It’s the final week of the regular season for private school football teams in South Carolina, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching around the Lowco tonight with playoff spots on the line.
All eyes — well, most eyes — will be on the action on the fields at John Paul II and Hilton Head Christian Academy, but plenty of folks will be keeping one ocular unit on their phones, trying to keep up with what’s happening across the bridge. Hilton Head Prep can shake things up with an upset of HHCA in the final meeting at the Eagles’ home field on the island, but if the Dolphins fall behind early, they’ll be more concerned with what’s happening in Hardeeville, where JPII needs to beat Beaufort Academy by eight or more — combined with an HHP loss — to win a three-way tiebreaker and leave HHP out of the playoffs.
We’ll leave the math for later, but here’s your guide to the Friday Night Lights with our SCISA Week 10 primer.
Beaufort Academy (5-4) at John Paul II (2-6), 7 p.m.
The stakes will be high at Hardeeville’s Municipal Stadium tonight, as both teams have motivation to win and improve their playoff prospects. The Eagles have nearly clinched a spot in the postseason, but a win would lock up the No. 3 seed and give BA a more beneficial first-round matchup. The only avenue that would leave BA out of the playoffs would be a loss and a Hilton Head Prep win at Hilton Head Christian.
The Golden Warriors, on the other hand, not only need to win — but they need to win by eight points or more — to sneak into the playoffs.
JPII’s option offense has been effective with quarterback Jeremiah Young leading the way along with talented backs Austin McIntosh and Jackson Ogden, and Young has a great rapport with speedster Mark Knight and towering receiver Malone Kinard-Huisinger and burned Hilton Head Prep for several deep passes in last week’s 29-22 road loss. BA’s defense was gashed in last week’s 56-34 loss to undefeated Hilton Head Christian Academy, but the Eagles have been solid on that side of the ball all season and will be motivated to rebound against a challenging offense to defend.
BA can rack up the points, though, and the backfield duo of Ja’Sean Lawson and Carlos Jones has been tough for even the best SCISA defenses to slow down. JPII had a tough time stopping the run against HHP, and BA’s ground game has been strong all season, so the Eagles should be able to move the ball and control the clock. The Golden Warriors need to force some turnovers — which has been a weakness for BA — to be able to keep pace and give themselves a shot at earning that final playoff spot.
JJ: Beaufort Academy 37, John Paul II 20
WK: Beaufort Academy 28, John Paul II 24
Hilton Head Prep (3-4-1) at Hilton Head Christian (8-0), 7 p.m.
Hilton Head Christian Academy is one victory away from an impressive perfect regular season. But standing in their way is a familiar foe. The Hilton Head Prep Dolphins are coming off their best win of the season and will look to back it up and make a statement going into the postseason against the region kings and their bitter rivals.
We should see some more high-flying fireworks from the Eagles in this showdown. HHCA loves to sling it down the field, and the Dolphins’ secondary has been vulnerable to giving up big passing plays. Jace Blackshear and JP Peduzzi should have a field day throwing and catching the football against a poor pass defense. Look for the red-hot Cameron Strickland and Jayden Void to play important roles racking up yards, and we could see young talent like Riley Shinn or Isaiah Anderson catch a deep ball in what should be an offensive clinic by the Eagles. It will take a monster effort by Carson King, Ezron Daley, and last week’s star Tristan Bonomo to disrupt HHCA’s high-octane passing offense that has been exceptionally lethal at home.
Harrison Green and the Dolphins offense will need to play flawlessly to compete against an Eagle defense that has allowed more than 21 points only once this season (last week at Beaufort Academy). The offensive line will have to deliver in order to give lanes for their two outstanding backs at the heart of the offense. King and Tommy Stauffer both went over 150 yards last week, but the Junkyard Dogs led by beasts Jackson Lanier and Troy Chisolm know how to stop the run game. For the Dolphins to move the ball, they’ll have to mix up Stauffer’s outside runs and King’s dives with trick plays and well-executed play action. The Dolphins are not a team that can score particularly quickly, so getting off to a hot start will be incredibly important against a team that can sink their opponents in a flash.
Hilton Head Prep hasn’t officially clinched a playoff spot yet, but they can with a win or a JPII loss against Beaufort Academy. If the Golden Warriors win and the Dolphins lose, the three teams will be tied, with only two advancing to the postseason. The Dolphins are in control of their own destiny, and although a win would seem miraculous, the Eagles were stunned by a 3-5 Prep team just two years ago. It’s a rivalry game for a reason, and Stauffer, King, and Green would love to cap off their senior season in a special way. After last week’s impressive result, they’ve got momentum on their side and will scrap and battle all night long. If HHP can force an early mistake and put points on the board, they’ll get HHCA playing tight and nervous football, and then all bets are off. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Hilton Head Christian 41, Hilton Head Prep 14
WK: Hilton Head Christian 42, Hilton Head Prep 20
Thomas Heyward (8-1) at Greenwood Christian (2-6), 7:30 p.m.
The box score should be stacked with some unfamiliar names tonight for the Rebels, who should have no trouble rolling up a big lead early and getting their stars out of the game to rest up for a run at a third straight SCISA 1A title.
THA has been in top form on the back end of an eight-game winning streak, outscoring its past three opponents 141-13 — and that includes the No. 2 and 3 teams in the region. Look for JR Patterson and Anthony Fripp to set the tone on the ground and help the Rebels build an early lead, then hand it off to the reserves.
The Rebels’ defense has been particularly strong down the stretch, shutting down a couple of dangerous offenses in lopsided wins over St. John’s Christian and Bethesda Academy. This task won’t be nearly as strenuous, as the Hawks haven’t been too dynamic on offense. THA could easily notch its third shutout of the season, even with the second string playing most of the game.
JJ: Thomas Heyward 54, Greenwood Christian 0
WK: Thomas Heyward 42, Greenwood Christian 8
JJ: 2-1 last week, 28-5-1 overall
WK: 2-1 last week, 28-5-1 overall