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Silver Bluff rides defense past Mullins, into next round

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PETTICOAT JUNCTION, S.C. — Silver Bluff’s defense has the Bulldogs one win away from the school’s first state championship appearance in a decade.

The Bulldogs held Mullins in check Friday night, limiting the Auctioneers to just 61 total yards of offense, and held on for a 21-7 victory at The Bluff.

Silver Bluff coach Al Lown and his players had to sweat out a slim lead late in the game, but Tyler Fishalow’s 35-yard touchdown run with 1:44 to play sealed the victory for the Bulldogs (9-3).

Mullins (7-6), which upset Woodland a week ago to advance to the third round of the Class AA Division II playoffs, did not have a passing attack and could do very little to run the ball against Silver Bluff’s swarming defense.

The Bulldogs credited their defensive coordinator, Eric Hofstetter, with coming up with a solid game plan.

“He watched a lot of film and told us who can do what (for Mullins),” senior lineman Blake Robbins said.

Added free safety Cordrea Tankersley: “The defense is great. Coach Hofstetter puts us in position to make plays.”

Silver Bluff came into Friday night’s game having allowed six points in its past three contests. It’s likely the Bulldogs would have shut out the Auctioneers if not for a high snap that punter Pedro Zambrano couldn’t reach.

The miscue put the Auctioneers on Silver Bluff’s 6-yard line, and two plays later Justin Elliott ran in from the 1 to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-7.

“Other than that we played really well,” Lown said. “We thought they were going to throw more against our shorter (defensive backs), but they really didn’t challenge us on that. I was kind of surprised. Defense was the key tonight.”

Silver Bluff scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter in unconventional fashion to take a 14-0 lead at halftime. The first was set up by a fourth-down conversion from Tankersley to a leaping McKenzie Wilson that covered 30 yards. R.J. Stallings went in from the 2-yard line untouched on the next play.

After holding Mullins, Silver Bluff got another big play when Fishalow broke off a 43-yard run to put the Bulldogs at the 6. But holding and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties backed Silver Bluff to its own 30. On second-and-goal, Shaquez Wright burst up the middle, kept his balance and raced into the end zone.

Fishalow’s score late in the fourth quarter was set up by a Mullins penalty. The Auctioneers had held Silver Bluff and forced a punt, but too many men on the field cost Mullins and allowed the Bulldogs to pick up a first down. Two plays later, Fish­alow put the game out of reach.

Up next is a formidable road test. Silver Bluff will travel to Charleston, S.C., to play Bishop England in the semifinals. Bishop England is the top-seeded team in the Lower State. The two schools have a history: The Battling Bishops knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs in 2003 and 2004.

SILVER BLUFF 21, MULLINS 7

PLAY OF THE GAME: McKenzie Wilson made a leaping catch on a fourth-down play that set up Silver Bluff’s first score.

STAR OF THE GAME: Silver Bluff’s Tyler Fishalow rushed for 104 yards and broke open the game late with a sprint into the end zone.

WHY SILVER BLUFF WON: The Bulldogs’ defense allowed 0 passing yards and kept Mullins to just 61 yards on the ground.

WHY MULLINS LOST: The Auctioneers turned the ball over three times and allowed Silver Bluff to break off several big plays to score or set up touchdowns.

NEXT: Silver Bluff at Bishop England, 7:30 p.m. Friday.


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