We’ve finally reached the big game.
Hilton Head Island High and Bluffton High will line it up once again Friday night in the annual Bridge Bowl. Both teams have started with some success, thanks in part to a pair of pretty successful offenses.
But the question on the minds of those in Beaufort County is a pretty simple one, and it has nothing to do with new coaches, new regions, past results or anything else.
Will Hilton Head High finally give its cross-town rivals a game?
The Seahawks (3-1) have scored just six points in their last four meetings with Bluffton (5-0), who has scored 210 points over that same span. That means Hilton Head High is averaging an incredible 1.5 points per game against the Bobcats over the last two years.
Not exactly a rivalry.
“All we have to do is kick one field goal and we raise our scoring average against them,” Seahawks coach B.J. Payne said quipped. “Heck, if we get a touchdown we double it.”
You can read more on Payne’s thoughts on the big clash in Friday’s edition of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. But let’s dive into some more specific thoughts on this matchup.
Hilton Head High (3-1) at Bluffton (5-0), 7:30 p.m.
Bluffton coach Ken Cribb called last week’s 50-10 win over James Island the best game the Bobcats have played so far this season. But to be quite honest, it seems like he says that every week. That’s a scary thing for the Seahawks and the rest of Bluffton’s upcoming opponents.
Cribb knows emotion can often play a factor in games like this, and the third-year coach believes he has taken the necessary steps to eliminate any distractions.
“Our coaching staff really works hard on making sure we understand that this game is like every other game,” he said. “It’s just the next game on the schedule.”
For Bluffton, Friday’s game truly is just another game. The Bobcats have big aspirations of another undefeated season, a Region 8-AAAA championship and a state title. Their dominance over Hilton Head High shouldn’t lead to any extra emotions.
Their bigger concerns seem to lie ahead at the upcoming region slate. Bluffton has a bye next week before taking in its first league game at home against Beaufort High. So expect the Bobcats’ starters to play extensively against the Seahawks, regardless of what the score may be.
“That’s probably going to happen, because if we don’t play but one half of football in two and a half weeks, that’s going to be tough going into a big region battle,” Cribb said.
That may spell bad news for a Seahawks team that has had the propensity in recent weeks to give up the big play defensively. Hilton Head High hasn’t exactly been flawless on that side of the ball, but an impressive offense highlighted by quarterback Michael Julian has made up for it so far.
Julian and his offensive line will need to be at their best Friday night to slow down a Bobcat defense that has proven relentless since the start of the season. Bluffton has given up only one offensive touchdown and has shut out three of its first five opponents.
“They’ve got the ability to drop eight or bring five or six and really cause havoc,” Payne said. “But we’re confident with where we are offensively as well as our skill guys and quarterback. It’s going to come down to how our offensive line plays.
“In four games, Michael has only been sacked one time. If we can get through this game with that beign the same number I would be very pleased.”
Payne understands that many of Bluffton’s large point totals this season have come in part throw a ball hawking defense that has managed to find the end zone. Preventing those mistakes will be crucial, he said.
“I think one thing that gets over-looked a lot is their defense,” he said. “I think their defense is very good. They fly around. You look at some of the games where they’re putting up high 60s, they’re putting up three or four defensive scores or the defense is giving the offense the ball at the 5.”
Prediction: This Hilton Head High team isn't the same one that's been outscored by such an incredible margin in its last four games against Bluffton. But the Seahawks still have a ways to go before they can knock off a team as skilled as the Class 4-A Bobcats. Bluffton 37, Hilton Head High 17.