AIKEN - Despite last year's win at Silver Bluff, South Aiken entered this year's game against the Bulldogs with something to prove.
Could the Thoroughbreds win back-to-back contests against its Aiken County rival for the first time in more than a decade? Could South Aiken, erratic at times this year on defense, shut down Silver Bluff's powerful running attack?
The Thoroughbreds answered with an emphatic yes, in the form of a 24-0 victory, that was heard loud and clear Friday night at the Stomping Grounds.
It was the first time Silver Bluff had been held scoreless since it lost the 1999 Lower State Championship game to Batesburg-Leesville, 23-0. Since that loss, Silver Bluff had scored in 46 consecutive games and won back-to-back state championships in 2000 and 2001.
"Any time you get a shutout it's a great game," South Aiken coach Dan Pippin said. "Our defense did a great job."
The Thoroughbreds (4-1) held the Bulldogs (2-3) to just one first down and 35 yards rushing in the second half.
"We got beat by a better football team tonight," said Silver Bluff coach Al Lown, whose team leads the overall series 12-8. "South Aiken was well prepared. What I was disappointed in was up front. They just ran the ball right at us."
Fuller ran for 93 yards, while fullback Wade Arnold racked up 82 yards.
"The line played good tonight," said Fuller, who ripped off several long runs in the first half as South Aiken built a 14-0 lead. "They were there when it was time."
Pippin, who lost star lineman Jerome Dunbar off last year's playoff squad, said the Thoroughbreds' line is one of the smallest in Class AAAA. But, he said, the group excelled Friday night.
"The guys did a good job," he said. "And (quarterback) Byron Bush did a great job of making his reads."
Silver Bluff, ranked No. 6 in Class AA, recovered an onside kick attempt to start the second half, but that momentum quickly subsided when South Aiken held the Bulldogs on fourth down. After getting the ball back, the Thoroughbreds drove 66 yards in 10 plays to go up 21-0 on Arnold's 1-yard run.
After that, South Aiken's defense held the Bulldogs in check the rest of the way, never allowing Silver Bluff any closer than midfield.
Silver Bluff begins region play next week with a homecoming game against Jasper County, the preseason favorites to win Region 5-AA.
"Jasper's going to be a big game for us. Especially after what happened to us tonight," Lown said. "It's going to be a mental challenge this week."
Pippin will take the Thoroughbreds to T.L. Hanna next week for a nonconference game before opening up region play Oct. 9.
"It's exciting right now because it gets us on right track heading into AAAA schedule," Pippin said.
Plus, the win over a respected program like Silver Bluff is a boost for South Aiken.
"You've got to know they won two of the last three state championships," Pippin said. "It's a lot of fun to beat them."
SOUTH AIKEN 24, SILVER BLUFF 0
Silver Bluff 0000-0
South Aiken 7773-24
SA-Xavier Madison 4 run (Chad Smith kick), 1:15
SA-Wade Arnold 6 run (Smith kick), 7:24
SA-Arnold 1 run (Smith kick), 6:17
SA-Smith 42 FG, 3:37
First Downs 918
Passing Yards 2327
RUSHING-Silver Bluff: Robert Kelly 13-52, Wayne Canty 9-30, Rueben Legrand 8-48, Lawrence Boyd 3-5, Travis Williams 4-12. South Aiken: Wade Arnold 17-82, Byron Bush 5-23, Chris Fuller 13-93, Michael Glover 6-34, Ross Philbeck 1-2, Xavier Madison 5-11, Chad Smith 3-21, Leland Abner 2-2.
PASSING-Silver Bluff: Myron Gary 3-17-0 for 23 yards. South Aiken: Byron Bush 3-10-0 for 17 yards; Xavier Madison 1-3-0 for 10 yards.
RECEIVING-Silver Bluff: Aquila Patterson 1-22, Wayne Canty 1-10, Rueben Legrand 1-(-4). South Aiken: Mike Brown 1-6, Troy Bailey 1-7, DaShawn DeLoach 1-4, Bernard West 1-10.
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.