NORTH AUGUSTA -- It's almost unimaginable even to think that Silver Bluff and Aiken could step on the field together, even in a jamboree, and not play with passion.
The two heavyweights threw out their class differences and played 18 minutes of grind-out football at the Aiken County Jamboree on Friday night at North Augusta High School.
Aiken came in ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA, while the Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in Class AA. In the battle of two of the area's top squads, Aiken slipped away with a 7-6 victory, after Silver Bluff's DeAngelo Lincoln kicked an extra point wide with less than a minute to play.
"You can tell it was a lot of intensity from both sides," Silver Bluff head coach Al Lown said. "I was pretty pleased. Normally you don't take these games too seriously, but when you're going up against Aiken, one of the toughest teams in the state, you have to get up."
It was the Hornets who got up first after senior quarterback Corey Ready hit all-state receiver Brian Staley for a 40-yard reception, which Staley reeled in between two Bulldog defenders. Senior running back Antwan Smith ended the drive with a bulldozing 26-yard scamper to give Aiken the quick 7-0 lead.
But Silver Bluff's defensive secondary would make good on the mistake. Sophomore free safety D'Angelo Bryant picked off Ready late in the quarter to set up a final Bulldog drive. With less than 40 seconds remaining, Silver Bluff was faced with fourth-and-13 when senior quarterback Jamie Williamson connected with a darting Bryant, who finished the 30-yard touchdown run with a dive into the end zone.
And even though Lincoln's point-after attempt failed, it didn't interrupt the celebrating Bulldog team, which, like Aiken, is expected to compete for a state title this season.
"He's going to be something special," Lown said of Bryant. "I was glad that we were able to stick in there with them like we did. I don't feel like we gave up that much. They've got some players. Staley's catch was unreal. It's hard to defend plays like that."
South Aiken toppled Ridge Spring-Monetta 14-0 behind senior quarterback Kyle Findley's two touchdown passes. The senior first connected with Carson Young for a 12-yard touchdown, then hit Terrence Smith for a 53-yard score as the Thoroughbreds flashed signs of a run-and-gun offense.
Williston-Elko and Midland Valley showed off their running games as Travis Mays put the Mustangs on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run. Steven Brown's 2-yard touchdown late in the quarter pulled the Blue Devils even at 7-7, which was the final score.
North Augusta got off to a fast start on Wagener-Salley, going up 7-0 after Elbert Walker returned a blocked punt for 22 yards on the War Eagles' first drive. But while the War Eagles managed to pile up just 7 total yards in the quarter, the Jackets offense also showed little progress.