PETTICOAT JUNCTION — In its first game of the season, the Silver Bluff High School football team rallied for a 14-13 victory, capitalizing on a missed extra point by its opponent in the game at The Bluff. The Bulldogs followed the exact same script, more or less, on Friday to defeat Bamberg-Ehrhardt 14-13 behind another second-half rally.
The big difference is that this win propels Silver Bluff into the Class AA, Division II Lower State championship game. That contest will also be played at The Bluff. But for the first time in more than four weeks, the Bulldogs won’t be facing a team it already beat during the regular season. It will play host to Bishop England, the team that ousted Silver Bluff from this same spot in the playoff draw a year ago.
The Bulldogs (11-1) only advanced because of another nail-biting win over the Red Raiders (10-2). Silver Bluff – the only team to beat Bamberg-Ehrhardt this season – won the regular-season matchup 31-29, when Pedro Zambrano hit a 40-yard field goal in the last minute. On Friday, it overcame a 13-point deficit, with Zambrano again scoring the decisive point. This time he did it when he drilled an extra point after RJ Stallings caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Jackson with 4:29 to play in the game.
“It’s unbelievable,” Silver Bluff head coach Al Lown said. “The two games we played with Bamberg were epic games.”
Silver Bluff’s defense, which has been shorthanded all season because of a variety of injuries, was even thinner on Friday without Gyasi Yeldell, who suffered an injury to his MCL in last week’s win over Barnwell in the second round of the playoffs. It didn’t matter. The Bulldogs came out hitting hard from the opening whistle and shut down the Red Raiders on their last drive, icing the game when Stacy Green made an interception at midfield.
“The defense played great,” Lown said. “We started three freshmen, but it didn’t matter. That was the hardest they hit all year.”
For the game, the Red Raiders were limited to 223 yards from scrimmage, with 67 coming on a touchdown drive to start the second half. Bamberg-Ehrhardt quarterback Sumner Cooler put his team ahead 13-0 when he rolled left on a designed bootleg run and made it to the end zone unscathed after a 3-yard sprint.
Other than that, the Bulldogs held their visitors in check all night. The only other touchdown they allowed was in the first quarter, when the Red Raiders started their first possession at Silver Bluff’s 25-yard line because of a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Blessed with tremendous field position, Bamberg-Ehrhardt also benefitted from a questionable pass interference call on third-and-10 that gave the drive new life and was eventually capped off by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Demetrius Odom.
“All the breaks were going their way,” said Silver Bluff linebacker James Jacks, who played a tremendous game. “But this team doesn’t stop fighting. Against Barnwell, (in the last game of the regular season) we came back from down 21-0. We had the confidence we were going to come back and we executed and gave a great effort. We played our hearts out.”
In the first game, Odom and fellow running back Devondree Williams were dominant. They combined to rush for 274 yards and three touchdowns on 50 carries. The Bulldogs held them in check in the rematch. Odom had 19 carries for 48 yards and the score while Williams was slightly more productive, with 17 runs for 78 yards. Their combined average of 3.5 yards per carry was well below the 5.5 they gained in the regular-season contest. They didn’t get much help from the passing game, as Cooler only completed 3 of 9 passes for 63 yards and was picked off twice.
“We filled some holes it was a credit to them,” Lown said of his defense.
The Bulldogs used a balanced attack on offense to rally in the second half. It used a five-play drive to break through on the scoreboard late in the third quarter. Jackson hit Jaylen Lawrence with a 3-yard touchdown pass that was tipped by teammate McKenzie Wilson. The drive also benefitted from a personal foul on Bamberg-Ehrhardt. It was one of four penalties on the Red Raiders in the second half, three of which were drive-sustaining personal fouls.
The final personal foul came on Silver Bluff’s go-ahead scoring drive. It was a nine-play possession that featured five passes, including the strike from Jackson to Stallings. The Bulldogs moved away from their traditional Wing-T formation in the fourth quarter, opting to go to the spread.
“We made up some things and got some scores,” Lown said.
The move paid off and Jackson had a solid game. He completed 8 of 16 passes for 111 yards and the two scores. He was complimented by a balanced rushing game, that was led by Shaquez Wright’s 94 yards on 15 carries. Overall, the Bulldogs ran for 204 yards as a team.
“I was just going through my options and seeing the open man,” Jackson said, crediting his line for giving him time. “This means a lot.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.
BE 7 0 6 0 – 13
SB 0 0 7 7 – 14
BE–Demetrius Odom 1 run (Matt Maxwell kick good) 7:25.
BE–Sumner Cooler 3 run (Maxwell kick failed) 7:55.
SB–Jalen Jackson 3 pass Jaylen Lawrence (Pedro Zambrano kick good) 0:46.
SB–Jackson 11 pass RJ Stallings (Zambrano kick good) 4:29.
BE–Devondree Williams 17-78, Demetrius Odom 19-48-1TD, Sumner Cooler 3-6-1TD, Kevin Crosby 1-23, Sean-Paul Morais 3-7, Lan Hiers 1-(-2).
SB–Shaquez Wright 15-94, RJ Stallings 7-55, Myles Corbitt 5-28, Ladarise Williams 3-20, Jalen Jackson 7-7.
BE–Sumner Cooler 3-9-63-2INT.
SB–Jalen Jackson 8-16-111-2TD.
BE–Garrett Zeigler 1-38, Kevin Crosby 1-21, Landon Sandifer 1-4.
SB–Jaylen Lawrence 3-51-1TD, RJ Stallings 2-26-1TD, McKenzie Wilson 1-15, Shaquez Wright 1-10, Myles Corbitt 1-9.
SB–Jalen Douse 1, Stacy Green 1.