PETTICOAT JUNCTION, S.C. - His right hand was hurting, but the mental anguish for Silver Bluff senior quarterback De'Angelo Bryant was more painful.
His team was losing as time ran out in the second-round South Carolina Class AA playoff game, and Bryant could do nothing but stand on the sidelines and watch the Bulldogs' season go up in flames.
Silver Bluff turned the ball over four times - all on fumbles - and Cheraw's offensive line allowed the Braves' running backs to rush for 216 yards. Cheraw ended host Silver Bluff's quest for a third straight state championship with a 36-21 win.
Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said Bryant, his star, couldn't feel his hand after it connected with a teammate's helmet early in the fourth quarter, and the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, said he broke a blood vessel. But Bryant's feelings certainly weren't numb after the Bulldogs' earliest exit from the playoffs since 1998's first-round loss to Batesburg-Leesville.
"Coach Lown tried to teach us always to fight," said Bryant, who will make an official visit to Wake Forest today. "We pretty much did that."
Cheraw (10-2), though, didn't stop its attack.
Jermaine Harrington was the team's workhorse, rushing for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. He wasn't the only Brave to find success against the Silver Bluff defense.
Using a wishbone formation that seemed to confuse the Bulldogs (8-4) for much of the night, Dantonio Lewis - who scored a 10-yard touchdown with 2:05 left in the game - and Calvin Marshall combined for 98 yards.
"They had a real good offensive line," senior linebacker Keion Hazel said. "They've got a team, and they're athletic. They played a better game than we did."
On offense, the Bulldogs weren't much better.
Although Bryant and his replacement, Tyrone Smith, had some success through the air, combining for 127 yards and a touchdown, Silver Bluff couldn't hold on to the ball.
Cheraw was quick to take advantage, scoring 20 points off turnovers.
"That was real big," Lown said. "You can't make four turnovers in the playoffs and the opponent makes zero. They were a hot football team, a good football team. But the turnovers were key."
Turnovers forced the defense to return to the field after short rests time after time.
"When you play defense and then have to go back out there after one or two plays, it's pretty demoralizing," Lown said.
Despite all that, the Bulldogs had their chances late.
With Silver Bluff trailing 29-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Smith led the team on a 12-play, 65-yard drive before hitting Terrance Crawford for a 7-yard score on fourth-and-goal to cut the lead to eight points.
Lewis answered with a 10-yard rushing touchdown with 2:05 left to seal Silver Bluff's fate.
"You're never supposed to give up in a football game," Bryant said. "We wanted to keep fighting."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.