PETTICOAT JUNCTION — For nearly three quarters Friday, Silver Bluff didn’t look like a state championship contender.
The Bulldogs fumbled three times, losing the ball twice. They committed costly penalties. And place-kicker Pedro Zambrano, normally a sure bet from close range, missed a chip-shot field goal.
Silver Bluff finally got its offense on track, scoring twice in the final 13 minutes, and the Bulldogs held off Bamberg-Ehrhardt 14-13 on a chilly night at The Bluff.
“Our defense really played great tonight.” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. “We gave up some scores, but our defense, we started three freshman in the middle of the line, but we hit tonight. That’s the hardest we’ve hit all year.”
The win sets up a rematch against Bishop England on Friday night in the Class AA Division II semifinals. This time, Silver Bluff (11-1) will be the home team.
Both teams squandered chances in the first half, but Bamberg-Ehrhardt (10-2) held a 7-0 lead thanks to Demetrius Odom’s 1-yard run midway through the first quarter. Odom’s score came after Silver Bluff fumbled on its first play from scrimmage.
Sumner Cooler’s 3-yard bootleg in the third quarter put the Red Raiders up 13-0. The point-after attempt by Matt Maxwell was good, but a dead ball penalty against the Bulldogs for simulating the snap count forced another kick. This time, Maxwell’s try missed.
Silver Bluff won the first meeting with Bamberg-Ehrhardt on Sept. 28 thanks to a field goal by Zambrano with six seconds left. The Bulldogs opened up a 28-7 lead in that game but saw the visitors rally with 22 unanswered points.
On Friday, the Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard with 46 seconds left in the third quarter when Jalen Jackson found Jaylen Lawrence open in the end zone for a 3-yard score. McKenzie Wilson thought the pass was for him and tipped it, but Lawrence made the play.
Using the spread offense, Silver Bluff marched 68 yards on its next possession. Jackson hit RJ Stallings across the middle for an 11-yard touchdown with 4:29 left to tie the score. Zambrano, like he did earlier in the year, provided the winning point.
Senior Stacy Green intercepted a pass by Cooler to seal the victory.
With lineman Gyasi Yeldell lost with a knee injury and another starter out for disciplinary reasons, Lown said he had to scramble to make personnel changes. He even thought he might have to put in another quarterback.
“We had a couple backs struggle. He (Jackson) had some sore ribs, he got beat up there in the first half,” Lown said. “It was questionable that he could play the second half, but he really came through for us.”