We have crossed the halfway point of the season and are heading down the stretch run. The region standings and playoff pictures are becoming clearer, and those headed for the postseason are beginning to distance themselves from the rest of the pack.
Such is the case for Bluffton and Hilton Head Island High, who enter Friday night with plenty at stake. The Bobcats take their show on the road to Ashley Ridge while the Seahawks play host to Orangeburg-Wilkinson.
The Bobcats can achieve their third consecutive 8-0 start with a win and can jump to the top of the Region 8-AAAA standings with a win. The Seahawks, meanwhile, face similar circumstances against the Bruins. A win would assure Hilton Head High of a playoff spot and will keep them perfect in Region 8-AAA.
Bluffton (7-0) at Ashley Ridge (2-5), 7:30 p.m.
Don’t let Ashley RIdge’s record fool you, this is a talented football team. The prognosticators certainly thought so to start the season, at least, as the Swamp Foxes were projected to finish at the top of Region 8-AAAA. That started and ended with running back Romelo Doctor, who was named to the Shrine Bowl this week.
The high expectations haven’t panned out as of yet, however, but much of that has to do with the schedule. Ashley Ridge has already played (and lost) to three teams that are all undefeated in Goose Creek, Wando and Stratford. They have, however, gotten off to good start in league play, knocking of Colleton County 30-7. (For the record, Colleton County has lost a whopping and probably unprecedented 30 consecutive games.)
Coach Ken Cribb sees a lot of Bluffton when glancing over Ashley Ridge’s roster. Here’s what the Bobcats’ head man had to say:
“We can’t make mistakes, we need to utilize our speed and limit mistakes. They’re athletic like us. I think we’ve got some similarities. Their offensive concept is similar to ours. They use speed on misdirection. They’ve got good speed. Their skill people are extremely fast. A lot of similarities between the two programs.”
Prediction: Ashley Ridge’s daunting schedule makes this seem closer than it probably will be. That said, Bluffton looked relatively human last week in a 34-10 victory over Beaufort High. The Bobcats win with ease, 41-21.
Orangeburg-Wilkinson (5-3) at Hilton Head High (5-2)
Shame on me for picking against the Seahawks last week. They made me regret it with a thrilling 29-25 upset win over James Island last week thanks in part to a dominating offensive showing in the fourth quarter.
That victory makes this week’s showdown that much bigger. Hanahan, already at 2-0 in league play, looks to be the region favorite. But the Seahawks can make the race interesting with a win over the Bruins, as they’ve already started 2-0 in league play.
Hilton Head High will look to its ground game yet again to scratch out the victory. That’s certainly a change of pace from the start of the year, when the Seahawks were pitching it around the yard and their offense looks unstoppable early on.
But with a defense that has shown the propensity to give up the big play, a ball control offense might not be a bad thing. It certainly worked last week. Quarterback Michael Julian (who was named to the Shrine Bowl on Wednesday) and tailback Khalil Lewis will be the ones getting most of the load this week. Julian has gone over 500 yards on the ground with eight scores so far this season while Lewis, who averages over 10 yards per carry, is nearing the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Here’s coach B.J. Payne on Friday’s game:
“Defensively, they’re very athletic, they’re very fast. They play a lot of man and cover 3. They’ll mix it up where they’ll come at you or stay back and let them come to you. They’re a very talented team. Offensively they’ve got a couple big receivers. They have a really good running back ... He’s a smaller type back as far as height stature. He’s pretty dynamic, has tremendous balance. The quarterback does a good job just getting the ball up to their receivers. ... They’re athletic on offense as well. They’re a team that we have to match their athleticism, play harder and outplay them.”
Prediction: The Seahawks have done an impressive job this year after the 4-7 disaster of a season ago. They’ve probably surprised some people, and that will continue yet again against O-W. Hilton Head High wins 34-24.