A change in classification was about the only thing different for the Bluffton Bobcats this season.
Everything else remained the same. The Bobcats reeled off a third straight 12-win season, advanced to the state semifinals yet again and set a bevy of marks on the offensive side of the ball.
And now, they've swept The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette offensive and defensive players of the year awards for the third consecutive year.
Quarterback C.J. Frazier took home his second consecutive offensive MVP award this year after guiding the Bobcats to a 12-2 record in their first season in Class 4-A while senior Rogan Ferguson became the third straight Bluffton linebacker to win the defensive MVP award, joining Lewis Black and Michael Grant.
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"The most important thing for me was not to prove people wrong but to prove to my teammates that I would be there every single play," said Frazier, who finished his career with 33 victories as a starter. "That was the most important thing to me. I didn't want to let them down, I wanted them to know that no matter what I was going to be on the field to battle with those guys each and every play."
Offensive Player of the Year: C.J. Frazier
A broken collarbone in each of his first two years of high school, coupled with a 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame, left C.J. Frazier with something to prove.
"Ever since then, I've been real determined to show people that I'm not too small to be able to play," the quarterback said. "Or I can't take the punishment of playing every game. I tried to emphasize that point."
If his numbers didn't prove that, his physical nature surely did. The senior signal-caller once again did it all for the Bobcats en route to another final four appearance in the state playoffs, and no game better emphasized that than in a loss to Summerville. Frazier nearly lifted his Bobcats from the dead that night by throwing for nearly 500 yards despite taking a beating in the backfield, which included seven sacks.
"It just doesn't matter," coach Ken Cribb said. "He's always hungry to do more. ... There's not a selfish bone in his body. He was all about spreading the wealth and making sure we were taking advantage of our opportunities."
There was apparently a lot of wealth to share. Frazier threw for 3,080 yards, 38 touchdowns and just seven interceptions this season while completing 61 percent of his passes. He finished his Bluffton career with over 7,000 passing yards, 100-plus touchdowns and three straight appearances in the state semifinals.
"There couldn't have been a better situation with him," Cribb said. "He's someone who has the talent, has the work ethic, he knows what we do and has the passion. That's been just a great joy for me."
Frazier said he has come to the realization that his decorated career with the Bobcats is over. While he still suits up for coach Brett Macy and the basketball team, it hit him that his time with football team was over when he began to tutor his successor at quarterback, sophomore Alex Davis. Frazier will likely continue his football career with either Newberry or Averett (Va.) University.
"Ever since the first day I've tried to start helping him I've realized it," Frazier said. " ... I've had to see all (my teammates) go through it each year. They're still all my best friends. They've told me to keep working hard and there's nothing I can't do."
Defensive Player of the Year: Rogan Ferguson
Given all of the offensive weapons at his disposal, Bluffton coach Ken Cribb would have a relatively easy time selecting the first player in a pick-up game at the park.
"(If) I got first pick I'm picking Rogan (Ferguson)," he said. "He makes you better immediately. His attitude, his toughness, you couldn't ask for a better defensive player ever. He brings everything to the table: strength, speed, tenacity."
Cribb's first pick wouldn't have been C.J. Frazier, the quarterback who shattered records in his three years as a starter. It wouldn't have been receiver Marquis Webber, who was selected to the North-South All-Star Game. And it wouldn't have been end Shameik Blackshear, who already has a bevy of SEC and ACC offers to his name as a sophomore.
It would be Ferguson, the Bobcats' consistent linebacker who proved to be a terror to opposing offenses in 2012.
"No doubt about it," Cribb said. "People respect him, not only his presence ... but his play. He can back up everything he says. I don't know a soul who would ever question him, to be honest."
Ferguson established Bluffton's new single-game tackle record with a 25-stop performance against Goose Creek in the second round of the playoffs. He finished 14 tackles shy of the school record, held by Lewis Black, and likely would have cruised past that mark had he not missed two games.
He was held out of the season opener against Whale Branch with a torn hip flexor and missed the playoff opener against West Florence with a concussion.
"I put my mind to something and I achieve it," Ferguson said. "I'm in the weight room every day and when I'm on the football field it shows."
The senior averaged nearly 12 tackles per game and finished with a team-high 143 stops on the year, 20 more than the Bobcats' second highest player in Khalil Mitchell. He also chipped in 15 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two recoveries, eight quarterback hurries and an interception.
"He was a grown man playing young men," Cribb said. "He's just different, and I think every kid on that defense will tell you that. We have a lot of playmakers and impact kids on that defense, for sure 10, but he doesn't try to do anything for show ever. They're going to respect him.
