A week after the Bulldogs did just that against Strom Thurmond, they were determined not to do the same against Aiken.
Silver Bluff struck for two quick touchdowns Friday night, and the Class AA squad prevailed over the Class AAAA Hornets 35-7 at Hagood Stadium.
The loss spoiled the debut for new Aiken coach Brian Neal, who took over for Carey Johnson. In 2012, Neal led McCormick to the Class A Division II state championship game in only his second year as head coach.
“We played pretty good last week against Strom Thurmond but tonight we had only one turnover and never had to punt,” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. “We played pretty physical. It was good to get that.”
Silver Bluff (1-1) took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in just eight plays. Most of the damage came on Jaylen Lawrence’s 44-yard pass to RJ Stallings. Four plays later, DeAngilo Drayton took an inside handoff 9 yards for the score.
After James Jacks recovered a fumble on Aiken’s first possession, the Bulldogs needed just two plays to cover 19 yards. Shaquez Wright did the honors this time with an 11-yard burst up the middle.
“I was coming on blitz and Gyasi Yeldell did a great job getting off his block and he just met him at the mesh point,” Jacks said of the play. “The ball just popped out, I scooped it up but I wasn’t quite fast enough to score.”
After stopping Aiken (0-1) on downs, Silver Bluff scored its third touchdown on as many possessions. Lawrence scrambled out of a sack and found Wright, who ran for a 40-yard gain. That set up a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Lawrence to put the visitors up 21-0.
Aiken had a promising drive just before halftime come up empty. Nakeem Spann took a Caleb Heath screen and raced into the end zone, but it was nullified by a block in the back.
“We know it’s going to be a process. We thought we could play better than we did tonight,” Neal said after addressing his team in the postgame huddle. “To be honest, we made some mistakes and got in that 21-0 hole. I thought we were OK between the 20s but that same red zone problem we’ve had all preseason long showed up tonight. We’re just not finishing drives.”
Aiken did score on its first drive of the second half, but Silver Bluff responded with a quick touchdown of its own to keep the margin at 21. The Bulldogs added a late score after intercepting an Aiken pass.
“We stopped them a couple of times,” Lown said. “Our defense is going to get better. We’ve got a lot of young people out there.”
Neal told his young team to be prepared for Monday’s practice.
“Come to work and keep your faith,” he told the huddle. “It’s going to get better.”