High School Sports

Bluffton routs HHH again, claims first region crown

C.J. Johnson (center) celebrates with his teammates Friday night after winning the Bridge Bowl against Hilton Head High in Bluffton.
C.J. Johnson (center) celebrates with his teammates Friday night after winning the Bridge Bowl against Hilton Head High in Bluffton. Sarah Welliver | The Island Packet

Alfonza Powell was one of the unlucky ones.

Part of a senior class that has waited four years for something -- anything -- to celebrate, he was stuck on the field during the biggest football announcement in Bluffton High School history.

Cane Bay had defeated Berkeley, the announcement read, and the Bobcats -- yes, those Bobcats -- were one quarter away from winning their first Region 7-AAA championship.

"I wanted to stop and celebrate, but I had to finish the play," Powell said. "I couldn't believe it. It capped off a miracle season."

Bluffton officially clinched the region title with its second blowout of rival Hilton Head High this season. Eric Boyles scored four first-half touchdowns to lead the Bobcats to a 37-0 win in the fifth annual Bridge Bowl.

It will be the first time Bluffton holds the Bridge Bowl trophy in the offseason. But the team's mind-set was in an entirely different place after the game.

The Bobcats' win, along with the Cobras' 14-7 upset at Berkeley, put the three teams in a tie for first place in the Region 7-AAA standings. Bluffton won the tiebreaker -- overall win percentage -- and will enter the Class 3-A playoffs as the region's top seed.

After not making the postseason since 2006, the Bobcats are set to host their first playoff game in school history Friday night, and they will host another if they get past the first round.

"Hard to believe it's real," Bobcats coach Ken Cribb said. "I've been thinking about it all week, just anticipating and anticipating. When it finally hit, it was like it was a dream. It was hard to really believe."

The Bobcats didn't allow much time for reality to sink in before grabbing a razor and shaving Cribb's head -- part of a promise the Bobcats coach made before the season.

It was the only hiccup in Cribb's night.

Bluffton (9-1, 4-1 Region 7-AAA) opened the game against its rival with a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. C.J. Frazier hit Boyles for a 59-yard touchdown on the Bobcats' opening drive. Boyles scored on runs of 44 and 10 yards on the next two drives and later added a 68-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give Bluffton its 30-0 halftime lead.

"I fell in love with the end zone tonight," said Boyles, who rushed for 142 yards.

For the second time this season, the Bobcats kept the Seahawks out of it.

Michael Julian completed only 4 of 13 passes for 33 yards, and he was harassed by Bluffton defenders who constantly made their way into the backfield. Hilton Head High (4-6, 2-3) didn't fare much better in its run game, totaling only 74 rushing yards on 32 carries.

The Seahawks failed to advance the ball into the red zone. They were forced to punt seven times and were hurt by a slew of negative plays. Powell was responsible for two of those -- he sacked Julian once in each half.

"We might have to look at other leadership to come in and turn this team around, because obviously I'm not pushing the right buttons," Seahawks coach Tim Singleton said. "I don't know. It's tough."

The Bobcats' turn-around has only just begun. With a home game Friday night, they will have an opportunity to win the first playoff game in school history.

They have made the playoffs twice, but have lost each time, most recently a 14-7 loss at North Myrtle Beach in 2006.

Expect that to change Friday night, Powell said.

"We know what our overall goal is," Powell said. "During the season, it's good to accomplish goals, but we're looking past these regular season goals and trying to move forward in the postseason.

"... We're not just excited to get there. We want to do some damage."