High School Sports

Bluffton's football potential on full display these days

First things first -- Ken Cribb made the right decision.

When you're Bluffton High School, and you've never won more than five games in a season before this year, and you have a perennial power like Berkeley on the ropes, you go for it.

When you've never even hosted a playoff game, but you're 3 yards from winning a region title, you go for it.

When your last two extra-point attempts have failed, a fact that undoubtedly has taken up permanent residence in the back of your young kicker's mind, you go for it.

When you've used almost every ounce of energy you could muster to orchestrate a comeback from a 12-point deficit, and you can tip the scales in your favor with one successful play, you go for it.

Maybe Cribb outsmarted himself by trying to win it with the "water bucket" play -- a variation on the classic "swinging gate" -- instead of just lining up and running for it, and he probably should've used one of his timeouts to let everyone clear their heads for one last shot at the upset.

But to spend too much time debating whether Cribb's decision to try a 2-point conversion for the win -- which ultimately resulted in the Bobcats' 26-25 loss Friday -- is to miss the more important detail: that the Bobcats ever put him in that position in the first place.

When I first covered the Bobcats five years ago, they were coming off a winless inaugural season, but there was a sense they would eventually be able to build a successful program.

Every coach in the county hinted that Bluffton had as many athletes as anyone around, and a growing community steeped in history and pride seemed eager for a team it could get excited about.

It took longer than expected, but Friday's result -- more than the 8-0 start, and more than the school-record 338 points (and counting) Cribb's offense has put up -- proves that day has finally arrived.

After years of failing to live up to expectations, years of losing seasons, years of meager crowds sitting on their hands, Bluffton has rallied around its Bobcats, and it probably will have the opportunity to do so at least two more times this season -- for next week's regular-season finale against rival Hilton Head High and for a first-round playoff game, assuming something totally unexpected doesn't transpire Friday night.

The catch-22 for a rising program like Bluffton in circumstances such as these is the natural inclination to categorize it as a moral victory, which is at odds with the gut feeling that it so easily could have been an actual victory.

Berkeley star Rahkeem White admitted the Stags were somewhat surprised the Bobcats pushed them to the brink.

Bluffton's players seemingly were energized by the knowledge they can, in fact, compete with the state's best.

Cribb said he felt sick and lamented the fact that being new to the situation might have played a role in his team suffering a heart-breaking loss, rather than an earth-shaking victory.

But for the Bobcats and their fans to walk away from this one with anything other than positive thoughts about their future, both in the short-term and the long-term, would be a mistake.

The Bobcats might not find themselves back in that spot every year, but they will get there again.

And they won't have to act to act like they've been there before.