Alex Davis could hear the smattering of boos directed his way.
The new Bluffton High School quarterback was struggling mightily in the first half of Friday night's game against visiting A.C. Flora. He threw a pair of interceptions before halftime hit and had led the Bobcats offense to just 14 points when fourth quarter arrived.
But he never gave in.
"That's kind of what fired me up more than anything," he said. "Even though people neglect me and think that, 'Oh man, he's going to do bad like he did last week,' it's more of a motivation for me. I think about it, but I play for my team."
Instead of letting his struggles end in frustration, the junior instead directed a pair of late drives to erase a two-score deficit before diving in for a 10-yard touchdown to seal a 37-31 overtime victory and his first big win under center for coach Ken Cribb.
"He grew up a whole bunch," Cribb said. "He's young, he's got a year and a half of experience at quarterback. He's playing in the big league. He's a linebacker/fullback playing quarterback.
"He's going to take some growing pains. But I'm willing to take some lumps to get to the end of the race."
The Bobcats (2-1) got there Friday. A pair of A.C. Flora turnovers in Bluffton territory set the stage for the team's thrilling victory, as Jack Aerni hauled in a 4-yard touchdown reception with just under four minutes to go before Ken Mayo tied things up with a 20-yard field goal with 40 seconds left.
After the inspired Bobcats defense forced a stop on the Falcons' overtime possession -- which ended with Joseph Charlton's 23-yard field goal sailing wide right -- Davis ended the game on the very next play, scoring on first down from 10 yards out, on a fake field goal.
"That was Bluffton football," Cribb said. "Four years now we've had classics like that every year. I'm just glad it ended the way it did."
The Falcons (0-3) had taken a 31-21 advantage midway through the final quarter thanks to Aven Pollard's 45-yard touchdown run. But the tailback, who finished with 187 yards on 28 carries, fumbled at the Bluffton 42 as his team tried to run out the clock, setting the stage for the comeback. It was the last of four turnovers for A.C. Flora, which has lost its three games this season by a combined 14 points.
"We had to dig down deep," said Bluffton linebacker Herbert Daise, who picked off a screen pass for a 43-yard interception return in the wild final quarter. "We had to see who wanted the game."
The Bobcats' heroics avoided what could have been a 1-2 start, the first losing record in Cribb's four years as head coach. Bluffton lost last week, 23-20, after a fourth quarter rally came up short against South Effingham.
But Davis, who took his share of the criticism for the defeat, wasn't going to let it happen again.
"Everything happened the same way when we played South Effingham," he said. "We were down by 3, we got down the field. We figured out what to do. When the fourth quarter hit (against A.C. Flora) and I saw the defense get the ball, I knew we had it on lock."
Bluffton 37, A.C. Flora 31 (OT)
A.C. Flora 10 14 0 7 0 -- 31
Bluffton 7 7 0 17 6 -- 37
BLF--Jawara Middleton 9 rush (Ken Mayo kick), 9:12.
ACF--Denzel Johnson 15 catch from Brendan Greene (Jack Grady kick), 8:00.
ACF--Joseph Charlton 25 kick, 1:39.
ACF--Greene 1 rush (Grady kick), 11:39.
BLF--Laquan Washington 4 rush (Mayo kick), 5:12.
ACF-- Denzel Johnson 63 catch from Greene (Grady kick), 3:21.
BLF--Herbert Daise 43 interception return (Mayo kick), 11:18.
ACF--Aven Pollard 45 rush (Grady kick), 9:48.
BLF--Jack Aerni 4 catch from Alex Davis (Mayo kick), 3:57.
BLF--Mayo 20 kick, 0:46.
BLF--Davis 10 rush
First Downs 16 20
Rushes-Yards 46-221 42-161
Comp-Att-Int 8-16-2 12-21-2
Passing Yards 172 196
Punts-Avg 2-43 4-36
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 2-2
Penalties-Yards 7-65 6-70
Third-Down Conv 5-12 0-5
Fourth-Down Conv 0-1 0-1
PASSING: ACF -- Brendan Greene 8-16-2-172; BLF -- Alex Davis 12-21-2-196
RUSHING: ACF -- Aven Pollard 28-187, JuWan Simon 12-44, Brendan Greene 6-(-10); BLF -- Jawara Middleton 11-83, Gerald Roberson 11-32, Laquan Washington 5-26, Alex Davis 15-20
RECEIVING: ACF --Denzel Johnson 6-147, JuWara Simon 1-15, Michael Aimone 1-10; BLF -- Laquan Washington 2-51, Gerald Roberson 3-43, Jawara Middleton 1-32, Hayden Dwyer 2-32, Chance Murphy 1-22, Jack Aerni 2-16