An unusual high school football season deserves an unusual ending, and the final Friday of the SCHSL regular season will deliver that in the Lowco.
One of the four games on tap — Beaufort High’s trip to Savannah to face Benedictine — has been cancelled due to COVID-19 exposures within the Cadets’ roster, two are non-region matchups between one team headed for the playoffs and one wrapping up its season, and another is a region contest with no postseason stakes.
Strange indeed. Regardless, it will be the final time many seniors step on the field, so expect them to leave it all out there. Sometimes the games played simply for pride bring out the best. Here’s our SCHSL Week 7 primer.
Allendale-Fairfax (4-1) at Battery Creek (2-4)
The Dolphins will wrap up the regular season with a tough test at home, giving first-year coach Terrance Ashe another chance to add a few bricks to the foundation he is building at Battery Creek, and it comes in a matchup with former Creek coach Jim Shuman’s Tigers.
Shuman had the Dolphins on the right track before he left after the 2016 season to care for his ailing mother, and now he has Allendale-Fairfax knocking on the door of the top 10 in Class 1A. The Tigers love to run the ball, with senior Jamari Chisolm (838 yards, 10 TDs) and quarterback Shawn Jones (407 yards, 5 TDs) leading the way. The Dolphins did a decent job of containing a similar rushing attack in last week’s 33-21 loss at Whale Branch, but the Warriors wore down the Creek defense in the second half. If Battery Creek’s defense led by Justin Smalls can consistently get stops on first and second downs and force the Tigers to throw the ball, they can keep the defense off the field and fresh for the fourth quarter.
Creek’s offensive philosophy is similar, as the Dolphins rely on the legs of quarterback Jacove Singleton and bruising back Jeremiah Dilbert. The offensive line has played especially well the past couple of weeks to pave the way for the ground game, but it will have its hands full with an A-F team that has posted three shutouts and allowed just six points in another game.
Sustaining drives early and making third-down stops to keep the defense fresh and control the clock will be key to capping off Ashe’s first season with a satisfying victory. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Battery Creek 23, Allendale-Fairfax 20
WK: Allendale-Fairfax 34, Battery Creek 21
BL: Battery Creek 21, Allendale-Fairfax 20
Estill (0-3) at Whale Branch (6-0)
After a tough battle with crosstown rival Battery Creek last week, the undefeated Warriors should be able to treat their regular-season finale as a tune-up for the Class 1A playoffs.
Whale Branch shouldn’t have any trouble finishing off the first undefeated regular-season in program history against the winless Gators. Quarterback Jaylen Reeves and running backs Joseph Hicks and Jadon Grant have been able to run the ball against just about everyone behind a strong offensive line, and they should be able to break this one open early.
The Whale Branch defense has been terrific, as well, shutting out three opponents and holding all six to 21 points or fewer. A lot of younger players will get playing time to help the Warriors build depth going into the Class 1A playoffs, which begin with a tough home test against Johnsonville next week. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Whale Branch 42, Estill 13
WK: Whale Branch 35, Estill 8
BL: Whale Branch 40, Estill, 7
Hilton Head (2-0) at Colleton County (2-3)
The Seahawks may have only played two games this season, but they have been tested this year in a way we’ve never seen. After completing their second two-week quarantine due to another positive COVID-19 test in the program, BJ Payne’s group will travel to Colleton County to cap off this unprecedented season.
The Seahawks may be the better team on paper in this matchup, but coming back after a two-week hiatus from practices and games will not be easy. There will certainly be some rust early, and the ‘Hawks will have to shake it off quickly if they want to get past a Cougars team riding high after a win over Wade Hampton.
The Cougars won with their defensive effort last Friday, shutting out the Red Devils in the second half to pull out a comeback win. That could be troublesome for a rusty Hilton Head offense, but quarterback Sam Summa doesn’t want his abbreviated senior season to end.
After a strong showing against James Island, Summa will need to prove his leadership skills to get a sleepy offense humming again. A strong dose of Lavarus Brown should be a big part of that recipe, along with Jaylen Sneed, who scored three rushing touchdowns against Bluffton to open the season. Adam Clark has become the reliable man at wide receiver and was Summa’s favorite target two weeks ago against the Trojans.
The Seahawk defense was rolling before they had to suspend their season. Jayden Gilliam has stepped up in a big way after Cole DeMarzo left for Michigan State. The defensive back already has three interceptions in just two games, along with two fumble recoveries. Sneed will continue to be a menacing presence at linebacker, and Ryan Clark will look to back up a strong start headlined by four tackles for loss. The defense has been fantastic despite several key losses last year, and is looking to build off a six-turnover game against James Island.
The Cougars have been mistake-prone all season long, giving the ‘Hawks an opportunity to pounce on an inconsistent offense and grab a big momentum swing or two. But after not playing or practicing for two weeks, finding that top form once again will not be easy.
This is the finale for Hilton Head, which did not apply for an at-large bid to the Class 4A playoffs, so they have a chance to finish this unusual season unbeaten, but they’ll have to find their game quickly against a Colleton squad full of confidence. If Summa can put it together before it gets too late, the defense should be able to shut down an inconsistent and turnover-prone Colleton side. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Hilton Head High 24, Colleton County 20
WK: Hilton Head High 31, Colleton County 21
BL: Hilton Head High 28, Colleton County 21
Beaufort High (4-1) at Benedictine (6-2) — CANCELLED
The Eagles’ final test before the Class 4A playoffs fell through Thursday, when Beaufort High called off its game at Georgia power Benedictine after learning several players from the Cadets’ roster had been quarantined due to a COVID-19 exposure.
“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, and fans,” the school said in an email.
Playing the game would have risked exposing the Eagles to COVID-19 and put their playoff participation in jeopardy. Instead, Bryce Lybrand’s team played an intrasquad game Thursday and should be well-rested going into what figures to be a tough Class 4A playoff run. — Justin Jarrett
Justin Jarrett: 1-1 last week, 20-3 overall
Wes Kerr: 1-1 last week, 20-3 overall
Brackin Lambert: 1-1 last week, 21-2 overall
Photo by Brooke Simons