By JUSTIN JARRETT
From 0-5 to the cusp of a region championship, Beaufort High’s turnaround is nearly complete.
The Eagles powered their way to a third consecutive victory — and to the top of the Region 7-4A standings — with an impressive 38-21 win at Hilton Head High on Friday.
James Dagin rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns, and Daniel Phares added 136 yards and two TDs on the ground along with a touchdown pass to put Beaufort High in position to clinch the region title with a win at Colleton County next Friday.
“We’ve got one more game to win a region championship,” first-year coach Bryce Lybrand said. “That’s all you could want, is to have a chance to play for it.”
The Seahawks started the night with the hopes of earning the right to do just that, and they went toe to toe with the Eagles for most of the first half.
After Phares found Rhogue Wallace for a 5-yard TD pass on Beaufort’s initial drive, the Seahawks took advantage of favorable field position to even the score on Gaston Moore’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Thompson, who fought through a tackle to dive for the pylon.
Dagin scooped up his own fumble and sprinted in from 7 yards to cap another long touchdown drive for a 14-7 lead, but Dean Seelbach made an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown grab from Moore to again tie it.
The Seahawks nearly got into the locker room even, but the Eagles converted a fourth-and-7 with 34 seconds left, leading to Phares’ 10-yard touchdown run and a 21-14 halftime lead.
Beaufort got the ball back to start the second half, and Phares capped a scoring drive with a 17-yard option keeper as Hilton Head High’s defense struggled to stop the Eagles’ option attack after losing linebacker Eli Hickey and cornerback Christian Miller to first-half injuries.
Still, the Seahawks showed signs of life when Moore rolled to his right, absorbed a hit, and floating a perfect pass to Cole DeMarzo, who streaked 80 yards to the end zone. The depleted defense didn’t have an answer for Dagin and Phares, though, and the Eagles marched down again to set up Braden Sarathy’s 20-yard field goal.
Freshman Kacy Fields picked off Moore on the next series to effectively seal it, and Dagin added an 8-yard TD run with 1:03 left.
Beaufort’s defense showed its teeth for a third straight game, allowing only one sustained scoring drive and the one big play to DeMarzo, but otherwise limiting Hilton Head High’s offensive stars.
“The defense has been playing unbelievable the past three weeks,” Lybrand said. “They’re confident in what we’re doing … and now they’ve got a little bit of swagger to them.”
DeMarzo gave a monster effort for the Seahawks with 23 tackles (two for loss), two sacks, and a forced fumble on defense along with four catches for 108 yards and a score.
The Eagles (3-5, 2-0) can win the region outright with a win at Colleton County on Friday. The Seahawks (4-4, 1-1) need a win over Bluffton and a Beaufort loss to force a three-way tiebreaker.
Justin Jarrett is the editor of LowcountrySports.com and the sports editor of The Island News. Contact him at LowcoSports@gmail.com.
Beaufort High running back James Dagin turns the corner and looks for running room Friday at Hilton Head High. Dagin rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 38-21 win. Photo by Mary Beth Lyons