PETTICOAT JUNCTION, S.C. - It didn't take long for Silver Bluff coach Al Lown to decide which achievement was more important Friday night: winning his 100th game or clinching the Region 5-AA championship.
"Oh good gosh, it's not even close," Lown said, choosing winning the region title for a sixth time after his Bulldogs defeated Allendale-Fairfax 21-6 in a battle between two of Class AA's best teams.
No. 8 Silver Bluff (6-3, 4-0 region) secured home-field advantage in the Class AA playoffs.
No. 10 Allendale-Fairfax (6-3, 3-1 region) entered the game tied with Silver Bluff for the region lead, but could not muster much offense despite having highly touted quarterback Eric Priester directing its attack.
Priester was limited to 60 passing yards and was pressured into a pair of interceptions by the two-time defending state champions. Allendale-Fairfax's running attack didn't fare much better, generating just 94 yards on the ground.
Silver Bluff defensive end Chris Wright said the Bulldogs' game plan was to keep Priester and his receivers under wraps.
"He likes to roll out on the wide end," Wright said of the side he patrols. "If I keep him contained, the linebackers can do their job."
Robert Kelly and Brandon Bussey supplied all the offense Silver Bluff would need in the first half. Kelly scored on a pair of touchdown runs, while Bussey put an end to any comeback hopes with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. His score came after Priester's 1-yard sneak up the middle brought Allendale-Fairfax within eight points at 14-6 in the second quarter.
"I thought that was the turning point," said Lown, who improved his career record to 100-27 since taking over as head coach in 1993.
Defensive coordinator Eric Hofstetter's unit did a terrific job of shutting down Priester, Lown said.
"To hold that guy to six points was excellent," Lown said. "I thought we tackled pretty well."
Less impressive to Lown was the offensive effort. The Bulldogs squandered several scoring opportunities and had five fumbles, two of which they lost.
"I was disappointed with us offensively," he said. "We had several chances to punch it in."
Silver Bluff will have a chance to work those problems out next week against rival Barnwell. The game usually has title implications, but the Bulldogs will enter the game with the region title and a playoff berth secured.
"We've got home-field advantage for as long as we're in the playoffs," Lown said. "We won't have to go on the road for a three- or four-hour trip."
Silver Bluff will take a 19-game winning streak in Region 5-AA play into this week's contest at Barnwell.
The last team to beat the Bulldogs? Barnwell, of course.
That loss came in 1998. Since then, Silver Bluff has won two state championships and won four straight region titles.
The Bulldogs wrapped up their latest title with Friday night's 21-6 victory against Allendale-Fairfax.
Silver Bluff coach Al Lown, who got his 100th career win, said the mark was a testament to his coaching staff. In his 10th season at the Class AA school, Lown has been assisted by associate head coach Keith Radford and defensive coordinator Eric Hofstetter since he came to Silver Bluff.
"You don't win unless you've got some players," Lown added.
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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