Jackets, Eagles a clash of styles
On Friday night the North Augusta High School football team will welcome Beaufort into the Jackets Nest.
The Eagles (9-3) took care of business last week against Blythewood, winning 23-15. Beaufort was able to tame the Bengals through a heavy dose of ball control: the Eagles ran 77 plays to the Bengals’ 44. Beaufort held on to the ball for 36:19 while Blythewood only had possession for 11:41.
Of those 77 plays, 67 of them were rushing plays. Eric Blakely rushed 26 times for 152 yards, followed by Jeremy Tookes, who rushed 30 times for 83 yards and a touchdown. Overall the team had 274 yards on the ground in the win. Blakely has emerged as a force for the Eagles as well, compiling 1,354 yards on the year and 18 touchdowns in the regular season. Tookes amassed 744 yards and three touchdowns with his 5-foot-8, 135 pound frame.
Beaufort was also aided by the leg of its kicker, Brady Cormier, who kicked field goals of 21, 48 and 25 yards.
Senior quarterback Ben Vaigneur rushed 10 times for 35 yards, with three of those coming on a touchdown score. Coming into the year head coach Mark Clifford made the decision to tweak his offense to take advantage of the quarterback’s mobility. The team made a conscious effort this year to run more sweeps and read option plays.
Given the matchup against Blythewood, the Eagles will already have been heavily prepared for the North Augusta passing offense. Bengals quarterback David Israel attempted 32 passes last week only getting 14 completions. However, the Eagles proved to be vulnerable to the big play – Israel hooked up with Javon Smith for an 80-yard touchdown pass last week.
What the Jackets do have in their favor, however, is the fact that unlike Blythewood they are far more balanced. Against Laurens, with Dashawn Barnes forced out due to an injury, Willie McCloud carried the ball 23 times for 148 yards and three touchdowns. Ronald Williams, who has come on as a short yardage and goal-line weapon for the team, also had a score of his own.
The key to the game will likely come down to North Augusta getting ahead and forcing Beaufort out of its comfort zone and game plan. Should the Jackets get off to a fast start, like what they did last week – staking to a 35-3 halftime lead, with a 21-point second quarter, then the team could knock the Eagles out early.
However, should the Beaufort defense force some punts and play keep-away, the Jackets would likely need to score in a hurry.
Should North Augusta win, they would advance to play the winner of Northwestern and York. The Trojans thumped West Florence in their first round playoff game, 52-22. York upended Greenwood 42-3, to spoil a rematch of last year’s state championship game – a game Greenwood won in overtime over Northwestern, 31-24, to cap off a perfect 15-0 season.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.