Facing longtime nemesis Barnwell in the second round of the Class AA Division II state playoffs, the Bulldogs used a strong running game and a stingy defense for a 17-0 victory Friday night.
In the regular-season finale between the two schools on Oct. 26, Silver Bluff fell behind 21-0 but rallied for a 28-27 victory in overtime.
“We played a lot better tonight than we did a couple weeks ago,” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. “We ran the ball better and we challenged our kids to come off the ball, and they did.”
The top-seeded Bulldogs (10-1) will go on to play the winner of the Bamberg-Ehrhardt/Woodland game at home next week. Barnwell’s season ended with a 5-7 record.
Silver Bluff used a turnover and a hard-hitting defense to build a 10-0 lead at halftime. Barnwell fumbled the opening kickoff, and the Bulldogs pounced on it. The Warhorses’ defense held, and Silver Bluff had to settle for a short Pedro Zambrano field goal.
Both teams were solid on defense, but Silver Bluff finally got its running game on track late in the first half. A 22-yard run by Shaquez Wright, followed by an 18-yard burst up the middle by Dontay Ingram, set up Jalen Jackson’s 1-yard touchdown run.
In the second half, Silver Bluff dominated time of possession. The Bulldogs took the second half kickoff and ran more than 7 minutes off the clock, but failed to score when Lown gambled on fourth and goal inside the 10.
The defense held, though, and forced a Barnwell punt. From there, Silver Bluff needed only three plays to cover 53 yards. Myles Corbitt’s 4-yard run put the Bulldogs up 17-0 and proved to be the last score of the game.
Lown said he was surprised that his team shut out the Warhorses.
“We didn’t play that bad defensively the first game, we had a couple of turnovers and put them in some poor field position,” he said. “Tonight, they had to drive a long way and I think that was a big part of it because we’re a bend-not-break defense.”
Silver Bluff had three backs gain more than 70 yards, including Wright. The junior finished with 13 carries for 85 yards.
After struggling against Barnwell in the first encounter, Wright made sure it didn’t happen again.
“I didn’t play too good, so I had to step it up tonight,” he said, noting the Bulldogs were missing a few regulars. “We’ve got to bring this home. We’ve got to keep striving for the big one.”