"If he's not on the field, we don't have the same confidence as when he is on the field."
It's that leadership that set him apart from his teammates this season. That's impressive considering the Bobcats' boatload of defensive standouts like Jaquan Campbell, B.J. Hill, Anthony Smith, John Trerotola and Jeremy Scott.
"I show them respect to get their respect," Ferguson said. "I'm there for them if they need to talk or if they need help."
THE ISLAND PACKET/BEAUFORT GAZETTE 2012 ALL-AREA FOOTBALL TEAM
Coach of the Year -- Jerry Hatcher, Whale Branch
Offensive Player of the Year -- C.J. Frazier, QB, Bluffton
Defensive Player of the Year -- Rogan Ferguson, LB, Bluffton
First team offense
QB: C.J. Frazier, Bluffton, Sr.
3,080 pass yds, 61 pct., 38 TDs, 7 INTs
Comment: Senior finished his stellar career with more than 7,000 passing yards, 100-plus touchdowns and three appearances in the playoff semifinals
RB: Khalil Lewis, Hilton Head High, Jr.
1,703 rush yds, 8.6 avg., 12 TDs
Comment: Rising senior will carry the load in 2013 after breaking the school's single-season rushing record this year
RB: JaClay Mixon, Beaufort High, Sr.
1,687 rush yds, 6.5 avg., 20 TDs
Comment: Senior became the Eagles go-to back when depth became an issue early in the season.
WR: Marquis Webber, Bluffton, Sr.
73 rec., 1,190 yds., 16.3 avg., 15 TDs
Comment: North-South all-star game selection proved to be the deep-ball threat for Frazier this season.
WR: Dee Delaney, Whale Branch, Sr.
35 rec., 899 yds., 25.7 avg., 13 rec. TDs
Comment: North-South selection emerged as the Warriors' big-play threat, also returning three punts and a fumble for touchdowns
OL: Yerko Castedo, Bluffton, Sr.
Comment: Shared Bluffton's offensive lineman award with Austin Chittum after being selected to the all-Region 8-AAAA team.
OL: Clay Oliver, Hilton Head Christian, Sr.
Comment: The two-way standout helped deliver the Eagles' second consecutive state champion after anchoring both sides of the ball for coach Tommy Lewis.
OL: Caleb Gee, Beaufort High, Sr.
Comment: Mixon running behind Gee was a staple of the Eagles' offense
OL: Max Ford, Whale Branch, Jr.
Comment: Helped lead a thin Warriors' line and open holes for coach Jerry Hatcher's split-backs rushing scheme
OL: Justin Frazier, Battery Creek, Sr.
Comment: Left tackle counted on by coach Jim Shuman to be the bulldozer and move anyone in front of him
TE: Stephen Baggett, Beaufort High, Jr.
18 rec., 372 yds., 4 TDs
Comment: Led the team in touchdown catches and earned praise from opponents for blocking ability
ATH: Deo'Vonte Doe, Ridgeland-Hardeeville, Jr.
1,379 rushing yards, 6.9 avg., 13 TDs
Comment: Speedy All-Region 6-AA back put up numbers despite lack of passing game.
First team defense
DL: Shameik Blackshear, Bluffton, Soph.
97 tackles, 17 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 TDs
Comment: The sophomore, already with several FBS offers to his credit, could be headed for the state's top ranking after a big season in 2012
DL: Poona Ford, Hilton Head High, Jr.
154 tackles, 44 TFL, 10 sacks
Comment: Was a force and a bright spot for the struggling Seahawks defense this season and will anchor the unit as a senior
DL: K.J. Ford, Bluffton, Jr.
62 tackles, 14 TFL, 4 sacks
Comment: Shared Bluffton's defensive line award with Blackshear and also rushed for four touchdowns on goal line situations
DL: Willie Doe, Battery Creek, Sr.
107 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 sacks
Comment: Limited snaps on offense helped the 6-4, 230-pound senior stay fresh
LB: Rogan Ferguson, Bluffton, Sr.
143 tackles, 15 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 4 FF, 2 FR, INT
Comment: Led the Bobcats in tackles despite missing two games while also registering a 25-tackle effort against Goose Creek
LB: Tyrick Spicer, Whale Branch, Sr.
8 sacks, 2 FF, 2 FR
Comment: Moved from defensive end to linebacker during the season and didn't miss a beat
LB: Clint Wright, Beaufort High, Sr.
96 tackles, 13 TFL, 2 sacks
Comment: Eagles' second-leading tackler found a way to get to the ball carrier, no matter who stood in the way
DB: Anthony Smith, Jr., Bluffton, Sr.
