Surprise! We’re a day early with this week’s high school football primer, because Week 5 starts a day early in the Lowco with John Paul II’s trip to Charleston Southern to take on Pinewood Prep on Thursday.
Several teams have the week off to prep for region play, but we have a solid slate of nine games across the Lowco in Week 5, beginning with the aforementioned SCISA showdown in Charleston. A third straight Lowco squad tries to take down undefeated Wade Hampton, Whale Branch looks to take the inside track toward another region crown, and Beaufort Academy travels to Thomas Heyward for an epic Lowco-on-Lowco matchup.
Most of the kickoffs are still a day away, but it’s never too early to start getting ready for kickoff. Here’s your Week 5 primer, and if you’re headed out to a game, keep us in the loop on Twitter @LowcoSports.
John Paul II (1-1) at Pinewood Prep (3-2) (Thursday)
The Golden Warriors kick off Week 5 in the Lowco when they travel to Charleston Southern to take on Pinewood Prep in a SCISA non-region matchup at 7:15 p.m. Thursday. JPII is looking to build off its first win of the season after routing Memorial Day 40-6 last week, but the Panthers will provide a much tougher test on both sides of the ball.
Pinewood Prep’s pass-happy offense will challenge JPII’s secondary, which hasn’t faced a team that spreads it out as much as the Panthers. Senior TJ Hatchett and freshman Asa Windham have split time at quarterback, but both are primarily pocket passers — they’ve combined for 40 pass attempts per game. JPII’s linebackers have been outstanding, but they will be asked to do more in pass coverage this week than they have thus far.
JPII’s Mark Knight picked off two passes last week, and he will need to be on top of his game once again, but the Panthers have too many weapons for one player to neutralize them. Five different receivers have at least 10 receptions, with Jaa Scott (22-377, 3 TDs) and Nashon Hudson (19-302, 5 TDs) leading the way. Will Ruddy (14-162, 5 TDs) has been a favorite red-zone target, and leading rusher Shane Dare (53-280, 3 TDs) has also done damage as a receiver, catching 22 passes for 304 yards and 2 TDs.
Pinewood’s defense has been exposed recently, allowing 40 points or more in two of the past three games, albeit against some outstanding offenses. Trinity Collegiate lit up the Panthers in a 74-40 shootout, and Porter-Gaud won a 41-27 track meet with Pinewood last week. JPII has the weapons on offense to do some damage, too, as evidenced by last week’s performance against the Matadors.
Sophomore quarterback Christian Tilton hooked up with Knight for a pair of touchdown passes last week, and the Golden Warriors will need him to make more plays in the passing game to open up the run game with the triple option. JPII will need another big game from running back Jackson Ogden, who went over 100 yards and scored twice last week.
If the offense can hang onto the ball, run clock, and give the defense time to recover, the Golden Warriors should be able to hang in and have a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. If they can’t sustain drives, the Panthers’ fast-paced offense will wear down JPII’s defense and pull away in the second half. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Pinewood Prep 30, John Paul II 20
WK: Pinewood Prep 34, John Paul II 28
Hilton Head (1-2) at Wade Hampton (4-0)
The road warriors are back at it again this week, as Hilton Head High travels to Wade Hampton for a matchup with the unbeaten Red Devils, who are ranked ninth in Class 2A. It’s the third straight Lowco squad to face Wade Hampton, and BJ Payne’s group will hope to avenge May River and Bluffton’s narrow defeats.
It will be a tough task for the Seahawks, who struggled to find success on offense at Jenkins after losing quarterback Jackson Bibee to a knee injury. If Bibee can’t return this week, the Seahawks will again turn to Notre Dame commit Jaylen Sneed, who did it all on Saturday in Savannah with a passing touchdown, an interception on defense, and 16 tackles.
Sneed and the Seahawk defense will have their hands full this time around, as they prepare to face lightning-quick quarterback Jamian Risher. The Red Devil standout has been unstoppable the last two weeks, averaging 176 rushing yards per game while toying with a pair of strong defenses. Sneed could very well be locked onto Risher in this matchup as the Seahawks look to contain the phenomenal run-first quarterback.
