Above: Beaufort High School running back Amariee Morris (21), shown here against West Ashley earlier this fall, has been the spark for the Eagles’ offense all season. Photo by Bob Sofaly.
By Wes Kerr
After slaying Myrtle Beach up in the Grand Strand and crushing West Florence in front of a packed home stadium, the Beaufort High Eagles have earned their way to Benedict College for Thursday’s Class 4A title bout.
You couldn’t have asked for a more compelling storyline, as South Pointe’s DeVonte Hollman faces off against his former team and Bryce Lybrand, whom he brought to Beaufort as an assistant four years ago.
As the two familiar faces prepare for the showdown in Columbia, let’s take a look at some key players on both sides in the 2021 Lowco football season’s grand finale.
Amariee Morris, RB, Beaufort
When his number was called on Friday night, the Eagles’ talented back rose to the occasion every time, punching in four touchdowns to lead a dominant offensive showing. Morris has been the catalyst all season long to spark Beaufort’s dynamic offense, using his tremendous vision, power, and acceleration to hit the holes and burst downfield for big gains. But Friday may have been his best game yet.
With an enormous credit to his offensive line, Morris gashed an outstanding Knights defense, displaying his elite agility and strength to break tackles before showing off his speed on a back-breaking 27-yard touchdown run. If Morris can find success early on Thursday, it will force the Stallions to defend the run, which can open up the ability for Tyler Haley to do some damage downfield with Zyrin Odom, Kacy Fields, Michael Dennison, and McLeod Reichel.
James Dennison, LB, Beaufort
It’s hard to choose just one player from a high-flying Beaufort defense, but Dennison has stood out as a major factor over these past few weeks to help his Eagles reach the state title game. The senior linebacker did a bit of everything for Lybrand’s spectacular unit on Friday, wrapping up tackles to help stop talented runner Terry Mckithen while impressing in pass coverage in key spots during the contest.
He continues to give that extra effort on every snap, and provided a massive spark when his team needed it the most. After West Florence recovered a surprise onside kick in the first half, Dennison got the ball back for the Eagles on the very next play, tipping a Deuce Hudson pass before John Asher Howell picked it off.
He’s been a phenomenal leader of his defensive group, and should bring his high motor, physical play, and dedication to Columbia on Thursday as he looks to cap off his Beaufort football career with a state championship.
Ja’Quan Thompson, RB, South Pointe
The Eagles were able to limit McKithen’s production on Friday night, and the run defense will have to be at the top of its game again in order to come home with the hardware. Thompson put on a dazzling show in the Upper State final against Greenville, displaying his impressive power and explosiveness with an incredible 133 yards on just 15 carries. The senior back has been a monster of a challenge for opponents to bring down this season, and it will take a terrific effort from Eamon Smalls, Alvin Wilson, and a hungry Beaufort defense to wrap up a dynamic ball-carrier with proven big-play abilities.
Quan Peterson, CB, South Pointe
If you followed hoops season this winter with us on LowcoSports.com, this name may sound familiar. It was Peterson who led the Stallions to their stunning comeback over Hilton Head High in the 4A basketball state championship game this past March. Using his quick hands to swipe the ball away, Peterson rattled off five points in the final two minutes to snatch the lead before calmly sinking a pair of free throws to complete the rally.
His championship mentality has carried over to the football field where he’s led a talented Stallion defense. After committing to play football at Syracuse this past summer, Peterson put his terrific quickness and athleticism to action on the field, using his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame to rack up tackles and shut down traffic through the air. He picked off a pass to seal the Stallions’ victory this past Friday, and he will be one to watch both on defense and potentially as a kick returner on special teams.
It’s been an incredible football season in the Lowco, and we’re still not done yet. The Beaufort Eagles are heading up to Benedict College on Thursday night to play for it all, and #TeamLowco will be there to provide all the coverage of this historic state championship game. With an explosive offense and a light-out defensive unit, the Eagles are primed for a memorable night on South Carolina’s biggest stage.