By Justin Jarrett
For most of three quarters Friday night, the May River Sharks did everything they needed to do to beat the Beaufort Eagles for the second straight year except get into the end zone — something that wasn’t easy to do with two of the Lowcountry’s top defenses on the prowl.
But Beaufort’s Kacy Fields found a way twice in the second half with the aid of an ill-timed May River fumble, and the Eagles escaped The Tank with a hard-fought 13-7 victory and a three-game winning streak intact.
“I love playing May River, I really do,” Eagles coach Bryce Lybrand said. “This game’s just old school and it’s physical and well-coached and the kids play hard with a lot of respect for each other. That’s the way high school football should be.”
The Sharks seemed to set the tone on the opening drive, marching 75 yards and chewing up more than half the first quarter before quarterback Tanner Macy scored from 12 yards out to cap a workmanlike series, and Tyquan Calloway made a terrific open-field tackle to stop Fields on fourth down and end Beaufort’s first drive.
The defenses settled in after that, occasionally bending but never breaking as they battled to a scoreless draw for the rest of the half. The Eagles made some noise at the end of the half and Samari Bonds lofted a nearly-perfect pass into the waiting arms of Colton Phares in the end zone on fourth-and-long, but Sharks corner Peter Nodelman forced a hand in and ripped the ball out to preserve a 7-0 halftime lead.
Beaufort took the ball after halftime and stormed into Sharks territory, but Cory Foulk forced a fumble inside the 25 and Zach Beasley pounced on it to keep the shutout intact for the time being. May River was well on its way to taking advantage and adding to the lead when the Eagles’ defense stepped up and stemmed the tide, forcing a fourth-and-2 before stuffing Jaiden Jones running behind the Sharks’ “jumbo” set to keep it a one-score game.
Then it was Kacy Fields time.
After fumbling to end the previous series, Fields ripped off four straight runs of seven yards or more, continuously fighting for extra yardage to move the chains, and finished off the drive with a 5-yard TD run to draw the Eagles even for the first time since the opening series of the game.
“That kid’s the most slept-on kid in South Carolina. I’ll never understand it,” Lybrand said, choking up. “He’s just a really good, hard-working kid, and if you’re a college coach you should take a shot on him because he’s just unbelievable.”
On the Sharks’ next offensive play, Beaufort got the break it needed. Darrion Perry never got the handle on a pitch, and it bounced right into the arms of Eagles linebacker Carter Bowersox, who took it down to the 25 and set up a 1-yard plunge from Fields to give Beaufort its first lead with 8:48 left in the game.
May River responded and drove to the Beaufort 30, but the Eagles stuffed Macy on fourth-and-2 to get it back with 2:38 remaining. They had to punt it back with 43 seconds left, but the Sharks’ last-ditch effort didn’t go anywhere, giving Beaufort a hard-earned win.
“That was a great high school football game,” Lybrand said. “It wasn’t all perfect, but it was a lot of fun and I’m proud of our guys. Hats off to them, they’re gonna have a great year this year.”
Beaufort (3-1) hosts another county foe next week when former region rival Bluffton visits Lady’s Island, while May River (1-3) hosts Cane Bay.
Justin Jarrett is the sports editor of The Island News and the founder of LowcoSports.com. He was the sports editor of the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette for 6½ years. He has a passion for sports and community journalism and a questionable sense of humor.