If a growing Hilton Head defensive unit can control Risher’s big-play opportunities, the ‘Hawks will have a great chance of getting off the field and putting together key stops.
Anders Kennedy, Chris Marable, Carter Saleeby, and Sneed lead a Seahawk front seven that will have to dig deep to get the job done. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Wade Hampton 24, Hilton Head High 20
WK: Wade Hampton 28, Hilton Head High 20
Blythewood (3-1) at May River (2-2)
With Region 7-4A play looming next week and the Sharks riding a two-game losing streak, this week is something of a crossroads for a May River team that still hopes to contend for a region crown. But it will be a tough task against a Blythewood squad that has been especially tough on defense.
May River was on the wrong end of a lopsided game last week, traveling to Thomson (Ga.) and coming home with a 48-7 defeat — but also a better idea of where the Sharks need to improve to compete for a top spot in the region.
Playing from behind didn’t suit the Sharks, who had to go to the air more often than they’d like, so look for them to get back to establishing the run early against the Bengals. Quarterback Garvin Douglas (56-512, 8 TDs) continues to pile up rushing yards, and Jaeon Allen (31-321, 3 TDs) leads a talented group of running backs who do a great job of moving the chains and controlling the clock in close games or when nursing a lead.
The Sharks’ success this week likely hinges on their defense’s ability to keep the score low and avoid putting the offense in a hole early. The Bengals haven’t put up huge numbers on offense thus far, but they just got starting quarterback Harrison Collins back last week after a broken hand sidelined him in the preseason, and running back Desmond Boatwright has put up big numbers on the ground. It will be key for the Sharks’ front seven to wrap up Boatwright and contact and avoid giving up big chunks, forcing the Bengals to the air. Collins has a number of capable receivers, so if the Sharks can’t get pressure on him, he will find an open man. Getting off the field on third down will be critical for May River’s defense.
Win or lose, the Sharks need a strong showing this Friday to take some positive momentum into a competitive region slate. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Blythewood 24, May River 21
WK: Blythewood 31, May River 21
Baptist Hill (2-0) at Whale Branch (3-0)
A year ago, the Whale Branch Warriors stunned Baptist Hill in miraculous fashion with Jakhi Pusha snagging a Hail Mary from Jaylen Reeves in the end zone. Now, a hungry Bobcat team looking for payback will make the trip down to Seabrook for a matchup between top-10 Class 1A squads.
Whale Branch has blown past its first two region opponents, blanking St. John’s and Military Magnet by a combined score of 75-0. Despite missing key players, the Warrior defense completely shut down the Islanders and Eagles and will look to keep the same intensity against a high-powered Bobcat attack.
Baptist Hill sophomore Harold Gathers has been terrific through the air, completing 64 percent of his passes and averaging over 320 passing yards per game. He’s distributed the ball to a variety of stellar targets, including junior Kevin Townsend and senior Damon Smith. Plus, running back Ra’Shawn Murray is a solid receiver out of the backfield. The Warriors will be counting on Travon Sumpter, Kamron Holman, and Clifton Major to anchor the pass defense while D’Ante Parker looks to put pressure on the quarterback.
Joseph Hicks continues to light it up on offense for the Warriors, averaging a ridiculous 17 yards per touch after an unbelievable three touchdowns and 155 yards on three carries last week. Jerry Hatcher should ride the hot hand again alongside an improving passing attack led by quarterback Kai’Shawn Jenkins. Keith Chisholm has been the go-to guy out wide, snagging three touchdowns so far on the season.
The weapons abound for the Warriors, who should have an electric home crowd behind them with the biggest challenge to their Region 7-1A title hopes coming in. If the strong defense can rise to the challenge and get a few stops against a tough Baptist Hill passing game, the offense should score more than enough points to put the Warriors in the drivers’ seat for the region crown. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Whale Branch 33, Baptist Hill 20
WK: Whale Branch 30, Baptist Hill 14
North Central (1-2) at Battery Creek (0-2)
After missing out on an opportunity to pick up their first win of the season last week — due first to a COVID-19 quarantine and then to a torrential rainstorm — the Dolphins are eager to welcome North Central for a homecoming matchup that has a great chance of ending with a victory celebration in Burton.
