2019 High School Football Previews

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A hulking presence at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Battery Creek senior Padric Payne has a confession. He’s the second-smallest starter on the Dolphins’ offensive line.

“Yeah,” Payne says. “We’re pretty big up front.”

The Dolphins hope improved size, experience, and depth in the trenches will be the key to a winning season in 2019. Battery Creek appeared to be on its way in coach Walter Wilson’s first season in 2017, going 4-6, but they slid backwards last season, winning only two games.

“I have never been so humbled in my life,” Wilson said. “Sometimes you need that, because it gets you to look at the little tiny things that you may overlook when you felt you were on the way.”

With the humility came a renewed work ethic and attention to detail, as well as a commitment to get back to basics. With running back Trey Booth back in the fold and working behind that powerful offensive line, as well as a number of key returners on defense led by defensive end Brandon Wilson, the Dolphins’ gameplan will be simple.

“Our plan is to play defense and run the ball,” Walter Wilson said. “That ain’t hard.”


Coach:Walter Wilson

Record at BCHS:6-15 (3rd season)

2018 record:2-9 overall, 2-2 region (lost in first round of Class 3A playoffs)

Returning starters:12

Offensive scheme:21 personnel

Defensive scheme:4-3

Top returners:DE/TE Brandon Wilson, WR/DB Kyseem Jabbar, WR/DB Elijah Dean, LB Justin Smalls, OL/DL Lucas Kinsey, OL/DL Toddie Gray

Notable losses:LB/K Brandon Benke, WR Denarol Brown, QB/DB Jordan Gwyn


Trey Booth, RB:A powerful runner who carried the Dolphins to a win over May River two years ago, Booth sat out last season but is back for his senior campaign. With sophomore Jacove Anderson taking over at quarterback, Booth will be the focal point of the offense and have a chance to put up big numbers behind a bulky offensive line.


Can the Dolphins stop the run?Wilson is excited to have enough depth on the line to avoid having linemen play both ways, but the question is whether there’s enough quality to shut down the strong running teams at the top of the region. If the Dolphins can answer in the affirmative, it could be a special season.


May River and Wade Hampton begin the season ranked in the top 10 in Class 3A, but they both have big holes to fill from last season. The Dolphins are in as good a position as anyone to be the team to close the gap and challenge for the region title.


8/23 — vs. Whale Branch

8/30 — at Beaufort High

9/6 — at Hilton Head High

9/13 — at Woodland

9/20 — Open

9/27 — at Wade Hampton*

10/4 — Creekside Christian

10/11 — vs. Lake Marion*

10/18 — at Ridgeland-Hardeeville*

10/25 — vs. May River*

11/1 — at Whale Branch


*region opponent


Nothing raises the level of excitement around a program like winning a state championship, but with great enthusiasm comes great expectations. Such is life at Beaufort Academy, where the Eagles are preparing to embark on their SCISA 8-man state title defense.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” second-year BA coach Mark Clifford said. “Everybody knows who we are now. We realize that, and we realize that we can’t mistakes and we’ve got to be twice as good as we were last year.”

The Eagles’ offense will have a slightly different look after the departure of star running back De’Shaun Epps, but BA returns an experienced quarterback in Dawson Coleman, who has the benefit of a year playing in Clifford’s offense.

“We’re way ahead of where we were last year,” Coleman said. “This time last year I was still learning the plays, but now we can start doing different reads at the line. It will change the game a lot.”

BA also hopes to benefit from an influx of players who were already walking the hallways but had not shown an interest in playing football until the Eagles’ unexpected run to the state title last fall.

“Everybody wants to be a part of it now,” Coleman said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere.” 


