Are Bobcats, Rebels ready to taste their main course?

jjarrett@islandpacket.com
jjarrett@beaufortgazette.com
October 16, 2011 

Patsies. Pushovers. Cupcakes.

Whatever you call them, they're a common source of derision when a fan of one football team wants to discount another team's success.

"Well, they haven't played anybody."

And it's often a fair assessment.

Before the Bowl Championship Series, college teams used to fatten up on weak opponents -- cough, cough ... Kansas State ... cough, cough -- a little more than they do now that strength of schedule counts for something.

Much has been made of the quailty, or lack thereof, of the early-season opponents for Bluffton High School and Thomas Heyward Academy -- coincidentally, the last two undefeated teams in the area.

And while it's wise to be skeptical about assessing high school teams based solely on wins and losses, or even points for and against, criticizing coaches and players for weak schedules is going a step too far, at least in these scenarios.

In the case of Thomas Heyward, the Rebels have little or no say in who they play, because SCISAA teams' schedules are handed down from the state level. It's not their fault they had played only one team with a winning record before Friday's game against Hilton Head Prep.

When given the opportunity to prove their undefeated record was no fluke, the Rebels didn't exactly make the biggest statement against the Dolphins, but they overcame a sluggish start for an 18-13 win that keeps them on track for a region title showdown Friday against Hilton Head Christian Academy.

But the criticism levied at the Rebels' early slate is nothing compared to the venom directed toward Bluffton's breezy run to 8-0.

The Bobcats have beaten the snot out of everyone on their schedule to the tune of 494-41 heading into Friday's big game at Berkeley. Granted, they haven't faced a murderer's row, by any means. Only three of those first eight opponents have records of .500 or better, and two of those are Class 1-A teams Estill and Ridgeland.

So wondering whether these blowouts are going to do the Bobcats any good come playoff time is appropriate. Casting the blame toward coach Ken Cribb, though, is misguided.

For starters, Cribb inherited this schedule. It was in place when he replaced Jeremy West before last season, and it certainly didn't seem like a weak schedule when it was put together, considering the Bobcats had never enjoyed a winning season and had missed the Class 3-A playoffs three years in a row.

And besides, the Bobcats have done what a good team is supposed to do against inferior opponents -- with the exception of a second-half comeback against Cane Bay -- by blowing them out of the water by halftime and getting the starters out of the game.

The weak early-season schedules might come back to haunt the Rebels and Bobcats in the playoffs, or even this week, when both face huge games with region titles on the line. If that's the case, the patsies, pushovers and cupcakes will rightfully return to the forefront.

But there's nothing wrong with eating dessert first, as long as you don't spoil your dinner.

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