Battery Creek returned to practice Saturday after a third COVID-related pause this season, and the Dolphins were prepared to play at Ridgeland-Hardeeville on Monday before heavy rains forced the cancellation of the game. So Creek and coach Terrance Ashe are still looking for their first win as they enter their final non-region tune-up.
The Dolphins found some success on offense in a 34-20 loss to Andrew Jackson two weeks ago, and more help is on the way. Quarterback Hunter Smith, expected to be the starter before a preseason injury sidelined him, is back and should see at least some time under center. That gives Ashe the flexibility to use Will White elsewhere, adding another weapon alongside running backs Jeremiah Dilbert and versatile speedster Dreshaun Brown.
The Knights typically like to run the ball, but they had success in the passing game in the second half of last week’s 48-28 loss at Barnwell. Whether they get back to the ground game or take to the air, the Dolphins will count on Quatrell Livingston and Anthony Phelan to get pressure in the backfield and make things difficult for North Central.
If the Dolphins can avoid penalties and take care of the ball, they have a great chance to have a successful homecoming and go into region play on a high note. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Battery Creek 24, North Central 20
WK: North Central 32, Battery Creek 24
Ridgeland-Hardeeville (0-1) at Pelion (1-2)
After finally getting back on the field for their first game since 2019 two weeks ago, the Jaguars were back on the sideline this past week, so they’re ready to hit the road Friday for a non-region tune-up against Pelion.
The Jags were set to host Battery Creek last week, but the Dolphins had a bout with COVID-19 protocols and had to postpone the game until Monday, when torrential rain washed it off the schedule. Nonetheless, two good weeks of practice have first-year coach Rodney Barr feeling better about his team’s conditioning, and RHHS should be poised to execute more crisply in its second outing than its first.
The Jaguars showed some positive signs on both sides of the ball in a 34-16 loss to Whitmire in their opener, as quarterback Maurice Brown made plays with his arm and his legs and recorded rushing and passing touchdowns, running back Hamid Brown proved to be a threat running the ball and receiving out of the backfield, and freshman wideout Dylan Pryor hauled in a touchdown pass. Bruising fullback Xavier Plowdeniz played well on both sides of the ball, and Ogurian Simmons, Josh Ferguson, and Jaquise Johnson anchored a defense that showed promise.
The RHHS defense will be tested by the Panthers, who like to spread it out and pick defenses apart with a strong running game and quick passes from quarterback Peyton Whitten, who can also make plays on the ground. Versatile back Jacob Osmanski is a weapon and scored four times — two rushing, two receiving — in a 42-26 win over Midland Valley in Pelion’s last outing Sept. 3.
The Panthers are improving on defense, and their linebackers and secondary will make Maurice Brown pay for any ill-advised passes, but they’re also coming off a two-week quarantine, so the fourth-quarter conditioning could work in the Jags’ favor this week as they look to pick up a much-needed win. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Pelion 34, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 23
WK: Pelion 35, Ridgeland-Hardeeville 28
Hilton Head Prep (3-1) at Bethesda Academy (0-3)
It was a performance to forget last Friday afternoon in Sea Pines, but the Hilton Head Prep Dolphins have a great shot to rebound on the road this week against a reeling Bethesda Academy squad.
After losing standout quarterback Antjuan McKay to graduation and Zayden Edwards to nearby St. Andrew’s, the Blazers have not been able to replicate the success of years past. The Dolphins will have their own adversity to face Friday, looking to shake off a poor offensive performance in a 32-7 defeat to Thomas Heyward. They’ll need a solid showing from the offensive line who was outmatched by a terrific Rebel side a week ago, as HHP managed just three rushing yards in the first half.
If the blocking can deliver, we could see some big nights for elusive running back Loncelle Daley and powerful fullback Jake Rodney-Brown. The Blazers have struggled defending the pass this season, giving an improving aerial attack led by quarterback Tristan Bonomo and emerging wideout Gunnar Askeland a chance to shine in Savannah. With kicker Trevor Weldon off to a terrific start, the Dolphins should be able to consistently put points on the board even if drives come up short of the end zone.
