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Silver Bluff faces region foe in Lower State championship game

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PETTICOAT JUNCTION — As Silver Bluff’s players and coaches made their way through the postgame handshake line after Friday night’s win, the announcement came over the public address system.

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James Jacks #53 runs through drills during Silver Bluff High School's football practice, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Aiken, South Carolina. TODD BENNETT/STAFF  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
James Jacks #53 runs through drills during Silver Bluff High School's football practice, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Aiken, South Carolina. TODD BENNETT/STAFF

The Bulldogs would be at home for their next playoff game, and the opponent would be Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

A big roar went up at The Bluff. Bamberg-Ehrhardt had knocked off Bishop England, the team that had eliminated Silver Bluff from the postseason the past two seasons.

It will be the third consecutive season Silver Bluff has appeared in the Class AA Division II Lower State finals, but getting past Bamberg-Ehrhardt isn’t a given.

“They haven’t lost since we beat them, so I know they’re going to be better,” Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said after Friday night’s 35-12 win over Woodland. “It’ll be a heck of a game.”

Bamberg-Ehrhardt is one of Silver Bluff’s Region 5-AA foes, and the Bulldogs beat the Red Raiders 28-7 on Oct. 4. Lown said that was the first game back for Red Raiders quarterback Sumner Cooler, who had injured his collarbone.

“It wasn’t like the team we’ll be playing Friday night,” he said.

Silver Bluff (11-1) has won 11 games in a row after dropping its season opener at Strom Thurmond.

Bamberg-Ehrhardt (7-5) is on a six-game streak. After the loss to Silver Bluff, the Red Raiders won their four region games and have added a pair of playoff victories.

Cooler runs the spread offense and has a prime target in tight end K.C. Crosby, who has committed to play at South Carolina. He will present matchup problems for the Bulldogs, Lown said.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is take away big plays by K.C. Crosby,” Lown said. “We’ve got to stop big plays and make them run the ball.”

Silver Bluff’s defense has been strong all year, particularly in the postseason. The Bulldogs shut out Barnwell and held Woodland scoreless for three quarters.

Anchoring the defense are a pair of seniors who have started all four years: North-South All-Star selection Gyasi Yeldell, a lineman, and linebacker James Jacks.

“Two great kids,” Lown said. “They’re great people plus good football players.”

Jacks has an appointment to the Naval Academy, while Yeldell is being considered by a number of smaller schools.

While Jacks said he would have preferred another shot at Bishop England, he is happy to still be playing.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge because I know they’ve gotten better since we played them,” he said after Friday night’s victory. “Bamberg is a region opponent, so that just makes it even more special.”

A year ago, Silver Bluff defeated Bamberg-Ehrhardt twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs. Both were nail-biters.

“We figured before the season Bamberg was the team we had to beat for the region,” Lown said. “It’s come full circle playing for Lower State. It’s good for our region.”

THIS WEEK’S PLAYOFF GAMES

FRIDAY

All games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted

SOUTH CAROLINA

• North Augusta at Northwestern

• Bamberg-Ehrhardt at Silver Bluff

GEORGIA

• Marist at Burke County

• Washington County at Blessed Trinity

• Lovett at Laney

• Mt. Paran Christian at Aquinas

SATURDAY

INDEPENDENT

• Curtis Baptist vs. Robert Toombs at Mercer University, Macon, GISA Class A championship game, noon

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