Bluffton ran through the first half of its schedule with ease to the surprise of virtually no one. Now comes the real test.
The Bobcats are preparing for their first Class 4-A bout Friday night against Beaufort High, a game coach Ken Cribb calls the true measuring stick so far for his football program. A win would give Bluffton — which is already presumed the favorite in what has been a down year in Region 8-AAAA — an early advantage in league play.
“The coaching staff is very experienced and very successful,” Cribb said of the Eagles. “It’s no secret what Beaufort’s going to do. They may throw a little wrinkle at you here or there, but for the most part they’re not going to get away from what they do. ... (We have) a lot of respect for their program.
“That’s the kind of what we set a standard to, to become a dominant team like Beaufort’s been.”
Hilton Head Island High, meanwhile, already got its early league up in league play after knocking off Stall last week. The Seahawks will face a much stiffer test this week in Region 8-AAA, as they travel to James Island.
A win would be the fifth this season for the Seahawks, which would surpass last year’s win total.
“They’re a good football team,” coach B.J. Payne said of James Island. “They’re not a lot of thrills, bells and whistles. They line it up and bring it at you.”
Beaufort High (3-3) at Bluffton (6-0), 7:30 p.m.
The Bobcats are gunning for their third consecutive 7-0 start, and this would probably be the biggest. Bluffton is looking to make an early statement as the newest members of Class 4-A and to a man are out to prove they belong.
“We’re having some success and we’re proud of it,” Cribb said. “We’ve worked hard and we earned it. But it seems like we get a lot of unwarranted attacks. Look at three years ago, look at the scores and we’re having trouble with Ridgeland, Hardeeville and Wade Hampton.
“Hilton Head used to beat (Bluffton’s) brains out. All of the sudden we’re having success. We’re not claiming to be world champions. We’re having fun with what we’re doing.”
Bluffton is planning on having some more fun Friday night at Bobcat Stadium. To do that, Cribb and Co. will have to get past a Beaufort High team that has tasted its share of success this season in what has so far been an up and down season. They lost last week to undefeated and second-ranked Goose Creek, 65-14.
“You can’t gauge them by Goose Creek,” Cribb said. “They’d make the Dallas Cowboys look bad. I know they’ve been up and down a little bit. But they’re a confident team in what they do.”
Cribb wants to see Bluffton — which moved up to No. 5 in the 4-A rankings this week — come out sound in the tackling department. He wasn’t pleased with what he saw in the fourth quarter last Friday against Hilton Head High, when the Seahawks ran for touchdowns of 40 and 60 yards, and the Eagles will look to take advantage of that behind senior tailback Jaclay Mixon.
“We’re going to have to block and tackle very well,” he said. “One, they’re huge. So we’re going to have to reach down a little deeper. They’re going to be harder to move.”
Prediction: I don’t think this is as going to be as big of a win as some are expecting, but I expect the Bobcats to move to 7-0 nonetheless. I’ll take Bluffton, 34-16.
Hilton Head High (4-2) at James Island (3-3), 7:30 p.m.
B.J. Payne isn’t expecting the book to be thrown at he and the Seahawks Friday night at James Island. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“It’s a veteran offensive line, they’re all seniors,” Payne said. “Their smallest lineman is the center at 5-6, 270. They’re like 240 across the board. Their fullback is about 5-9, 200. They line it up and pound it at you. They’re a wing two team.
“There’s not a lot of bells and whistles. They’ve done it against everybody.”
So expect James Island to pound away at the Seahawks’ defense, which has shown the propensity to give up the big play this year. But thankfully for Payne, Hilton Head High has had some success this season against teams like James Island.
“We’ve got to get stops,” he said. “When we get in third down situations and we have a chance to get off the field we have to get off the field. Luckily for us, they’re not a big play offense. That’s probably what we’re better at defensively.”
Prediction: The Seahawks know what they’re going to get offensively from quarterback Michael Julian and tailback Khalil Lewis. The question is how their defense will respond. I’m not sold just yet, and think Hilton Head High loses a close one. James Island 30, Hilton Head High 28.