41 tackles, 9 PD, 8 INTs
Comment: Earned the Bobcats' Ball Hawk award for his ability to find the football, as his eight picks were easily a team high.
DB: Jeremy Scott, Bluffton, Sr.
90 tackles, 4 TFL, 8 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD
Comment: Proved to be one of Bluffton's top defensive backs after a steady and consistent 2012 season.
DB: Raheem Cooper, Battery Creek, Jr.
85 tackles, 8 INTs, 3 TDs
Comment: The All-Region 6-AA selection turned three turnovers into touchdowns.
DB: Zach Brown, Beaufort High, Sr.
99 tackles, 2 INTs
Comment: Safety led the Eagles in tackles
UTIL: Yuneek Crittendon, Battery Creek, Jr.
49 tackles, 35.9 KO return avg., 2 return TDs, 1,185 rushing yds., 18 TDs
Comment: Dolphins' defensive hyrbid, running back and kick returner a threat to score from any position
First team special teams
P: Mallie Sprouse, Bluffton, Sr.
38.4 avg., 11 inside 20, 1 TB
Comment: Punter was consistent for the Bobcats in their transition to Class 4-A and frequently flipped the field after the Bluffton offense stalled.
K: Brady Cormier, Beaufort High, Soph.
31-32 PATs, 7-9 FGs, 48-yard long, 20 touchbacks/37 KOs
Comment: Young kicker another in a long line of strong legs for Beaufort High
All-purpose: Ryan Day, Thomas Heyward, Sr.
21.8 KO ret avg.; 21.7 Punt ret. avg., TD; 2,441 rushing yds., 9.39 avg.,40 TDs; 58 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 Def. TDs
Comment: Turned in an amazing season no matter where he was on the field.
Second team offense
QB: Michael Julian, Hilton Head High, Sr.
RB: DeAndre Johnson, Battery Creek, Sr.
RB: Tykeem Major, Bluffton, Sr.
WR: Adam Orischak, Hilton Head High, Sr.
WR: Demetrius Smalls, Bluffton, Sr.
OL: Tyler Wilson, Beaufort High, Sr.
OL: Will McCutchen, Hilton Head Christian, Sr.
OL: Kareem Singleton, Ridgeland-Hardeeville, Sr.
OL: Austin Chittum, Bluffton, Sr.
OL: Nick Keiffer, Thomas Heyward, Sr.
TE: Isiah Sloan, Battery Creek, Jr.
ATH: Jamario WIlliams, Hilton Head Christian, Sr.
Second team defense
DL: Nyles Pinckney, Whale Branch, Fr.
DL: Osano Sanders, Ridgeland-Hardeeville, Sr.
DL: Reed Shindell, Hilton Head Christian, Sr.
DL: John Padgett, Thomas Heyward, Sr.
LB: Jason Green, Battery Creek, Jr.
LB: Amar Wilkins, Ridgeland-Hardeeville, Sr.
LB: John Trerotola, Bluffton, Sr.
DB: Brad Meccariello, Hilton Head Christian, Jr.
DB: B.J. Hill, Bluffton, Jr.
DB: J.D. Reichel, Hilton Head Christian, Sr.
DB: J.D. Tuten, Thomas Heyward, Sr.
UTIL: Teron Daley, Hilton Head Prep, Jr.
Second team special teams
K: Colin White, Hilton Head High, Jr.
P: Tyler Chisholm, Hilton Head Christian, Sr.
All-purpose: Bryan Lee Wade, Thomas Heyward, Sr.
Battery Creek -- Caleb Harris, Steven White
Beaufort Academy -- Reyn Robinson, Gavin Palmer, Bryan Strawn
Beaufort High -- Thomas Parker, TJ Watts, James Ginn
Bluffton -- Vinny Boni, Jaquan Campbell, Josh Darrell, Khalil Mitchell, Gerald Roberson
Hilton Head Christian -- DeAngelo Clark, Reese Dolyniuk, Caleb Lewis, Hector Mendoza, Nick Pirozzi
Hilton Head High -- Scott D'Amico, Jeremy Haidon, Robbie Iulo, Chase Rinehart, James Sanders
Hilton Head Prep -- Logan Clark, Keylan Hannah, John Larson, Logan Mallett, Zenon Parker, Noah Sulek, Charlie Wilmot
Ridgeland-Hardeeville -- Gavin Bush, Victor Simmons
Thomas Heyward -- Zach Newton, Seth Jones, Jesse McKenzie
Whale Branch -- Trey Nelson, Brandon Morton, Michael Dantzler, Jay Delaney