hand sixth-ranked Whale Branch its first loss, it would create a three-way tie for first place along with Baptist Hill, potentially resulting in a tiebreaker procedure to determine the two teams that make the postseason.
After back-to-back shutouts to start the season, the Warriors had to battle back from a second-half deficit to escape with a 21-20 win at Baptist Hill last week, as Jaylen Reeves heaved a 40-yard Hail Mary pass to Jakhi Pusha for the walk-off touchdown.
The Warriors would like to get off to a quicker start Friday, forcing a run-heavy Cross offense out of its gameplan. It’s a good matchup for Whale Branch’s dominant run defense, but the Trojans are much better playing with the lead than trying to come back. The same is true for the Warriors, who can also grind out yards on the ground with Reeves, Jadon Grant, and Joseph Hicks.
Scoring first will be key in what could develop into a defensive battle, but this one could come down to the wire. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Whale Branch 24, Cross 20
WK: Whale Branch 30, Cross 28
BL: Whale Branch, 28, Cross 23
Bluffton (0-3) at Beaufort High (2-0), 7:30 p.m.
Two teams whose seasons are headed in opposite directions tangle Friday at Beaufort High, where the region-leading Eagles host the winless Bobcats in another Region 7-4A clash.
Beaufort High will try to avoid a letdown after an impressive 37-14 win at May River last week put them in the driver’s seat for the region title. Their dominant defense should make an upset almost unthinkable, as Beaufort’s powerful defensive line sets the tone in the trenches and the Bobcats have been awfully one-dimensional on offense, relying on the powerful legs of Kylan Simmons to carry the load while Nate Hoyt grows into the quarterback role.
The Bobcats do have some weapons in their arsenal, including breakout wide receiver Jaylin Linder, but matchup advantages will be hard to come by against a Beaufort defense that is strong everywhere. Bluffton’s best hope is to keep the score low, but that’s a tough task against a talented and varied Beaufort attack led by quarterback Tyler Haley.
Haley hurt the Sharks with his legs and his arm Friday, including a dime to Marcus Goodwater in the back of the end zone to make it 18-0 at halftime. Haley and the running back duo of Amariee Morris and Jaylin Houseal might not need more than a half to put up enough points to improve to 3-0, though the Bobcats played tough defense in the first half last week before fading in the second half of a loss to Hilton Head High. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Beaufort 40, Bluffton 13
WK: Beaufort 46, Bluffton 6
BL: Beaufort 44, Bluffton 7
May River (2-1) at Colleton County (1-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Sharks will be determined to prove last week’s 37-14 loss to Beaufort High was an outlier, beginning with a road trip to Walterboro to face the Cougars, who also are looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season.
May River’s ground game was bottled up to some degree by Beaufort’s big defensive line, and the Sharks couldn’t get much going in the passing game. Senior quarterback Ahmad Green should be able to remedy that against a Cougars defense that allowed 28 points last week in a loss to a James Island team that had scored only 13 points in its first two games combined. Bluffton’s Kylan Simmons had success running the ball against Colleton County, as well, so the Sharks should be able to get good production out of running backs Cameron Scott and Jaiden Jones.
Colleton’s offense was unimpressive against James Island, barely topping 200 total yards, and the Sharks’ defense will be hungry for its first shutout of the season, which isn’t outside the realm of possibility if May River cleans up the missed assignments and tackling issues it had against Beaufort. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: May River 41, Colleton County 7
WK: May River 35, Colleton County 20
BL: May River 30, Colleton County 13
James Island at Hilton Head High, 7:30 p.m.
After an impressive showing in their 2020 debut, the Bridge Bowl champs will finally open their home schedule against James Island. This one could not be more important, as a win keeps BJ Payne’s squad unbeaten and in position to contend in Region 7-4A.
Despite few opportunities for live action before a make-or-break battle with Bluffton, Sam Summa delivered in his first game as a Seahawk, throwing for a touchdown and adding some big yards on the ground. He should only get better this week against a James Island defense that has failed to impress against the top talent of the region. The ‘Hawks will likely take advantage of some of the other key weapons at their side. Junior running back Lavarus Brown is as reliable as they come, and Jaylen Sneed’s elite athleticism has been paying dividends for the offense, too. He scored a trio of rushing touchdowns in the opener and should be called upon again early and often. Adam Clark put together a solid opening game at wide receiver, and it’s a welcome sight for Payne after losing the talented Dean Seelbach to graduation last year.
The Trojans, led by first-year head coach Jamar McKoy, will look to build some momentum of their own after picking up a region win over Colleton County. They’ve had a tough time consistently moving the ball on offense, but last week’s win could certainly bring confidence to a team that took advantage of multiple Cougar mistakes to score points. If quarterback Aiden Cirnigliaro can build on some accurate throws he made in the Colleton victory, he could test a Hilton Head secondary that is relying on some young pieces after sending out so many to the next level. Terio McKelvey is a solid runner, and Jaden Scott has the height at receiver to make some plays against a young secondary. The Seahawks will expect Jayden Gilliam to lead the charge, after stealing the show against the Bobcats with a pair of interceptions along with a scoop and score. Sneed will be able to disrupt the run game and chase down the quarterback, which should damper any hopes of consistency for the James Island offense.
It will be an emotional affair, as the Seahawks finally return home to the Nest to play a game after months of uncertainty and postponements. The home squad will be playing with confidence and high energy and should be able to soar past a lackluster James Island group to put themselves 2-0 heading into a duel for second place at May River. If the Seahawks can avoid any miscues or unforced errors that got the best of the Cougars, Hilton Head will take care of the Trojans. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Hilton Head High 27, James Island 13
WK: Hilton Head High 35, James Island 12
BL: Hilton Head High 30, James Island 10
Battery Creek (1-2) at Oceanside Collegiate (3-0), 7:30 p.m.
The gauntlet is almost complete for the Dolphins, who face one of the top three teams in Region 8-3A for the third straight week and will need to pull off a massive upset to avoid a third consecutive loss.
Battery Creek played tough, especially on defense, in a 21-7 home loss to Bishop England last week, but traveling to powerhouse Oceanside Collegiate for a road game is no easy task. The undefeated Landsharks are on the cusp of clinching the region title, already having knocked off Bishop England and Hanahan after they beat the Hawks 16-7 a week ago.
Oceanside’s defense hasn’t allowed more than seven points yet this season, so it could be another week of tough sledding for Battery Creek’s offense. The Dolphins backfield duo of Jeremiah Dilbert and Jaeon Allen, along with quarterback Jacove Singleton, have had a tough time finding running room the past two weeks, and Creek will need one or more of them to break some long plays to have a shot at staying competitive.
Battery Creek’s run defense was much better last week after being gashed by Hanahan, but the Dolphins face another tough test on the ground against a Landsharks offense led by Vaughn Blue and Lamar Prioleau. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Oceanside Collegiate 37, Battery Creek 7
WK: Oceanside Collegiate 36, Battery Creek 14
BL: Oceanside Collegiate 35, Battery Creek 14
JJ: 4-0 last week, 11-1 overall
WK: 3-1 last week, 10-2 overall
BL: 4-0 last week, 11-1 overall