There won't be another chapter added this year to Bluffton's magical postseason story.
The Bobcats were dropped, 38-28, by Summerville Friday night, leaving them out of the playoffs for the first time under fourth-year coach Ken Cribb. It brought to a close a memorable run that saw Bluffton earn a state championship berth in 2011 and another pair of final four appearances in 2010 and 2012.
"It definitely hurts, man, to know that it's over now," a teary-eyed K.J. Ford said. "I don't even know what to say."
Even a victory would not have aided this year's hard-luck Bluffton bunch, as Beaufort High and Fort Dorchester both won Friday night to ensure the Bobcats started their offseason regimen early.
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"It's a motivator, it really is," junior quarterback Alex Davis said. "It means we have to get ready for next season. It's just like another loss, but this time, we're going to lose a couple more people and expect to get stronger."
Davis was one of several new faces that emerged in the lineup this season for Bluffton, which struggled following the departure of offensive superstars such as C.J. Frazier and Marquis Webber. The unit never seemed to develop the chemistry previous teams had, and they struggled to gain much traction in Region 8-AAAA.
The team averaged nine fewer points per game this season en route to just a six-win campaign, a mark last year's group reached by Sept. 21. The Bobcats also lost to rival Hilton Head Island High for the first time in five years and dropped region games to Beaufort High and Fort Dorchester, a pair of teams they beat in 2012.
"I honestly can't put my finger on it," senior Jawara Middleton said. "Everybody on the team, I think, tried their best. I guess it just wasn't our year. We can't do anything about that. We played our hearts out."
It was Middleton who helped stake Bluffton to an early advantage, as his 92-yard punt return in the first quarter set up a 1-yard touchdown run from B.J. Hill that gave the Bobcats an early 14-0 advantage.
But Summerville (9-2) churned up the Bluffton defense over the next three quarters, as the Green Wave outscored the Bobcats 38-7 into the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Quarterback Sawyer Bridges led the charge with a methodical 17 of 31 performance in which he threw for 333 yards and three scores.
"We knew to win this game we would get a higher seed in the playoffs, so it was a big game for us," he said. "And we knew they were going to come out hard, because it was their last game of the season."
Bluffton struggled to get much going following its hot start. Davis completed just 21 of his 44 attempts for 185 yards, an average of just 4.2 yards per throw. It came after he conducted a 14-play, 5:14 drive to open the game, which Gerald Roberson capped with a 7-yard touchdown run.
"Our guys have got a lot coming back, especially in the skill positions," Cribb said. "And they grew. The last two weeks, I thought we played some incredible offense. And we have some kids on defense who are coming back that are really coming along."
Cribb is hopeful his team will return to the postseason once again in 2014, a place it had made a name for itself over the last three seasons. For now, though, the Bobcats will return to the weight room in order to work off the bitter taste of a disappointing 2013 campaign.
"I saw a bunch of baby faces (this year), a bunch of new kids that played JV football," Cribb said. "You've got to have depth, you've got to keep it going. It's hard to replace that many talented kids that we had."
Summerville 38, Bluffton 28
Summerville 3 10 11 14 -- 38
Bluffton 14 0 7 7 -- 28
BLF--Gerald Roberson 7 rush (Ken Mayo kick), 6:46.
BLF--B.J. Hill 1 rush (Mayo kick), 4:47.
SV--David Kennedy 36 kick, 2:29.
SV--Johnston McCurry 7 catch from Sawyer Bridges (Kennedy kick), 7:09.
SV--Kennedy 22 kick, 0:17.
SV--Chris Felder 2 rush (Donnell Bryan catch), 9:10.
BLF--Jack Aerni 26 catch from Alex Davis (Mayo kick), 7:30.
SV--Kennedy 34 kick, 5:09.
SV--Donnell Bryan 31 catch from Bridges (Kennedy kick), 10:59.
SV--McCurry 26 catch from Bridges (Kennedy kick), 2:28.
BLF--Vinny Boni 16 catch from Davis (Mayo kick), 1:24.
First Downs 25 17
Rushes-Yards 51-176 23-137
Comp-Att-Int 17-31-1 21-44-1
Passing Yards 333 185
Punts-Avg 3-41 7-32
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-25 1-5
Third-Down Conv 10-17 7-16
Fourth-Down Conv 0-1 1-1
PASSING: SV -- Sawyer Bridges 17-31-1-333; BLF -- Alex Davis 21-44-1-185.
RUSHING: SV -- Chris Felder 30-111, Darrell Ford 6-30, Sawyer Bridges 6-16, David Coccoli 8-13, Johnston McCurry 1-6; BLF -- Gerald Roberson 9-59, Laquan Washington 4-32, Vinny Boni 2-29, B.J. Hill 5-9, Alex Davis 2-5, DeQuandre Smalls 1-3.
RECEIVING: SV -- Donnell Bryan 6-99, Johnston McCurry 4-81, Sean Smith 3-57, Cameron Burnette 2-43, David Coccoli 2-27, William Luck 1-19, Sawyer Bridges 1-7; BLF -- Vinny Boni 5-61, Jack Aerni 7-58, Laquan Washington 4-50, Gerald Roberson 4-13, B.J. Hill 1-3.