Coach:Mark Clifford

Record at BA:11-2 (2nd season)

2018 record:11-2 overall, 6-1 region (SCISA 8-man state champions)

Returning starters:5 offense, 5 defense

Offensive scheme:Split Back

Defensive scheme:4-2

Top returners:QB Dawson Coleman, WR/DB William Tumlin, RB/LB Ja’Sean Lawson, RB/DE Elijah Fess

Notable losses:LB Edward McCormick, OL/DL Daniel Richards, RB De’Shaun Epps


Dawson Coleman, QB:Coleman didn’t need to show off his skills very often last year thanks to a dominant running back, but the Eagles will need him to be more of a focal point in the offense this season. He’s more than capable — an outstanding multi-sport athlete who has an uncanny ability to read defenses, according to Clifford — and should be in line to put up big numbers both on the ground and through the air.


Who will produce the big plays on offense?

It seemed every time the Eagles needed a big play last season, they could count on Epps to break a long run. With that explosiveness absent, they’ll need someone else to become the playmaker. Coleman is a capable passer and has some solid receivers, including William Tumlin, but BA will also need backs Ja’Sean Lawson and Elijah Fess to flourish in Clifford’s split-back system.


The Eagles face a daunting task in trying to repeat as state champs, especially with Epps out of the picture, but they have six games to work out the kinks before hosting perennial power Andrew Jackson in a state championship rematch on Oct. 11. The goal will be to again be in peak form at the end of the season in hopes of another magical playoff run.



8/23 — Open

8/30 — at Clarendon Hall

9/6 — vs. Laurens Academy

9/13 — at Richard Winn Academy

9/20 — at Holly Hill Academy*

9/27 — vs. Northside Christian*

10/4 — at St. John’s Christian*

10/11 — vs. Andrew Jackson Academy*

10/18 — vs. Cathedral Academy*

10/25 — at Palmetto Christian*

11/1 — vs. Patrick Henry*

*region opponent


The evolution of Beaufort High football continues with the Eagles’ entering a second consecutive season with a new head coach, and after a rare losing campaign a year ago, first-time head coach Bryce Lybrand has made it a focal point to incentivize giving maximum effort.

Lybrand noticed an improved work ethic during the offseason — an observation his players confirmed — and hopes to see if pay off in the form of more victories in 2019.

“The kids have really bought into what we’re doing and why we’re doing it that way,” Lybrand said. “They’ve kind of bought into the concept of earning everything you get, and I’m really pleased with the effort.”

After a 3-0 start a year ago, Beaufort lost five straight during a brutal stretch that included games against two Georgia powerhouses. The Eagles believe they are better prepared to face that difficult schedule this year, and they hope to do a better job of limiting the damage when things go wrong.

“It’s all about weathering the storm,” Lybrand said. “Sometimes those games that we lost last year were because we didn’t handle adversity well. The biggest thing for us is making sure that when something bad happens it doesn’t affect us the next two or three plays down the line.”

The Eagles have loads of talent back on offense, including most of their offensive line and standout running back James Dagin, but the defense is a work in progress as players adjust to new and expanded roles.



Coach:Bryce Lybrand

Record at BHS:0-0 (1st season)

2018 record:5-6 overall, 2-1 region (lost in first round of Class 4A playoffs)

Returning starters:6 offense, 3 defense

Offensive scheme:Spread

Defensive scheme:4-2-5

Top returners:RB James Dagin, WR Matt Haley, OL Toby Strawderman, OL Henry Manley, OL Terrance Wilson, OL Caleb Hagood, LB/TE William Winburn, LB George Williams, S Kaedin Grissom

Notable losses:LB Will Kelley, QB/S Jeffrey Smyth, OL/DL Chase Guynup, DL Dexter Ratliff, WR Reed Reichel, WR Trae Heyward


Tyler Haley, QB:The Eagles made it a point to get Haley playing time behind center in meaningful situations last season, and they hope to see the growing pains he experienced a year ago pay off now that he has fully taken the reins of the offense. The southpaw signal-caller has the potential to be a difference-maker, and his continued development could be the key to the Eagles’ success.


Who will step up on defense?

The Eagles have a handful of starters back on defense, but they also have some gaping holes to fill, including the one previously occupied by All-Lowco Defensive Player of the Year Will Kelley. Stefan Wechsler steps into Kelley’s spot, while massive freshman defensive tackle Eamon Smalls figures to be an effective run-stopper at some point but will need to adjust to the Class 4A schedule after playing 8-man football at Beaufort Academy last season. The Eagles have plenty of talent to plug the holes, but it might take a few games for the defense to hit its stride.


