Three weeks after playing for the Class 3-A state football championship, Bluffton High School players and coaches sill haven't had much time to reflect on their team's record-breaking season.
Many players transitioned to basketball. Head coach Ken Cribb prepared for and coached on the Shrine Bowl staff. And linebacker Michael Grant started in the all-star game.
But given a moment, in the quiet confines of a school deserted for the holiday break, three of the Bobcats' key components reflected on a 14-1 season, which ended with a loss to South Pointe in Clemson's Memorial Stadium.
"I never thought it would be this amazing," quarterback C.J. Frazier said. "It's crazy when you think about the things that we did."
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After a breakout season in 2010, the Bobcats managed to top themselves. And so for a second consecutive season, the Bobcats have swept The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette's postseason football accolades.
Cribb is our Football Coach of the Year, Frazier earned Offensive Player of the Year, and Grant -- the Shrine Bowl's defensive most valuable player -- is our Defensive Player of the Year.
Offensive Player of the Year: C.J. Frazier
When Cribb introduced tweaks to his offense before the season, a change to a more pass-happy attack, no one benefited more than Frazier.
The light bulb went on at a seven-on-seven tournament during the summer in Columbia, when Bluffton surprised a group that included Class 4-A squads like Summerville and Fort Dorchester to win the event.
Frazier was the catalyst in a system that thrived on timing. He went on to throw for 56 touchdowns, most in the state and second-most in state history. He piled up more than 3,500 yards and, perhaps most impressive, only eight interceptions in 202 pass attempts.
"(Cribb) put the game in my hands, and I knew if I did my job, we'd win the game," Frazier said. "And I'd rather the responsibility be on me. That's a good position to be in."
Frazier's development might not be over. Cribb's plan for the offseason is to mold Frazier into a stronger, faster athlete.
It sounds as if the Bobcats are preparing Frazier to add more wrinkles in 2012.
"Hopefully I'll be able to run the ball a little more next year, so we can expand the offense," Frazier said. "More option stuff, things like that."
Whatever the system, Frazier believes the Bobcats will be primed for another run during his senior season, after Bluffton moves up to Class 4-A.
A guard on the basketball team, Frazier said he hasn't thought much yet about his plans after high school. Still one more year to go, after all. But the seed is there.
"I have the same dream as anybody else," he said.
Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Grant
Grant only needed the stage.
He knew others on the Shrine Bowl roster had already committed to colleges, were primed to play big-time college football. Grant's own status was up in the air, a slew of interest from smaller schools but no big fish yet.
Grant made the most of his opportunity, finishing with nine tackles and two sacks to earn most valuable player honors on the defensive side. He also played on punt returns, punts and kickoffs. He started the game on defense, came out for the second series and didn't leave the field again.
"To play against the best people in the state and come out with the MVP award, I guess it proves I've got some kind of talent, that I could play with a college football team," Grant said.
For those who watched Grant all season, the performance was only confirmation of his nose for the ball. The senior linebacker finished with 141 tackles for the Bobcats, 40 more than his closest teammate.
Grant's season has earned interest from numerous Football Championship Subdivision schools, Cribb said. Coach and player are hoping the Shrine Bowl performance nets a big latecomer.
"I knew coming into the season I didn't have a lot of people looking at me at all," Grant said. "So coming into the season, I wanted to make a statement. With my teammates pushing me, I knew I had to be a leader."
Coach of the Year: Ken Cribb
Bluffton experienced few problems with its Wing T offense during Cribb's inaugural season at the school. And so a change before his second season might have raised some eyebrows.
But adding the pistol formation and throwing the ball around worked awfully well for Bluffton, which managed to improve on what was a stellar 2010 season.
"We liked what we did have," Cribb said. "That crazy thought in my head worked out pretty good."
Cribb's concern before the switch was that the core running plays the Bobcats leaned on the previous season might not prove as effective in the new scheme. But he said the three best plays from last season also worked the best from the new formation.
"Everything I hoped it would do, it did," Cribb said. "The things I was worried about were not a factor."
Timing was key, and it was small breakdowns in timing Cribb pointed to as the source of some struggle during the state championship loss to South Pointe. But the title game appearance was Bluffton's first. The high-powered attack carried them that far.
Now, for another encore.
All the talk is of Bluffton's move to Class 4-A and how the Bobcats will fare. Cribb and Bluffton players are confident.
"That's our goal, is to go back and win it next year," Cribb said. "No excuses. We've been there, seen it. Having six starters back on both sides and some quality kids coming up -- I feel like the way we work, we'll be ready."
THE ISLAND PACKET/BEAUFORT GAZETTE 2011 ALL-AREA FOOTBALL TEAM
Coach of Year -- Ken Cribb, Bluffton
Offensive Player of Year -- C.J. Frazier, QB, Bluffton
Defensive Player of Year -- Michael Grant, LB, Bluffton
QB: C.J. Frazier, Bluffton, Jr.
(3,577 pass yds, 58 pct., 56 pass TD, 8 INT)
Comment: Bobcats coaches feel state's leading passer could get even better
RB: D'Vonta Cohen, Beaufort High, Sr.
(834 rush yds, 14 TD)
Comment: Senior split time with a number of backs but still made his mark
RB: Jerry Scott, Bluffton, Sr.
(958 rush yds, 21 rush TD, 8.6 avg.; 610 rec. yds, 9 rec. TD)
Comment: New addition proved great sidekick to Bobcats' passing attack
WR: Dimitri Lowry, Bluffton, Sr.
