PETTICOAT JUNCTION — As the final seconds ticked off the clock Friday night, the Silver Bluff coaching staff kept shouting instructions and words of encouragement.
With the Bulldogs on the short end of a 42-7 stick, there wasn’t much else to do but coach the seniors until the final whistle blew and provide an example for the returning players.
For the second year in a row, Silver Bluff (11-2) was eliminated from the Class AA Division II playoffs by Bishop England. The Battling Bishops (12-1) claimed the Lower State title and will play Abbeville next week for a state championship.
“We didn’t play very good tonight, that’s the bottom line,” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. “It takes nothing away from the season we’ve had. I’m proud of our kids. We had a lot of great things happen this year. You just have to teach a life lesson here.”
Bishop England wasted little time in building a 21-0 lead. The Battling Bishops returned the opening kickoff to the 40 and then marched to a touchdown. Nick Shiver capped the 13-play drive when he went off tackle for an 11-yard score.
Silver Bluff went three and out on its first possession, and Bishop England went on another 60-yard scoring drive. This one lasted 10 plays, and quarterback Kevin Herbst did the honors from 2 yards out.
The key sequence of the game came midway through the second quarter. Trailing 14-0, the Bulldogs mounted a drive and faced fourth and inches at the Bishop England 3. But Shaquez Wright was stuffed, and the Battling Bishops took over.
Two plays later, DeAngelo Stephenson found some daylight and outraced Silver Bluff’s defense to the end zone for a 92-yard touchdown.
Silver Bluff did get on the scoreboard before halftime when Jalen Jackson found Jaylen Lawrence for a 32-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. The spark didn’t carry over, though, as Silver Bluff lost fumbles on two of its first three possessions in the second half. Those turnovers led to Bishop England touchdowns and a 35-7 lead.
“It’s 14-0 and we didn’t stick it in and then they busted one,” Lown said. “We still came back and made it 21-7, and I said we’re still in the game. Then we turn the ball over on the first play of the second half.”
The speedy Stephenson wasn’t done yet. He broke free for another long run, this time for 58 yards and another score.
For the night, he rushed for 237 yards on just 15 carries.
Bishop England knocked Silver Bluff from the playoffs for the fourth time since 2003. Silver Bluff did win once against the Battling Bishops in 2009, but the series has tilted in favor of the Charleston school.
Lown tried to find a silver lining in the loss, and he told his players in the postgame huddle to hold their heads high.
“I don’t know if you can build off much of anything getting beat 42-7,” he said.