Early in the Bluffton High School football team's season-opener Friday, Demetrius Smalls caught a pass on what appeared to be a routine slant pattern.
Three defensive backs for Whale Branch Early College High School converged, but Smalls beat them to an opening, racing to a 35-yard score.
That's the separating speed Bluffton coach Ken Cribb said is tough to pick up from film study. Whale Branch developed its devensive plan during the week, executed the way coach Jerry Hatcher wanted and still watched Bluffton run away with a 50-0 victory at Bobcats Stadium.
"That's the thnig I like about our offense," Cribb said. "If you're alert and paying attention, you'll have some success. It depends on what they're trying to take away. You've just got to take advantage of what they give you. They gave us the middle and some backside stuff."
The matchup between a Class 4-A and a Class 1-A team played out about as expected. Cribb substuitued liberally during the second half.
Whale Branch, in its third season, was without quarterback Brandon Morton, who Hatcher said suffered an injury during a scrimmage when his helmet was ripped free and sat Friday as a precaution.
His backup, sophomore Devonte Glover, showed off a strong arm at times. But the Warriors were limited with what they could run with Glover at the helm.
And both times Whale Branch drove inside Bluffton's 20-yard line, an interception halted the drive.
"We couldn't run any of our counter action, because he hasn't been there enough," Hatcher said. "That's our fault as coaches. He could only run the trap one way. I think the trap would have helped us some. Maybe not, as good as Bluffton was."
The Bobcats rolled early.
Quarterback C.J. Frazier threw four touchdown passes and ran for another, a solid start for one of the state's most prolific quarterbacks in 2011. Smalls added a 65-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
But the 2012 debut wasn't all smooth.
Bluffton was flagged 10 times for 105 yards, with much of the damage from personal fouls. Game officials, sensing chippiness early, cracked down.
"I guess everybody was excited," Smalls said. "It was the first game. It feels good to get back on the field. We've got to calm down a little more."
Hatcher said he was glad the way the Warriors continued to play hard during the second half, even if many of the Bobcats starters were sitting. Receiver Dee Delaney caught four passes for 116 yards to lead the Warriors.
Hatcher said he panicked when Bluffton jumped out to a 14-0 lead, that he switched out of what the Warriors had worked on during the week. The scheme was fine, he would find out. Coaches identified poor tackling as a bigger culprit.
"We were in position a lot," Hatcher said. "We just can't friggin' tackle," Hatcher said. "We're going to be back next week. We're going to learn how to tackle at Whale Branch, I can guarantee you that."
Hatcher and Cribb talked at midfield after the game about upcoming opponents and how each team looked in the opener.
Cribb said he wanted the Bobcats to start strong.
"I felt like they let up a little too soon," he said. "I wanted to play a good hard half. The second quarter hit, and they started pulling up a little bit."
Bluffton 50, Whale Branch 0
Bluffton 29 14 7 0 -- 50
Whale Branch 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Bâ€" CJ Frazier 3 run (Viny Boni run) 9:33
Bâ€" Marquis Webber 31 pass from Frazier (Mallie Sprouse kick) 6:53
Bâ€" Demetrius Smalls 35 pass from Frazier (Sprouse kick) 4:28
Bâ€" John Trerotola 3 fumble return (Sprouse kick) 4:04
Bâ€" Smalls 65 pass from Frazier (Sprouse kick) 10:25
Bâ€" Jaquan Campbell 12 fumble return (Sprouse kick) 9:33
Bâ€" Gerald Roberson 7 pass from Frazier (Sprouse kick) 6:54
Whale Branch Bluffton
First downs 6 16
Passing yards 124 245
Comp-Att-Int 5-20-2 8-14
Rushing 21-23 29-117
Penalties-yards 6-50 10-105
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-0
Punts-avg 6-28.2 2-39.5
Passing: Whale Branchâ€" Devonte Glover 5-20-124-2. Blufftonâ€" CJ Frazier 8-12-245, Alex Davis 0-2.
Receiving: Whale Branchâ€" Dee Delaney 5-124. Blufftonâ€" Demetrius Smalls 3-115, Marquis Webber 3-98, Gerald Roberson 2-18, Tykeem Major 1-14.
Rushing: Whale Branchâ€" Braxton Bowers 10-22, Vinny Boni 2-25, Michael Dantzler 4-11, Trey Nelson 1-4, Glover 5-2. Blufftonâ€" Webber 2-50, Deonte Stevenson 5-22, Roberson 2-18, Major 3-14, Alex Davis 6-4, Frazier 6-3, B.J. Hill 1-19