In a region without a clear-cut favorite, the Eagles believe they have as much claim to being the frontrunner as anyone. With an experienced offensive line blocking for an explosive running back and a promising quarterback, the offense should be potent. If the defense rounds into form, the Eagles could be a factor in the postseason.


8/23 — at A.C. Flora

8/30 — vs. Battery Creek

9/6 — at Effingham County

9/13 — at Wayne County

9/20 — at Valdosta

9/27 — vs. Blythewood

10/4 — Open

10/11 — vs. Bluffton*

10/18 — vs. May River

10/25 — at Hilton Head High*

11/1 — at Colleton County*

*region opponent


Despite sending a steady stream of players to the next level in recent years, Whale Branch football keeps reloading, and the Warriors hope to do the same this season.

A year after losing 19 seniors — including five who will play on Saturdays this fall — Whale Branch is nonetheless confident it will be a factor in a loaded Region 5-2A.

“We may be short on seniors this year, but the seniors we have are really confident in what we’re doing,” senior De’Arius Hazel said. “We’ve really got great chemistry, and great chemistry within a team can take you a long way.”

The Warriors hope that chemistry and the seniors’ leadership will help them mask a lack of depth, especially in the trenches, where players will be asked to contribute on both sides of the ball. Whale Branch also has to replace star running back Irvin Mulligan and its entire starting secondary.

“We’re light on depth, but I’m pretty confident our first-line players can get the job done,” coach Jerry Hatcher said.

One area where the Warriors aren’t hurting for depth, though, is at quarterback, where Henry Tome and Jaylen Reeves have been battling for the starting job. Hatcher said both the speedster Reeves and the more polished passer Tome will see time at the position.



Coach:Jerry Hatcher

Record at WBECHS:44-34 (8th season)

2018 record:7-5 overall, 2-3 region (reached second round of Class 2A playoffs)

Returning starters:4 offense, 4 defense

Offensive scheme:Split Back

Defensive scheme:4-2-5

Top returners:RB/LB De’Arius Hazel, RB/LB Jaquez Frazier, OL/DL Jahiem Fripp, K Henry Tome

Notable losses:RB/LB Irvin Mulligan, DB Jaheem Hazel, DB Ky’Shon Hipp, DB Marion Smalls, OL/DL Daquan Griswold, QB/DB CJ Brown, OL Jamari Evans, DB Taqui Polite


De’Arius Hazel, RB/LB:Hazel was a secondary option in the offense last season, garnering only 29 carries, but he averaged 6.8 yards per attempt and has shown an ability to break long runs in the preseason. He will need to be a bigger factor on both sides of the ball for the Warriors to have success this season.


Can the Warriors stop the pass?

The entire starting secondary was lost to graduation, and three of the four are playing college football. Fortunately for the Warriors, most of their region opponents feature run-heavy offenses, but they will face a couple of teams that like to air it out. The inexperienced secondary will need to get up to speed quickly and limit big plays through the air to keep the Warriors in games.


Whale Branch plays in one of the toughest regions in the state in any classification, as frontrunners Barnwell and Bamberg-Ehrhardt both return plenty of firepower from last year’s strong teams and Woodland features an NCAA Division I commit on each side of the ball. The goal for the Warriors will be to weather the storm of region play, get into the playoffs, and see how far they can go.



8/23 — at Battery Creek

8/30 — vs. Cross

9/6 — vs. May River

9/13 — at Ridgeland-Hardeeville

9/20 — Open

9/27 — vs. Philip Simmons

10/4 — at Woodland*

10/11 — vs. Barnwell*

10/18 — vs. Allendale-Fairfax*

10/25 — at Bamberg-Ehrhardt*

11/1 — vs. Battery Creek

*region opponent

Above: Beaufort Academy Eagles celebrate a 42-40 win over Andrew Jackson Academy (11-1) in the 2018 SCISA 8-man state championship.

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