The last time we saw the Bluffton High football team, Bobcats players were trudging off the field at Northwestern and heading for the buses, wondering what went wrong after blowing a 10-0 halftime lead in the Class 4-A Division II semifinal.
More than eight months have passed since that night and the bitter feeling of coming agonizingly close to a second straight state title appearance appears to have passed. But if it hasn't yet for any of Bluffton players, they will get the chance to finally get back in the win column in tonight's season opener at Whale Branch Early College High School.
This season marks the debut of new quarterback Alex Davis, a dual-threat signal-caller who spent the last two years learning under C.J. Frazier. The offense is his now, and coach Ken Cribb is on record that this year's Bluffton team will be the most balanced thus far in his four-year tenure.
The big name on the Bobcats roster is no doubt Shameik Blackshear, who appears destined for the title of top prospect in South Carolina next season. The junior, a South Carolina commit, plans to wreak havoc from his defensive end position alongside fellow stalwarts K.J. Ford and Mike Jones.
That defense will get the chance to set the tone early against the Warriors, who failed to reach the end zone in last year's 50-0 defeat at Bluffton High. That was the only start of the season for Whale Branch quarterback Devonta Glover, who is back under center again in 2013 as the full-time starter.
This is an important week for Bluffton, which is on the road the first two weeks of the season. The Bobcats won't see their home opener until Sept. 6 when A.C. Flora visits in a rematch of the 2010 Lower State Championship. Bluffton travels to Georgia next week to face South Effingham.
The prediction here is that Bluffton will improve to 4-0 in season openers under Cribb. The Bobcats will try to jump on Whale Branch early with their fierce defensive line and set the tone quickly on the ground with converted safety B.J. Hill and wingbacks Gerald Roberson and Jay Middleton.
Prediction: Bluffton 48, Whale Branch 6