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Column: Seahawks can't overcome themselves in opener

August 25, 2012
Hilton Head Island High School



In an interview ealier in the week, first-year Hilton Head Island High School football coach BJ Payne threw out a time-honored cliche when previewing the Seahawks' season-opening opponent, Whale Branch, which entered the week with an 0-1 mark following a 50-0 loss to Bluffton.

Payne proved prophetic Friday night as the visiting Warriors did indeed show signs of improvement between their first and second games.

And after watching his team commit 12 penalties, three turnovers and a couple of critical breakdowns in the kicking game in a 29-28 loss to Whale Branch, Payne is hoping the old addage proves true where his team is concerned.

In trying to get off to a quick start, the overly-anxious Seahawks couldn't get out of their own way in the game's opening half. Unforced errors on both sides of the ball kept HHIHS from hitting stride against a Whale Branch team short on numbers but explosive in the passing game.

The good news: quarterback Michael Julian and the rest of the Seahawk offense responded well to a sloppy first half, with Julian, who completed 11-of-24 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns, flashing the arm strength and athleticism that has major college recruiters calling on the senior. 

Defensively, the HHIHS coaching staff adjusted their secondary coverages, putting a safety over the top of Whale Branch star receiver Dee Delaney, who did most of his damage (five catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns) against man coverage in the first half.

Ultimately, though, it was the kicking game that did the Seahawks in. 

With his team trailing 15-13 in the second quarter, Payne elected to go for two points following Julian's 39-yard scoring rainbow to James Sanders. The conversion failed, leaving one to wonder what chasing two points early in the game might mean to HHIHS's chances by night's end.

Payne's decision came on the heels of a botched snap on a short HHIHS field goal attempt in the first quarter.

Both sequences loomed large after Whale Branch's Nyle Pinkney blocked Colin White's extra point attempt with the Seahawks trailing 29-28 midway through the final quarter.

Instead of having as much as a five-point lead, the Seahawks trailed by a point, a deficit it wouldn't be able to overcome after the defense couldn't get a stop late in the game.

As painful as the loss was, Payne and his staff will have positives to build upon while preparing for Ridgeland-Hardeeville, which will visit the island after falling 67-0 to Bluffton Friday night. Most notably, the Seahawks showed resolve in scoring the game's final 15 points, all but erasing a 29-13 third-quarter deficit.

Perhaps improvement between games one and two actually got underway in the opener. The early stages of next week's game against another opponent HHIHS will be expected to defeat will tell us exactly how much.


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