Ken Cribb has preached to his Bluffton High football players all week about not falling victim to the playoff scenarios that lie in front of them. The Bobcats have too much at stake to concern themselves with games they have no control over.
"Our focus is to go out there and try to beat the region champion," he said. "I told them there's no need to get into scenarios because too much could happen."
There are three different ways Bluffton could sneak into this year's Class 4-A playoffs. But each involves the Bobcats taking down Summerville, which arrives for the Bobcats' regular season finale with an 8-2 record and the Region 8-AAAA crown in tow.
"We'd love to go play in the playoffs," quarterback Alex Davis said. "That's everybody's goal when you first start the season off. There's a very, very good chance that we could go to the playoffs.
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"We are under a bunch of pressure right now, but we're just trying to keep calm and focus on Summerville."
A four-way log jam for the region's No. 2 spot has complicated the playoff situation. Bluffton (6-4, 2-2) thought it had assured itself a spot with last week's 40-36 win over Colleton County until Beaufort High upset Fort Dorchester.
The Patriots, along with Ashley Ridge, are also 2-2 in the region and fighting for a postseason bid.
"You can't get your mind on that, because it's nothing but a distraction," Cribb maintained. "Plain and simple. Do our part, we win. That's the only thing we've got a hand in. Everything else is out of our control. There's no need to think about it or worry about it."
A Senior Night victory over the Green Wave may not even be enough to continue Bluffton's season, provided Beaufort High and Fort Dorchester knock off Colleton County and Ashley Ridge, respectively. Both teams own the head-to-head advantage over the Bobcats and would claim a tiebreaker for the region's final playoff spots.
But if either trips up Friday, and Bluffton upsets Summerville, Cribb will get another chance to continue his successful three-year postseason run with the Bobcats.
"I think we feel more confident than anything," Davis said. "I guess we've always been the kind of team that kicks in after we know it's important. Everyone is taking it pretty OK. We're ready to go and ready for Friday to come around."
Cribb feels his team his team is trending upward at the right time. Bluffton put up a season-best 585 yards of offense last Friday despite rainy conditions, with Davis' four touchdown passes highlighting the effort. Wide receiver Vinny Boni is back from his preseason collarbone injury, while defensive end Shameik Blackshear returns after sitting out last week for undisclosed reasons.
"The kids are having fun," Cribb said. "We've put in a few wrinkles. They're growing and learning, which allows me to do more. They're excited and anxious to play Summerville. It's a good challenge."
The Green Wave features a sound spread offense which runs through quarterback Sawyer Bridges. His favorite target is 6-foot-6, 230-pound tight end Sean Smith, a North-South All-Star Game selection who is committed to Middle Tennessee State.
"They don't ever beat themselves," Cribb said. "They're solid in every phase of the game, they make very few mistakes, they don't beat themselves. They don't gamble. They do what they're confident in and their offensive line is phenomenal."
Cribb isn't counting on an error-prone Summerville team delivering the Bobcats a victory. It will instead be up to Bluffton to keep its postseason hopes alive, however dim they may be.
"It may be win or go home," Cribb said. "It may be win and go home. We don't know yet."
TONIGHT'S OTHER 4-A GAME
Colleton County (2-8, 0-4 Region 8-AAAA) at Beaufort High (7-3, 2-2), 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Beaufort High 29, Colleton County 28 (2012)
The skinny: Beaufort High is one of four from Region 8, at 2-2. With a win and a Fort Dorchester win over Ashley Ridge, Eagles would finish with the region's No. 2 seed. Colleton County's wins were over Wando and Cane Bay.
Players to watch: Beaufort High LB Jason Senn recovered a fumble and had an interception to help the Eagles defeat Fort Dorchester last week. QB Ben Vaigneur ran for his third and fourth touchdowns of the season against the Patriots.
Keys to the game: The Cougars like to throw the ball, which should challenge a Beaufort High defense that thrives on stopping the run. The Eagles' defensive backfield will have to deliver. Senior Jodran Clegg leads the team with three interceptions.