It’s hard to believe, but we’re just over a month away from the start of high school football. We don’t see many opportunities for inter-squad preseason action at this level, but on Thursday at Beaufort High, we got a taste of what should be a spectacular fall of gridiron action in the Lowco.
Thanks to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, eight area high schools including seven from Beaufort and Jasper counties came together to measure up their game against region rivals and begin their preparations for the 2021 season in a 7-on-7 tournament. We saw some standout play from some familiar names, while some young players gave us a preview of their breakout seasons ahead.
Here is a list of a few who caught my eye at Thursday’s showcase in Beaufort.
Jace Blackshear, QB, HHCA
This name should sound familiar to most Lowco football fans, as the remarkable dual-threat Eagle quarterback and 2020 SCISA 2A state champion is coming back for more. We’ve seen his brilliant ability with his legs so many times over the past year, but we can’t forget about his impressive arm as well. In Thursday’s unique 7-on-7 format without defensive linemen, the quarterbacks were forced to show off their abilities through the air, allowing Blackshear to improve his craft against several tough defensive units throughout the area. The senior made some stellar throws in the event, including a couple of beauties to the back corner of the end zone. His arm motion and mechanics are incredibly fun to watch, and his unpredictability in the pocket will keep SCISA defenses on their toes once again. It may be tough for Blackshear to not have JP Peduzzi by his side this time around, but he’s more than capable of putting together a memorable campaign for Ron Peduzzi’s side again in 2021.
Jaylin Linder, WR, BLHS
We saw a small sample size of Linder last season, but it’s hard to control your excitement about the potential for his junior year. The standout Bobcat put together an eye-popping sophomore campaign in 2020, hauling in several acrobatic catches to spark the Bluffton offense. Linder picked up right where he left off on Thursday in the 7-on-7 tourney, using his 6-foot-4 frame and his impressive athleticism to dominate one-on-one matchups. It’s going to be a tall task for opposing cornerbacks to shut down the Bluffton junior, who is on the verge of a special fall.
Kacy Fields, WR, BHS
Marcus Goodwater may have been the go-to threat on Beaufort High’s roster earlier on, but as last season progressed, it was Fields who became Tyler Haley’s No. 1 target. His quickness and his ability to rack up yards after the catch made the rising junior a tremendous sparkplug for a lethal Eagle offense, leading the area with 20 catches, 430 yards, and four touchdowns. With Goodwater lost to graduation, it will be up to Fields alongside fellow junior Mcleod Reichel to carry the load through the air. Both receivers showed out for the Eagles on their way to picking up Lowco 7-on-7 superiority Thursday, and the duo should keep it rolling as the new season approaches.
Colton Phares, FS, BHS
While Haley led a brilliant offensive showing in his home stadium on Thursday, another Eagle star emerged on the other side of the ball. It was the Colton Phares show from start to finish, as the junior snagged a pair of interceptions while making seven tackles in Beaufort’s tournament title run. The free safety showcased an impressive toolbox of skills, denying a group of talented area receivers while making important stops in the open field. Alongside stellar defensive back Daryl Depass, Phares will look to captain a young secondary that has the capabilities of reaching that next gear. If the pass defense can match the brick wall on the defensive line led by Eamon Smalls, Bryce Lybrand’s group will be a menace for anyone to face this year.
Evan Elliot, WR, HHIHS
Elliot has become a go-to playmaker on BJ Payne’s offense, and he’ll be expected to carry a big-time role in his senior season. The Seahawk star first emerged two years ago with a monster Bridge Bowl, hauling in a pair of long touchdown passes of 60 yards to clinch an enormous victory over Bluffton. Despite playing in only three games in a COVID-shortened season in 2020, Elliot still broke the 100-yard mark while racking up four catches per contest. The speedy senior showed off his wheels again on Thursday afternoon, finishing the tournament with a whopping four touchdowns including a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch after breaking away from the defense. Along with his team, Elliot’s got a lot to prove this year, and he should be a terrific cornerstone of a young offense.
We’re already counting down the days to the 2021 football season, and this fall will mean so much more than ever before. After several teams had to cut their years short or even cancel altogether due to COVID protocols in 2020, this season brings a renewed sense of hope for everyone. A full slate of action is on tap starting in August, and we can’t wait to celebrate our phenomenal student-athletes and provide first-rate grassroots coverage on LowcoSports.com. The countdown is almost over, and soon it will be time to pack the stadiums once again for another stellar season of gridiron fun.
By Wes Kerr