(1209 rec. yds, 23 TD, 18 avg.)
Comment: HH Prep transfer quickly became Frazier's top target
WR: Jordan Broussard, Beaufort High, Sr.
(826 rec. yds, 23.6 avg., 5 TD)
Comment: A big-play receiver when the Eagles needed a change of pace
RB/WR: Eric Boyles, Bluffton, Sr.
(1039 rec. yds, 14 rec. TD, 444 rush yds, 6 rush TD)
Comment: 2010 Offensive POY finished with one more TD than a season ago
OL: David Ratliff, Battery Creek, Sr.
Comment: "Dually" helped propel a Dolphins run game that was at times a bright spot during a tough season
OL: Michael Sulka, Bluffton, Sr.
Comment: Long-snapping guru should find a future for his unique skill
OL: Kyle Weaver, HHCA, Sr.
Comment: Region player of year anchored both sides of line for Eagles; Will play at The Citadel
OL: Rob Dennis, Beaufort High, Sr.
Comment: Eagles center and prolific tweeter earned all-region recognition
OL: Dylan Powell, HH Prep, Sr.
Comment: A steady force on both sides of the line for the Dolphins, also did fair as punter
DL: Wesley Scott, Ridgeland, Sr.
(91 tackles, 25 TFL, 12 sacks)
Comment: Defensive end is Miami of Ohio-bound
DL: Raheem Williams, Hilton Head High, Sr.
(101 tackles, 19 TFL, 5 sacks)
Comment: Versatile senior again proved a force
LB: Dominque Riley, Hardeeville, Sr.
(110 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 fum. rec., 2 INT)
Comment: Has verbally committed to Newberry
LB: Maliek Maldonado, Beaufort High, Sr.
(107 tackles, 8 TFL, INT)
Comment: Eagles' leading tackler for a second consecutive season
LB: Michael Grant, Bluffton, Sr.
(141 tackles, 24 TFL, 7 sacks, 5 INT)
Comment: Shrine Bowl MVP on defense looking for an FBS home
LB: Corey Stoner, Bluffton, Sr.
(112 tackles, 15 TFL, 2 sacks, INT)
Comment: Another ball-hawk on stout Bobcats' unit
LB: Trey Nelson, Whale Branch, Jr.
(117 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fum. rec.)
Comment: The new-look Warriors relied again on Nelson to lead them in tackles
DB: Lamond Williams, Hilton Head High, Sr.
(104 tackles, 16 TFL, 3 sacks, 7 forced fumbles)
Comment: Two-time all-area pick had knack for knocking the ball loose
DB: Tyron Mikell, Ridgeland
(82 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 INTs)
Comment: Two-time selection again among the Jags' leaders in picks, receptions
DB: J.D. Tuten, Thomas Heyward, Jr.
(77 tackles, 2 INTs)
Comment: Starred on both sides of ball for Rebels
DB: Jeremy Scott, Bluffton, Jr.
(83 tackles, 4 INTs)
Comment: Corner proved a great fit after gravitating from Ridgeland
P: Kyle Clark, Beaufort High, Sr.
Comment: A special teams weapon, pinning opponents inside the 10 and booming unreturnable kickoffs
K: Mitchell Stewart, Beaufort High, Sr.
(34 PATs, 8-12 FGs, 52 long)
Comment: Booted four field goals, including 52-yarder, during first half against Goose Creek
All-Purpose: Ryan Day, Thomas Heyward, Jr.
(1604 rush yards, 25 rush TD, 110 rec. yds, 4 rec. TD, 36 yd. KO ret. avg., 95 long, 2 KO ret. TD)
Comment: Big-play threat in every aspect of the game
Battery Creek -- RB Jayron Sneed, RB Javon Livingston
Beaufort Academy -- RB/DB Jack Griffith, RB/DB Billy Dailey, OL/DL Hunter Bradshaw, QB Gibson Achurch
Beaufort High -- DL DeEndre Jefferson-Fields, RB/LB/PR JaClay Mixon, LB Clint Wright, WR/RB/QB Luke Smith, TE Stephen Baggett
Bluffton -- RB Zach Scott, LB Rogan Ferguson, LB Kyle Waddell, DL Ladarius Hughes, DL Josh Black, DB Khalil Mitchell, OL Austin Chittum
Hardeeville -- OL/DL Landon Johnson
Hilton Head Christian -- WR Alex Martin, QB Caleb Lewis, RB/QB/DB Brad Meccariello, RB Tyler Chisholm, LB Clay Oliver, OL/DL Cole Malphrus, OL Nick Borghi, LB Zach Reynolds
Hilton Head High -- QB Michael Julian, WR/DB Adam Orischak, LB Jacob Lewis, DL Robert Stevens, OL Justin Jenkins
Hilton Head Prep -- DB Austin Baker, K/P Colin White, RB Teron Daley, OL/DE Marc Halseth, LB Jeremy Haidon
Ridgeland -- RB Torray Amlett, QB/RB Xavier Capers, OL Aaron Watson
Thomas Heyward -- TE Bryan Lee Wade, LB Nick Keiffer, WR Dylan Crosby, OL/DL Joe Laycock, OL Nick Ashcroft
Whale Branch -- WR Dee Delaney, WR Andre Watson, QB Brandon Morton, RB/KR Josh Fields, LB Davon Mack, DB Frank Washington