There aren’t many opportunities for a shot at redemption, much less in two weeks.
That’s the message that Barnwell head coach Eddie Moore has sent to his Warhorses as they prepare to go into Petticoat Junction for a rematch against Silver Bluff.
The Bulldogs (9-1, 5-0 in Region 5-AA) were able to escape with a victory last time, 28-27 in overtime. They were fortunate to get some breaks in the second half, including a fumble by Barnwell’s (5-6, 3-3) leading rusher Shakur Chisolm. The Bulldogs were able to score twice in the final 3 minutes to force overtime.
“They outplayed us,” Silver Bluff head coach Al Lown said. “We didn’t block good enough and we didn’t tackle good enough. We were very lucky to win last time.”
The Warhorses held a 21-0 lead heading into the half, two quarters that the Bulldogs would rather forget considering that they had trouble with ball security.
“The game came down to breaks and taking advantage of them,” Moore said. “In the first half we were able to do that. In the second half, they capitalized.”
In overtime, the Bulldogs held all of the momentum and struck first. Barnwell responded, but failed to convert a 2-point conversion that would have won the game. The victory pushed Silver Bluff’s winning streak over Barnwell to five in a row.
“At that point the crowd was into it and they had all of the momentum,” Moore said. “It came down to getting three yards or stopping them again later on. We thought we had a play that would get three yards, but obviously it didn’t work.”
Though his team won, Lown was less than enthused about their performance.
“They whipped us at the point of attack,” he said.
“We have to do a better job of blocking with our tight ends and, in particular, our running backs. We have a good defense, but we put them in bad spots all night. If you lined them up and lined us up, most people would pick them. They’re just a physically better looking team than us. The turnovers killed us.”
The Bulldogs had already wrapped up the region championship and a bye week before the game two weeks ago, which allowed them to spend last week getting healthy. Avery Corbett, the team’s starting center, will return after being involved in a car accident. His presence will be huge for an offensive line that was razor thin. It also allows Alex Graham to move back to right guard.
Barnwell had to earn its slot in this game with a win last week over Academic Magnet, a game it won 29-7.
The teams mirror one another in many ways, especially in the run game. The Bulldogs and Warhorses both want to control the clock and put together long, sustained drives with consistent first downs. Chisolm is matched by Silver Bluff’s Shaquez Wright, who finished the regular season with 1,019 yards and 14 touchdowns. But both teams also have a lot of depth at the position.
One big difference in the last game, however, was the passing of Silver Bluff’s Jalen Jackson.
“We did a good job stopping their run game, but then they got some big plays through the air,” Moore said. “They have enough athletes where you can’t just focus on one thing.”
For Lown and his Bullodgs, this will be a game where they follow the blueprint that has led to an undefeated run through the region for another championship.
“Well, we can’t have any turnovers and we have to block well,” he said. “We have to execute like we’re capable of and we can’t make the mistakes we did last time.”
Scott Rodgers is a graduate of Alvernia University and a staff writer at the Aiken Standard.
What: Class AA, Division II playoffs
Who: Silver Bluff (9-1) vs. Barnwell (5-6)
Where: The Bluff, Petticoat Junction
When: 7:30 p.m.
Previous Meeting: Silver Bluff defeated Barnwell 28-27 in overtime on Oct. 26