Beaufort’s big moment: Eagles football team eyes spot in state championship game

·4 min read

The Beaufort football team has been building for this moment since Bryce Lybrand took over the program three years ago.

Lybrand, an assistant on Beaufort’s coaching staff, was promoted to head coach in 2019 when DeVonte Holloman left to became head coach at South Pointe. He was the third coach in a three-year span but has brought stability and a new energy to the program.

The Eagles made the playoffs in Lybrand’s first two seasons, including winning a region title and a playoff game last season. But Beaufort has taken a big leap forward this year and is a win away from playing in a state championship game.

Beaufort hosts West Florence on Friday in the Class 4A Lower State championship game. The winner advances to the championship game against South Pointe or Greenwood on Dec. 2 at Benedict College in Columbia. The Eagles haven’t made it to a state championship since 2007 when they lost to Clover.

“We kind of circled this team as one that could be pretty special,” Lybrand said this week. “With Tyler (Haley) at quarterback, we made a decision three years ago to play a lot of those freshmen and now they are juniors. We played a lot of young guys that first year. We were in the playoffs that first year and played Hartsville. Hartsville coach Jeff Calabrese told us he thought we were doing things really well and that gave us confidence that we were doing things the right way.

“It was a lot of hard work, been chipping away at it so we are glad we have the opportunity we have Friday night.”

Lybrand said he has tried to keep things as normal and routine as possible this week despite the nature of the game. He is expecting a big crowd for the matchup.

“It has been 15 years since we had a lower state championship game here so I think everyone is excited and it should be a good atmosphere,” Lybrand said. “...We kind of know what is in front of us. I think our kids have handled it well and have been excited to be out, practicing on Thanksgiving..”

Senior Tyler Haley leads the offense and is a dual-threat quarterback for the Eagles. He has accounted for 24 touchdowns and is 86 yards shy of 3,000 yards of total offense this season. Running back Amariee Morris is 85 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing for the season to go along with 14 touchdowns. Beaufort’s top three receivers Kacy Fields, Zynm Odom and Reichel McCleod each have at least 600 yards or more receiving yards.

One of the strengths of the Eagles’ team might be the defense, which is allowing 10.7 points and 181.7 yards a game. Beaufort’s defense came up with the season-defining play last week in the third round win over Myrtle Beach when it knocked away a game-winning two-point conversion with a minute left in the 20-19 victory.

Alvin Wilson leads the team with 7 ½ sacks and is tied with Jack Sumner for team lead with 17 tackles for loss. Sophomore Eamon Smalls is second on the defensive line with 61 tackles.

Linebacker James Dennison leads the team with 88 tackles and tied with Jalin Porter for the team lead in interceptions with three. The Eagles’ defense is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 42 percent of their passes.

This is the second straight year Beaufort and West Florence have played in the playoffs. The Eagles won in the first round, 45-14, last season. Beaufort and West Florence both have had similar paths to the lower championship. Neither team won their region and both teams have had to win back-to-back road games to get to this point.

“There are a lot of parallels between us,” Lybrand said. “I think they probably felt pretty good going into the playoffs and same with this group. We felt really good going into the playoffs. When you get to this point, a semifinal game, you are going to play someone who is really good. We know they will be coached up so it will be a really good one on Friday.”

Coming Up

What: West Florence at Beaufort

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10 and can be purchased by going to www.beauforthigheagles.com .

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting