But amid the celebration, the Bulldogs senior, who committed to Clemson earlier this year, couldn’t fully celebrate the win.
He had Friday night’s upset loss to Midland Valley to think about.
“It was still in the back of my mind,” he said. “I hate losing.”
But Tankersley put to use his time at his future college home that afternoon. He watched sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd lead an offense that posted more than 600 total yards. From his seat in the corner of the western endzone, Tankersley decided that his high school team had the same potential as his college one.
“It was the explosiveness,” he said. “They use their speed to make big plays. That’s what we always have to do. We’re never the biggest team. In fact, every team we play is bigger than us. We’ve got to run them out and outlast them. We have to use our speed.”
Tankersley and his teammates will run into a strong opponent this Friday when they travel to Strom Thurmond for a showdown of Class AA powers. The Rebels (4-0) beat up on a larger Class AAAA South Aiken team last week and will be ready to avenge last year’s three-point loss to Silver Bluff.
“Hopefully it’ll catapult us,” Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer said after his 31-13 win at South Aiken. “We’ve got the Bluff next week and that’s always a huge, hard-fought game.”
The Rebels have won 3 of 5 meetings between the two schools in the past five years. They’ve won 17 consecutive regular season home games – a streak that goes back to the 2007 season.
“They’re really good,” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. “But we’ve been working on ourselves all weekend. We’re not working on Strom Thurmond. We’ve got to get better.”
Lown was unhappy with the team’s preseason effort that included tackling problems in an Aiken Jamboree loss to North Augusta.
But the Bulldogs rattled off three nail-biting wins to start the season – coming by a combined total of seven points – before winless Midland Valley shutout Silver Bluff 13-0 last week in a turnover-filled mess.
“We have to hold onto the ball better,” Lown said. “The first three games we had one combined turnover, but we had fumbles and dropped passes (against Midland Valley). We’re not that good of an offense to make up for that.”
Part of Silver Bluff’s challenge has been its lack of depth, which forces skill players like Tankersley and tailback A.J. Washington to play defense as well and wear down over the course of four quarters.
The Bulldogs are also dealing with the challenges of early-
season inexperience. Lown said 8 of 11 offensive starters Friday night will be sophomores.
“We have good seniors, but we’re still young,” he said. “You can look at it as the glass half full. After our (preseason) scrimmages, if you would have told me we’d be 3-1, we’d been tickled pink. Now that we’re there, there’s no reason to panic after one loss. We’re getting better.”
Strom Thurmond has more veteran players, especially on offense where eight starters returned from last year. Senior quarterback Raleigh Yeldell, a three-year starter, does most of his damage on the ground, along with tailbacks Malcolm Watkins and Darius Hammond.