Bluffton is on its way to the postseason, that much we know. Hilton Head Island High is hoping to get there.
The Bobcats are gunning for a 9-0 start with two games to play tomorrow night, as they host Fort Dorchester, where coach Ken Cribb coached the running backs three years ago before taking the Bluffton job.
Hilton Head High, meanwhile, is in a position to win Region 8-AAA. But the Seahawks could also fall short of the playoffs depends on how the next two weeks play off. Their future is as uncertain as it was before the season began.
Let’s take a look at both matchups...
Fort Dorchester (4-4) at Bluffton (8-0), 7:30 p.m.
For the first time all year — or at least for a half, anyway — the Bobcats looked beatable.
Bluffton trailed 7-0 with just seconds left before intermission last week against Ashley Ridge before Marquis Webber ran it in for the game-tying score. The Bobcats went on to pull away in the fourth quarter to a 37-20 victory.
“I’m probably more proud of them about that than I have anything else all year,” coach Ken Cribb said. “They handled it so well. They didn’t panic.”
Welcome to Class 4-A, where no game is easy despite what the opponent’s record may say. The Bobcats sit pretty at 2-0 in Region 8-AAAA, but have been tested in the first half of each game (they also beat Beaufort High 34-10 two weeks ago).
Now comes Fort Dorchester, which like the Bobcats’ previous two opponents, has a misleading record attached to its name. The Patriots are just 4-4 but have a pair of talented running backs that came within three points of knocking off undefeated Wando earlier this season.
Running backs Charles Loftland and Daitwan Commodore lead the way. The duo, who combined for five touchdowns last week, were freshmen on the varsity squad at Fort Dorchester when Cribb was in his final season with the Patriots.
That’s what makes this game so special for Cribb, who told coach Steve Laprad this week by phone that he didn’t want to play he or the Patriots. Cribb won’t say it, but his familiarity with the Fort Dorchester schemes and play calls will go a long way in deciding this one.
“They’re big, fast and strong,” Cribb said. “They could easily be a one-loss team. They lost to Wando and Stratford by just a couple points and lost 17-10 to Summerville. They could easily be 7-1 with the only loss coming to the nationally-ranked Goose Creek Gators.”
Prediction: Bluffton will have a fight on its hands for three quarters Friday night. But for the third consecutive week, look for the Bobcats to go on top late before putting the game away. Bluffton wins, 35-21.
Hanahan (7-1) at Hilton Head High (5-3), 7:30 p.m.
Hilton Head High is the definition of uncertainty right now.
The Seahawks are mathematically still alive for the Region 8-AAA title. All they need to do is beat Hanahan tomorrow night, Berkeley on the road next week and hope Orangeburg-Wilkinson (who owns the tiebreaker over them) loses one of the next two games. Those are all possibilities.
On the other hand, Hilton Head High is also not assured of a playoff berth just yet. The league standings are so muddled that it’s entirely plausible that the Seahawks could not make the playoffs if they lose out. There are a pair of 2-1 teams in league play (HHH and O-W) and another two that are 1-2 (James Island and Berkeley).
It should be noted that Hanahan would clinch the region title with a win over Hilton Head High.
All that matters for the Seahawks, though, is that they (to an extent) control their own destiny. A playoff berth is a necessity for this team, obviously. Heck, Hilton Head High’s squad that went 4-6 in the regular season qualified. This team has to do it, if you ask coach B.J. Payne.
But the task won’t be easy against a Hanahan team that enters with a 7-1 record and a 3-0 mark in league play. They are a balanced offense that doesn’t strike for the big play but instead chips away at the opponent with 9- or 12-play drives.
Here’s Payne on what Hanahan does well....
“They are a very good team. They don’t make mistakes. When it’s third and two, they get the first down. They don’t jump offsides, they don’t false start. There’s not too many penalties. They play hard, they play clean and they don’t make mistakes. At the same time, we’re not playing Alabama here. They’re just a very good high school football team that executes. They do the little things right.”
Payne has some moves in his back pocket that he plans to pull out against the Hawks. The first is keeping guys like Robbie Iulo and Adam Orischak on offense only. The two had been playing defense as well for the Seahawks, but were getting gassed to the point where they couldn’t contribute in the manner Payne wanted them to. So in steps freshmen corners Chris Skager and Jon Baty. How the youngsters play against Hanahan’s talented crop of receivers will be huge, no doubt.
Prediction: Hilton Head High is going to bring everything they have to this Hanahan team, but I’m not sure it will be enough. The Seahawks will fall in a close game that won’t be decided until late in the fourth quarter. Hanahan 34, Hilton Head High 27.