The sting of last year’s 21-0 loss to Bishop England in the Lower State championship game has not worn off for Silver Bluff.
It didn’t go away during summer practices, and it didn’t rub off during a season and playoff run filled with thrilling games.
The Bulldogs will get their shot at redemption Friday night when they play host to the Battling Bishops in a rematch. At stake is the Class AA Division II Lower State title and a berth in the championship game.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game for a year,” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. “Last year they had a better team than us. And they’ve got a really good football team now.”
Bishop England (11-1) defeated Lee Central 31-22 to reach this stage. Silver Bluff (11-1) squeaked by Bamberg-Ehrhardt 14-13 after trailing much of the game.
Lown said his team matches up with the Battling Bishops more favorably this time.
“Last year they had a really good quarterback,” he said. “I think we’re better than last year.”
Both teams use a double wing formation on offense, but Lown said Bishop England runs a lot of option plays that utilize fullback Griffie Loy and wingback DeAngelo Stephenson.
On defense, Bishop England’s 5-2 scheme is “real sound,” Lown said. “They don’t make many mistakes.”
Silver Bluff lost two of three fumbles in the first half of last week’s win against Bamberg-Ehrhardt. That was unusual, Lown said.
“That’s something we’ve done a great job all year with,” he said. “We haven’t thrown an interception all year, but we don’t throw it much. We average less than a fumble (per game). That wasn’t us.”
Silver Bluff quarterback Jalen Jackson threw two touchdowns in the final 13 minutes to pull out the win over the Red Raiders.
“We came out and swallowed our pride in the second half,” Jackson said. “We let the first half go.”
While the Bulldogs had success through the air last week, don’t expect them to stray too far from their running game. Shaquez Wright, Myles Corbitt and RJ Stallings have combined to rush for nearly 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Lown hopes to get lineman Gyasi Yeldell, who missed last week with a knee injury, back for Bishop England.
“Yeldell is still a question mark,” Lown said. “Jalen Jackson (ribs) was really tender the other night. This time of year, we’ve lost some guys for sure, but we’re OK right now.”
Lown is thankful that the game is at home and not in Charleston, which is where the Bulldogs’ season ended a year ago.
“It helps not getting on a bus and having to go three hours,” he said.
The Bulldogs will gather today for a morning practice, then enjoy Thanksgiving knowing there is still football to be played.
“We’ll go for an hour or something, then let the kids go home and be with their families,” Lown said. “It’s a neat feeling to be practicing on Thanksgiving.”