High School Sports

Bluffton grinds out win over Lake Marion, still undefeated

The usual flash took the night off. The glamor took a backseat to grind-it-out football.

But pretty or not, they all count the same. And Bluffton High School earned another tally in its win column.

The Bobcats opened their Region 7-AAA schedule with a 27-12 win against Lake Marion on Friday night, increasing their school-record start to 6-0 this season.

Impressively, they did it without the benefit of the big play. Lake Marion held the Bobcats to just one play of more than 20 yards -- C.J. Johnson's 39-yard touchdown run in the second quarter -- and forced Bluffton to find another way to move the football out of its Wing-T offense.

The Bobcats settled for small chunks of yards for four quarters. Only C.J. Johnson topped 100 yards rushing in the game, and he reached 104 on the night's final play.

"People are figuring us out -- they're looking for those big plays," Bobcats coach Ken Cribb said. "(Lake Marion) did a good job of how they defended us.

"But I felt better tonight than I have before because we didn't try to force it, and we took advantage of what they gave us."

Bluffton barely outgained the Gators in total yards -- just 323-308 -- but its defense won the turnover battle.

The Bobcats (6-0, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) forced four turnovers, including three in the first half, each of which ended a lengthy Gators' drive. Lake Marion fumbled at the Bobcats' 2-yard line on its opening drive, which cornerback Tony Burns recovered in the end zone. Two drives later, the Gators again fumbled the ball to Bluffton while in a goal-to-go situation.

Anthony Smith ended the first half by picking off Lake Marion quarterback Chris Jenkins in the end zone to preserve the Bobcats' 13-0 lead.

"If we didn't get the fumbles, it's a whole different ballgame," Burns said. "The ball rolled our way tonight. We made plays when we needed to make plays."

Bobcats return man Desmond Jenkins was no exception. Following the Gators' first score of the night -- a 10-yard touchdown run from Desmond Martin to open the second half and cut the lead to 13-6 -- Jenkins ran back the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown. He was also named the school's homecoming king at halftime.

The Gators (3-3, 0-1) stayed within distance most of the second half, thanks to the connection between Chris Jenkins and wide receiver Mike Williams. The duo hooked up six times for 207 yards. A big pass play led to Jenkins' 13-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 20-12.

"Honestly, he's a monster," said Burns, who had the task of guarding Williams most of the game. "In the film, we didn't see too much of him. He was a surprise. That was a Christmas present right there. They kept him under wraps."

Eric Boyles helped limit the damage, scoring on an 8-yard end-around to give the Bobcats a 27-12 lead in the fourth quarter and secure the region-opening win.

The Bobcats will travel to Cane Bay next week in search of a 2-0 start in Region 7-AAA. The Cobras knocked off Battery Creek, 53-0, on Friday night.

"We took a big step tonight," Boyles said. "It's a big push, especially with the fans we had behind us. We got to 1-0, but now we're looking at 2-0. We have to keep on going. That's how we look at it."