During the first day Ken Cribb set foot on Bluffton High School's campus after being hired as the team's coach this spring, he met with his new players. The meeting revolved around three simple ideas -- pride, character and work ethic.
"Those are the ingredients of a winning team," he said.
When the Bobcats twice rallied back in the second half Friday to defeat A.C. Flora 34-30, Cribb said he saw all three come to light.
"I think it has everything to do with those three ingredients," Cribb said. "There's your answer right there."
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The Bobcats will need them all to survive another week. They travel to top-seeded Hartsville on Friday, with the winner of the game hosting the Class 3-A Lower State championship Nov. 26.
The Red Foxes are 9-3 overall this year and went 5-0 in Region 6-AAA. After losing three of their first four to open the year, they have reeled off eight straight victories, including last week's 20-17 win against second-seeded Airport.
Hartsville and Bluffton run very similar offenses. The Bobcats have gained success using a trio of C.J. Johnson, Eric Boyles and Zachary Scott, with some help from Desmond Jenkins. The Red Foxes also use three backs to gain chunks of yards out of the Wing-T set.
"I know Hartsville well," Cribb said. "They run the ball real well. Going to be tough."
SHOOTOUT SLOW TO START
It took longer than expected for the shootout to commence between the high-scoring offenses of Hilton Head Christian Academy and Hilton Head Prep in Friday's SCISAA Class 2-A semifinal, but things eventually got rolling.
After trading touchdowns on their opening possessions, both offenses stalled for most of the first half, as star quarterbacks Luke Sirgo of the Eagles and Matt Layman of the Dolphins struggled to get into a groove.
Layman went 0-for-7 with an interception during a stretch in the first half, and Sirgo hit an 0-for-7 streak with two interceptions and a fumble before halftime.
"I think we were trying to force a few things. We weren't just taking what the defense gave us," Eagles coach Tommy Lewis said. "I think we were able to do that much more effectively in the second half, particularly in the third quarter."
Even after the scoring picked up in the second half, the turnovers remained a factor. Sirgo's second fumble gave the Dolphins a chance for a game-winning drive, but Alex Martin intercepted Layman in the end zone with 56 seconds left to seal Hilton Head Christian's 32-26 win.
"Neither team could get in a rhythm really tonight," said Eagles senior Ryan Emery, who had seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. "It was pretty crazy. I've never been in a game like this before."
NIGHT PRACTICE AHEAD FOR HARDEEVILLE
After opening last Friday's Class 1-A Division II playoff game with a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive, Hardeeville coach Blake Raley saw a few things he felt his team could exploit in Denmark-Olar's secondary.
The decision to start throwing the ball backfired though as Hardeeville quarterback Donald Scott was intercepted twice in the Hurricanes' next three drives, keeping the Vikings in the game. According to Raley, weather could have had more to do with it than Denmark-Olar's defense.
"Donald came up to me and said, 'I'm a little off tonight,'" Raley said. "It was a little cooler, a little brisker. Conditions may have had a lot to do with it. We're not used to practicing this late in the season."
Prior to this season, Hardeeville had never qualified for the playoffs. Thanks to Friday's 24-7 victory over Denmark-Olar, the Hurricanes now find themselves in the Lower State championship.
To make sure his team is prepared for Friday's game at Lake View, Raley plans to practice at least once this week after the sun goes down.
"We're going to adjust some things," Raley said. "We'll probably practice late one night this week just to get used to the coldness."
The night practice will be a first for the Hurricanes, who are led by a group of seniors that make up the school's first graduating class. Other firsts for that group include the school's first playoff win and now the first trip to Lower State.
"That's been the goal all along," Raley said. "These seniors are a special group. I've been around them since they were in fifth grade and they've been playing football since eighth grade. ... I'm glad it's them that's taking us there."
BEAUFORT HIGH LOOKS TO FUTURE
Quarterback Beau Brown said he might wrestle before baseball season. Defensive lineman Dalvin Broussard and offensive lineman Cody Beals said it was time to hit the books in preparation for college.
Beaufort High School seniors played their final football game Friday, a 33-14 defeat by Easley that knocked the Eagles from the Class 4-A Division II playoffs. Each has a plan for what lies ahead, but their absence will leave the Eagles with several holes to fill next season.
Three running backs -- Josh McPherson, Alex Simmons and Demeo Holmes -- are moving on. Standout junior D'Vonta Cohen should be back. Brown will be gone. His backup, Alex Gregory, earned praise from head coach Mark Clifford for his throwing ability and looks to be the next Eagles quarterback.
On defense, leading tackler Maliek Maldonado was only a junior this season. Of the linebackers, Kevin Gess was the lone senior. DeEndre Jefferson-Fields should be back on the defensive line. Playmakers JaClay Mixon, Davonte Green and Akeem Smalls should all be back on defense.
"We should have a good football team next year," Clifford said. "We have a lot of kids returning and some big kids off that 'B' team. The future always looks bright at Beaufort."