With his team trailing at halftime for the first time all season, Bluffton High School coach Ken Cribb said he delivered a locker room message unlike any he's given all year.
A pair of the team's seniors followed suit, standing up to motivate teammates. Cribb admitted butterflies swirled about his stomach as he wondered how the Bobcats would respond.
How about this: A 35-point halftime to pull away for a 42-14 victory against Cane Bay on Friday night at Bobcat Stadium. The Bobcats remained undefeated at 7-0 and clinched a spot in the Class 3-A playoffs for the second straight season.
"I ain't going to lie -- I was a little nervous," Cribb said. "But they stood up like a man. It was awesome."
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None stood taller than K.J. Ford.
A sophomore defensive lineman who has seen his share of ups and downs this season, Ford played what Cribb called "easily" his best game of the season. He recorded four tackles for loss, including a pair of fourth-down stops, to lead a defense that was suddenly stout in a scoreless second half.
The Bobcats allowed only 42 rushing yards after the break after giving up 127 in the first half -- 76 of those to senior Anthony Enos. Cane Bay's workhorse finished with 38 carries for 111 yards.
"I went hard every play; I was trying to make every tackle," said Ford, who added that it felt "strange" to be trailing for the first time all season. "It felt like I was in the backfield all night."
Using its defense's momentum, the offense rolled to a five-touchdown second half after being held to one score in the opening half.
The Bobcats scored all three times they had in the ball in the third quarter, and C.J. Frazier threw for four touchdowns, giving him 26 for the season against only two picks. Dimitri Lowry caught two touchdowns; Eric Boyles and Marquis Webber each caught one and went over 100 yards.
Frazier finished 19 for 29 with 343 yards and no interceptions. Boyles added a 92-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
"Everybody knew what time it was when we into the locker room -- it was time to wake up," Webber said. "We weren't worried."
Cane Bay used a ball-control offense to build its 14-7 halftime lead. Enos carried 20 times in the half and scored once, and Davon Higgins had 10 carries for 59 yards. The rush-first attack wore down Bluffton's defense while also eating away at the clock to prevent the Bobcats' potent offense from seeing the field.
Enos said the Bobcats' defense tightened up after the break.
"They definitely had a lot more intensity," he said. "It took us out of our game. We didn't come out in the second half and do what we did in the first. But give them credit."