Bluffton High School running back B.J. Hill left the field on crutches, a serious look on his face.
Teammate and defensive end Shamiek Blackshear explained to multiple people the shoulder and collarbone injury that kept him on the sideline, without pads and a jersey, during the second half Friday. Bobcats receiver Vinny Boni didn't dress out, a broken collarbone during practice this week derailing his season before it began.
All this meant a concerned Bobcats coach Ken Cribb, despite his team's 44-0 victory at Whale Branch Early College High School to open the season.
"Yeah, it is a nightmare," Cribb said. "But my young kids stepped in and played real well."
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The Bluffton defense, without Blackshear much of the game, still held Whale Branch under 100 yards of total offense. Bobcats receiver Jack Aerni caught five passes for 50 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown.
"We wanted to have fun and get a victory," Aerni said. "Play loose, but have discipline at the same time."
The Warriors expected a stout Bobcats team. Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher said Bluffton might be better than a year ago after watching the Bobcats' scrimmage tapes.
Whatever happens, happens, Hatcher said during the week. Whatever the outcome Friday, he wanted focus to return quickly to the Warriors' remaining nine games, not the Week Zero outlier against a 4-A opponent.
He expects the Warriors to again compete for the Region 5-A title.
But first, Goliath.
Hatcher felt the Warriors were better than the 50-0 score at Bluffton last season -- too many gifted points. Some of the same issues surfaced early Friday.
Whale Branch lost three fumbles during the first half. The Bobcats blew up a muffed punt and picked up a safety on another punt attempt, with the Warriors backed up inside their 5.
"We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds," Hatcher said.
Sophomore defensive lineman Nyles Pinckney played for Whale Branch despite spraining his knee in practice and was able to get into the backfield. Hatcher credited a double robber package he borrowed from Virginia Tech for limiting Bluffton's deep balls.
But Bluffton's depth caught up, despite the injuries. Cramps began to plague the Warriors late.
"Ran out of gas," Hatcher said. "I thought we would."
Hatcher told his coaching staff to remain positive in the locker room after the game. He told players they had played Bluffton as tough for a half as many bigger schools over the past few seasons.
Bluffton could be a little thinner in the coming weeks.
Hill said he expects to miss one or two games. Blackshear will have an X-ray and be further evaluated Saturday, Cribb said.
The Bobcats have to push forward, senior defensive end K.J. Ford said.
"It just means I'm going to have to step up," he said. "It's already a lot of weight on my back now, but it's going to be more now."
Bluffton 44, Whale Branch 0
Bluffton 14 10 7 13 -- 44
Whale Branch 0 0 0 0 -- 0
B-- Gerald Roberson 15 run (Ken Mayo kick) 10:16
B -- Alex Davis 30 run (Mayo kick) 6:26
B -- Safety 8:39
B -- Jack Aerni 9 pass from Davis (Jae Middleton pass from Davis) 2:43
B -- Dheazea Smalls 12 run (Mayo kick) 2:37
B -- Terrance Heyward 18 run (Mayo kick) 11:28
B -- Smalls 38 pass from Heyward (kick failed) 3:10
First Downs 17 12
Rushes-Yards 27-134 27-40
Comp-Att-Int 10-19-0 4-13
Passing Yards 123 49
Punts-Avg 2-38 3-20
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 6-4
Penalties-Yards 10-85 6-32
Third-Down Conv 4-9 5-13
Fourth-Down Conv 1-2 0-0
PASSING: Bluffton -- Alex Hill 9-18-85, Terrance Heyward 1-1-38; Whale Branch -- Devonta Glover 4-13-40.
RUSHING: Bluffton -- Gerald Roberson 6-37, Heyward 4-31, DeQuandre Smalls 4-29, Dheazea Smalls 3-23, Alex Hill 6-13, Jawara Middleton 1-8, Shameik Blackshear 1-6, Javon Mack 1- (-1), Jack Aerni 1- (-12); Whale Branch -- Javon Gardner 4-11, Michael Dantzler 8-8, Glover 10-7, Braxton Bowers 2-9, Malik Brown 2-4, Stephon Eugene 1- (-1).
RECEIVING: Bluffton -- Aerni 5-50, Dheazea Smalls 1-38, Roberson 1-12, Middleton 1-15, B.J. Hill 1-10; Whale Branch -- Nyles Pinckney 1-15, Chavonne Simmons 1-13, Jamar Scott 1-12, Dantzler 1-9.