15 Teams in 15 Days: Hilton Head Island football looks to regain normalcy after COVID-shortened 2020


HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – The COVID-19 pandemic impacted every high school football program in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry, but some bore a greater burden than others.

Hilton Head Island definitely came out on the unlucky side, with a season more defined by what the team couldn’t do than what they could.

“We played our first two games and then we got shut down due to COVID,” said senior linebacker Jaylen Sneed. “And then we had to play another game in two weeks. It was a lot more difficult because you weren’t with your team. And we only got a couple days of practice before that game. It was just hard to regroup after not being together for so long.”

The Seahawks only got to play three games after that COVID shutdown in October 2020 forced them to miss key dates with Lowcountry rivals May River and Beaufort. This year, the Seahawks are back to a full 10-game regular season schedule, not to mention a first game in August instead of October.

However, the impacts of that COVID-19 season still linger in training camp, where the team will have to rebuild its coordination after not being around each other as much last season.

“It was hard to get our chemistry back in after just sitting at home,” senior Jayden Gilliam said. “But this summer, hopefully we’ll get back at it and be as fresh as ever.”

Some of the Seahawk players got an early start on that, both with summer workouts and by traveling to college football camps around the southeast with head coach B.J. Payne. Stops on that summer tour include Wofford, Florida State, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Kentucky.

They provided crucial exposure and improvement opportunities for players trying to earn college scholarships.

“The more opportunity you get to show your skills in front of college coaches, the better,” Payne said. “Not just writers for organizations, but actual coaches. It gives them the chance to prove who you are as a player.”

“They taught you a lot of stuff mentally and physically and do a lot of drills that we can bring back home and work on with receivers that didn’t go,” Gilliam said. “It just all around helped us get better.”

Multiple Seahawk players told WSAV that the identity of the team would be its defense, which features Notre Dame commit and consensus Top 100 2022 prospect Jaylen Sneed.

“My commitment lets me focus a lot more on my senior year,” Sneed said. “I don’t have to worry about me calling college coaches or them calling me. I just have one goal in mind and that is to win a championship and play the best I can.”

Although Sneed is listed as a linebacker, he has played everything from defensive end to safety for the Seahawks.

Hilton Head will play the first six games of its season on the road. The Seahawks’ first matchup will be Saturday, August 21 against Wilson and conference play begins October 1 against Beaufort.

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