Hilton Head Prep’s defense performed admirably against a fantastic Heyward unit, and Dave Adams’ group should come up big against a shaky Blazer offense that has scored only eight points in its past two games. Rodney-Brown should dominate in the heart of the defense at linebacker, and Sean Graham will look to continue his terrific tackling prowess in the secondary.
Triston Randall and a budding Bethesda offense will look to take the next step in search for the Blazers’ first win of the season, but the Dolphins have the talent and the hunger to come through on the road and build momentum into a key region game with Beaufort Academy next week. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Hilton Head Prep 20, Bethesda Academy 7
WK: Hilton Head Prep 24, Bethesda Academy 14
Hilton Head Christian (3-0) at Colleton Prep (1-3)
After an unforgettable 53-0 christening of their new home field against Orangeburg Prep, the Hilton Head Christian Academy Eagles head back on the road to Colleton Prep.
It was a tough showing last weekend for the War Hawks in a 25-6 loss to Dorchester Academy, and it will only get tougher against an Eagle squad looking primed to run it back for a second straight SCISA 2A championship.
Jace Blackshear turned in a ridiculous five-touchdown performance against OP, and the good times should continue on the road against the War Hawks. The HHCA offense has been firing on all cylinders, led by running back Joseph “Speedy” Robinson, who crossed the 100-yard mark in both rushing and receiving last week.
Colleton Prep’s defense struggled to contain Dorchester Academy’s potent passing game last week, and the Eagles should gun it down the gridiron early and often with Robinson and Riley Shinn while letting Jackson “Bulldog” Lanier loose to break some explosive plays.
Drew Murdaugh and the War Hawks had trouble moving the ball against the Raiders’ stout defensive line and will have an even tougher challenge against a Junkyard Dog defense that blanked veteran McCullough Mims and Orangeburg Prep. The blocking will have to be superb for Murdaugh to find room to run the ball effectively, and the passing game will need to deliver with stellar playmaker Cole Davis.
Murdaugh could be a problem for a growing HHCA defensive line, but the Eagles should dominate on both sides on the road and roll to 4-0. — Wes Kerr
JJ: Hilton Head Christian 41, Colleton Prep 6
WK: Hilton Head Christian 35, Colleton Prep 0
Beaufort Academy (2-0) at Thomas Heyward (3-1)
Forget about the fact that it’s a non-region game — this is a rivalry grudge match. Even though they played one another in football for the first time last season, there’s no love lost between Beaufort Academy and Thomas Heyward, and the fact that the first-ever meeting on the gridiron was competitive helped fuel the fire.
The Rebels are on a mission for a fourth consecutive SCISA 1A title, and they bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to Bluffton to rout Hilton Head Prep 32-7 last week. They didn’t come away from it unscathed, though, as quarterback Dietrich Shuford left in the first half with an injury and had to hand the reins to versatile senior Brandon Howard. Regardless of whether Shuford can return against the Eagles, the Rebels have plenty of firepower on offense with running backs Anthony Fripp and Tony Obanner leading the way.
THA’s power running game will test a BA defense that had a tough time against St. John’s Christian’s passing game but has been solid against the run. The Eagles didn’t have any trouble shutting down Northwood Academy last week, but the Rebels are much stronger across the board and especially on the line of scrimmage, though they will be without a couple of starting linemen due to illness (non-COVID).
BA also needs to establish the run and control the clock to be successful, and Devonte Green (30-298, 5 TDs) has carried the Eagles’ ground game thus far, with Jaxen Porter providing big plays on the ground and catching the ball out of the backfield while also anchoring the defense.
THA’s defense did an excellent job of containing HHP’s Loncelle Daley last week, and the Rebels even did an admirable job against the run against Class 4A Bluffton. Their biggest weakness has been against the pass, but with BA’s reluctance to go to the air — quarterback Braydon Dineen has just 10 attempts through two games — the Rebels will be content to load up and stop the run and force Dineen to beat them.
The Eagles have enough talent to keep this one close and have a shot in the fourth quarter, but THA’s depth should be enough to propel the Rebels in a close game. — Justin Jarrett
JJ: Thomas Heyward 27, Beaufort Academy 20
WK: Thomas Heyward 35, Beaufort Academy 24
WK: 8-2 last week, 30-4 overall
JJ: 7-3 last week, 24-10 overall
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