Silver Bluff (10-1) has gone through much of the season not worrying about what its opponents will do on the field, but focusing on what it can do on Friday nights. Tonight won't be any different for head coach Al Lown's team, as it faces an unfamiliar foe in Woodland (10-1) in the third round of the Class AA, Division II playoffs.
The Wolverines come to The Bluff off a big win over Kingstree that propelled them to the first 10-win season and first appearance in the third round of the playoffs in program history.
“We know they've got a good team, and they should be confident coming into the game. They have the second best group of athletes we've faced.” Lown said. “To be honest, we're not worried about their momentum. We have to focus on what we do and how we can continue to get better.”
Down in Dorchester, Woodland's taking a similar approach. Head coach Mathis Burnette said his team is focused on not being complacent after advancing this deep into the playoffs for the first time. Along with that, the Wolverines are working on their own game more so than worrying about Silver Bluff's talent.
“We're focusing on what we do,” Burnette said. “Because the toughest thing to do is simulate what they do in practice. You definitely can't simulate (Gyasi Yeldell) on the defensive line. He's a tough guy.”
The offensive gameplan for Silver Bluff will be the tried-and-true formula, one that has worked all season. Shaquez Wright, RJ Stallings and the run game has carried the Bulldogs this year, including in last week's 28-0 victory over Barnwell. Woodland's first-round matchup may have helped prepare it for the Bulldog's rushing attack.
“They do a lot of the same stuff we saw against Kingstree,” Burnette said. “The only difference is they do it more effectively. They don't leave open gaps or miss many blocks, so we have to be on top of our game as well.”
Wright will be coming off a 193-yard rushing performance in the playoff opener and has run for 1,233 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. Woodland will counter the rushing attack with standout defensive lineman Michael Barnett. The 6-foot-4, 239-pound lineman has been heavily recruited by major college programs and leads the team in tackles.
“We're looking for him to be big on both sides,” Burnette said. “We are especially looking for him to shut things down a bit when they run the ball.”
Despite the talent Woodland has up front, Lown likes his team's chances tonight.
“We have confidence in our offensive line,” Lown said. “We aren't going to change who we are. If they stop us, they stop us. But if we play to our potential, we should be OK.”
On defense, Silver Bluff did a solid job shutting down Barnwell and the various looks it gave last week. The Warhorses only gained 182 yards of offense – all rushing. The Bulldogs have seen many offenses this season who have success on the ground and through the air – like Woodland. Lown pointed to Silver Bluff's matchups with Strom Thurmond, Midland Valley and Edisto as some of the top talent the team has faced, which will help prepare it for quarterback Drake Knight and the Wolverines.
Knight's closing in on 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing for the year. The Bulldogs' defense won't focus too heavily on the aspect of stopping the dual-threat quarterback. Lown said that's where defenses get in trouble and forget about the receivers and some of the other threats.
The two teams will be meeting for the first time since 2007, when Silver Bluff came away with a 38-26 win.
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.
What: Class AA, Division II playoffs – third round
Who: Woodland (10-1) at Silver Bluff (10-1)
Where: The Bluff, Petticoat Junction
When: 7:30 p.m.
Last time they played: Silver Bluff defeated Woodland 38-26 in 2007
Staff file photo by Milledge Austin R.J. Stallings is one of the fastest players in the area and has made plays running, receiving and on special teams for Silver Bluff, which will play host to Woodland tonight in a Class AA, Division II playoff game.×