Next week might be the biggest week of the season. But this week isn’t next week.
So Johnny Waters made sure his team understood in the locker room before kickoff, speaking especially to the large share of youth the Hurricanes are leaning on, that the only opponent that mattered right now was the one immediately at hand. Considered the message well received.
First Baptist shut down Cardinal Newman, 42-7, Friday on James Island.
The SCISA AAA No. 2 Hurricanes will carry an unblemished 5-0 record to top-ranked defending state champion Hammond next week in Columbia.
“This kind of game can be dangerous. We’re so young we had to really be sure that we were focused on this week only,” First Baptist head coach Johnny Waters said. “Next week is next week. It’s a big game. But we weren’t overlooking this week. We had to make sure we took care of Cardinal Newman first.”
First Baptist forced Cardinal Newman into six turnovers. It was the lowest scoring game for the Cardinals this season and fewest points the Hurricanes have allowed an opponent.
Senior defensive tackle Devin Ray scooped a fumble and rumbled three yards into the end zone to open a 21-0 Hurricanes advantage with less than three minutes to play in the first half. Defensive end Mikey Blandin recovered a fumble on the ensuring Cardinal Newman possession that led to a 41-yard touchdown pass from Will Daniel to Sincere Brown that sent the Hurricanes into halftime with a 28-point cushion.
“We were a little sluggish early but our defense got us going,” Waters said. “Our defensive line, they’re pretty good, aren’t they?”
Hurricanes defensive tackle Matthew Reid plucked a loose ball out of the air and returned it 45 yards to open a 35-0 lead four minutes into the second half. Cardinal Newman finally ended the shutout with a 3-yard touchdown run from Shayne Monsanto three minutes later. McKay Wilson answered for First Baptist two minutes into the fourth quarter with a 38-yard catch and run to the end zone as part of a six-catch, game-high 103-yard night for the senior wideout.
“McKay doesn’t get enough credit for how good he really is,” Waters said. “McKay is as good of a route runner as you’ll see. He makes some kind of big play every week, you just don’t hear as much about it.”
First Baptist was down five starters and lost another in the game. The Hurricanes top three running backs were all injured, leaving them with two defensive backs sharing carries out of the backfield. Both of them scored, Omaro Asby from 1-yard out for the Hurricanes’ first touchdown in the opening quarter and Don McNeil from 3 yards out early in the second quarter.
“We’re banged up,” Waters admitted. “But guys are stepping up.”
With Cardinal Newman now behind them, Waters could allow himself to look ahead. Hammond is 2-0 against in-state competition this season. The Skyhawks beat Ben Lippen by 35 points and Pinewood by 56. They’re loaded with top-flight prospects. They met First Baptist, then two-time defending state champions, at state last year and walked away with a 33-point win. Waters took a long exhale before beginning to address the task now at hand.
“Look, they’re a good team, really good. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We gave them one pretty good game last season and one not-so-good. We believe in the team we have though. That’s all we’re focused on right now.”