It’s kind of hard for me to believe that playoff time is already here, but it’s always an exciting time of the season for high school football. And we certainly have some interesting storylines in southern Beaufort County.
Bluffton will be hosting its first playoff game in school history when Lakewood visits Bobcat Stadium on Friday night. The Bobcats have never won a playoff game.
Hilton Head High will be trying to change their recent postseason fortune when they travel to Hartsville. The Seahawks have lost four straight playoff games dating back to 2006.
Here’s a look at the keys to victory for both teams Friday night:
Lakewood at Bluffton
1. Limit Dalvin Bracey’s big plays — In coach Ken Cribb’s mind, the Bobcats are facing the most talented offensive player they have seen all season. They know Bracey, the Gators quarterback, is going to get his yards. But if Bluffton can keep him from hitting the home run, its defense can slow down Lakewood. And frankly, you’d have to like Bluffton’s chances to do exactly that. A linebacker group that includes Lewis Black, Michael Grant, Taylor McDonnell and Jimmy Tillman will be key Friday night.
2. Stay calm, cool and collected — This team has accomplished a lot of things Bluffton has never done before and shattered nearly every school record of importance. But teams are judged by the mark they leave in the postseason. If this year’s Bobcats really want to go down as the best team in Bluffton school history, they need to take their focus away from what they’ve already done and shift it to clawing their way into the next round.
3. Sustain drives — Moving the chains hasn’t been much of a problem for the Bobcats, who are averaging 37.5 points per game this year. But things only get tougher in the playoffs. Bluffton is banged up in its backfield with C.J. Johnson, Zachary Scott and Desmond Jenkins — though all three may be ready to go Friday night — but no matter carries the ball, the Bobcats need to have success on third downs. The best way to keep Bracey out of the end zone is to keep the Gators offense on the sidelines.
Hilton Head High at Hartsville
1. Stop the run — Talking with coach Tim Singleton throughout the week, it seems as if Hartsville moves the ball by running it. The Seahawks have been gored at times on the ground, largely because of their inability to tackle a rusher on first contact. Hilton Head High needs to be more physical in its pursuit if it wants to slow down Hartsville.
2. Learn from mistakes — The Seahawks have lost in the first round — at home — in each of the past three seasons. The last two were lost in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks would be smart to remember those losses and use them as learning tools and realize that it takes four quarters to win a playoff game. They can also learn from last week; Hartsville will provide a similar look that Bluffton gave the Seahawks. Perhaps Hilton Head High can figure out what worked and what didn’t and apply it to Hartsville’s version of the Wing-T.
3. Move the chains — The Seahawks were unable to find a way to move the football against Bluffton last week. If they want to put some points on the board Friday night, they must find a weakness in Hartsville’s defense and go at it early and often. Whether that means using Michael Julian to throw the ball or Matt Bex to run it, the Seahawks have to be ready to adapt on the fly.