PETTICOAT JUNCTION, S.C. - Abbeville coach Dennis Botts figured he could catch Silver Bluff by surprise.
So, he moved defensive back Eric Cason to running back and re-installed his team's wishbone offense - something the Bulldogs hadn't seen on film.
For Silver Bluff coach Al Lown, the story was much simpler. No matter what formation the Panthers threw the Bulldogs' way, his team couldn't tackle anybody anyway.
Abbeville, ranked third in Class AA, rushed for 327 yards in the first half, quarterback Rod Freeman finished with 214 yards and two touchdowns, and a furious rally by No. 6 Silver Bluff fell just short to give the visiting Panthers a 28-19 win.
"Silver Bluff hadn't seen (the wishbone) on tape, and it's very hard to defend it when you haven't seen it," Botts said. "But they adjusted in the second half and took it away from us."
And, In the process, the Bulldogs (1-2) nearly challenged for the lead.
Outclassed and outgained 327-86 in the first half, Silver Bluff entered halftime losing 28-7, but Lown adjusted his defense for the final two quarters.
"We just sent everybody after the quarterback," Lown said. "It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out."
While the Panthers (2-1) offense stalled, Silver Bluff quarterback Myron Gary - who completed 11 of 20 passes for 109 yards - threw two touchdown passes in the second half to cut the lead to 11 points with 7:46 remaining.
As the Bulldogs drove with less than two minutes to play, Cason - who also rushed 13 times for 106 yards - intercepted a Gary pass deep in Panther territory to seal the game.
"Some of our counter-plays opened up for us in the second half," said Lown, whose team was led by Robert Kelly's 10-carry, 77-yard performance. "We got a little rhythm going. But we're just not good enough to be a team like that unless we play perfect."
Still, the Bulldogs walked away encouraged. As bad as they played in the first half, they had a chance to steal it in the second.
"You can't take any loss happily," Silver Bluff linebacker Charles Chavous said. "But we're encouraged. We could have come out (in the second half) and laid down. But we stood our ground."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.