Early returns say Bluffton might be kinda good

August 21, 2011 

Under ordinary circumstances, any analysis of the first game of a long season is bound to teeter toward hyperbole.

But no matter how outrageous the claim or absurd the conclusion drawn from Bluffton High School's 76-0 win against rival Hilton Head High on Friday, it would be tough to top what actually transpired.

Namely, the Bobcats' widest margin of victory and the Seahawks' most lopsided loss in history.

The score matched the aggregate total in Bluffton's two wins over its rivals last season, running the tally over the past three meetings to 152-0. And it prompted the obvious debate over whether the Bobcats went out of their way to -- say it with me -- run up the score.

The answer, of course, is yes. A team doesn't score 76 points by accident, and it was clear the Bobcats wanted to prove something -- and it was a nice bonus that they could do so at their rival's expense.

Bluffton coach Ken Cribb essentially said as much in his post-game comments, saying it's not just about winning anymore for his Bobcats.

"We want to play well," Cribb said. "We want to excite the crowd."

Seahawks coach Tim Singleton summed it up by saying it "spiraled out of control" -- and that was just the first half, when Bluffton took advantage of three Hilton Head High turnovers to take a 29-0 lead after a quarter and padded the cushion to 57-0 by halftime.

Yikes.

With that said, running up the score is not a black-and-white concept, and although the Bobcats didn't exactly try to run out the clock in the second half, neither did they do anything worthy of outrage.

Most of the damage was done before halftime, and the general consensus on running up the score is that the first half is fair game.

Bluffton threw exactly one pass in the second half -- an important distinction considering the Bobcats could use all the reps they can get to sharpen the passing element of their new pistol offense. Most of the players on the field for Bluffton in the second half were subs, many of whom are fighting one another for position on the depth chart and playing time down the road, so you can't expect those kids to go half-speed.

Singleton and Seahawks fans ought to know something about that. After all, Hilton Head High is just two years removed from hanging a 55-21 defeat on Bluffton and three years removed from putting a 57-12 whipping on a Stall team coached by Cribb.

Were they running up the score? That was debatable then, just as it is now.

The simple fact is the Bobcats were just that much better than the Seahawks on Friday night. The tackling woes that hampered Hilton Head High a year ago were still prevalent, while the Bobcats' new-look offense was efficient and explosive.

"We're way ahead of schedule," Cribb said. "We're so far ahead, it's crazy."

The other factor to remember is that the Bobcats are loaded this year and have realistic expectations of another trip to the Class 3-A Lower State finals, if not beyond. But they are looking at a narrow window. They're in their final season before moving to Class 4-A, and an opportunity like this might not come along for a while.

"We're a lot better than we were (last year)," Cribb said.

Hyberbole? It's hard saying after one game, but after what we saw Friday, that seems like a reasonable claim.

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