Bluffton’s unbeaten season was stopped cold in its tracks Friday night, undone by a resilient Brookland-Cayce team that withstood the Bobcats’ early threats to come away with a 14-7 triumph and punched its ticket to the Class 3A Lower State final.
Rasheed Taylor powered ahead for touchdown runs of 3 and 10 yards after halftime, and the Bearcats’ defense put the brakes on a Bluffton offense that had rolled up 167 yards, but only one score in the opening half.
Brookland-Cayce (12-1) wrested away home-field advantage for next Friday’s Lower State title game, where the Bearcats will host Dillon.
“It’s the biggest win in school history,” said quarterback Reed Charpia, who threw for 73 of his 118 yards passing in the second half. “Not just for me, but for the whole school.”
Bluffton (12-1) scored its only points on Cory McKie’s 62-yard touchdown reception from Jermaine Patterson midway through the first quarter. The Bobcats also drove inside the B-C 20 twice in the opening half, but came away empty with a blocked field goal and interception at the goal line.
“There’s nothing right now that I can say that can make it feel better,” Bobcats coach Ken Cribb said. “This one’s going to hurt in the gut for a long time.”
Patterson provided most of Bluffton’s offense with 89 yards rushing and 112 passing. But he stayed down after a scramble to the Bobcats 29 with 1:40 left in the game, forcing backup Hunter Eldridge to try to pull things out.
Eldridge hit Ashby Cribb with a 15-yard pass on his first snap, leaving the Bobcats two yards short of extending the drive. Eldridge’s fourth-down pass sailed out of bounds, allowing B-C to run out the clock.
“It was just a matter of being patient,” said Taylor, who gained 56 of his 64 yards rushing in the second half. “Keep doing what we were doing. Keep pushing.”
The Bearcats still wound up being outgained by Bluffton, 260 yards to 210, but that made no difference as they celebrated near the 50-yard line. Bluffton also hurt themselves with 98 yards in penalties.
The game also faced a 20-minute delay early in the second half as Bluffton cornerback Devon Chisolm was taken away in an ambulance after staying down on a sideline tackle of Taylor. There was no immediate report on his condition.
Brookland-Cayce turned the momentum with an onside kick to start the second half, recovering at the Bluffton 40. Though Charpia was intercepted in the end zone on that drive, the Bearcats had found their rhythm.
B-C used an 11-play, 78-yard march on its next possession to tie the score on Taylor’s 3-yard touchdown run, and went 60 yards downfield on its next series before Taylor powered over from the 10.
“It was just missed opportunities,” said Bluffton’s Cribb. “That’s high school football. It’s going to be hard to swallow. We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of.”
The Bobcats used 12 plays on their opening possession to drive as far as the B-C 12-yard line, but an Octavious Pringle sack and Tyrese Sandgren’s drop in the corner of the end zone forced a field-goal try. Quentin Hook broke through to get a hand on D.J. Chappelear’s 33-yard attempt to keep things scoreless.
Bluffton needed only one play when it got the ball back, though, as McKie slipped behind the Bearcats’ secondary to make an over-the-shoulder grab of Patterson’s pass and tiptoe down the sideline into the end zone with 4:56 left in the quarter.
B-C’s Jonathan Edwards came up short with a 31-yard field goal to start the second quarter. Bluffton went on the march again, but again stalled. A 21-yard Patterson keeper took the ball to the B-C 12, but a Cam Brown sack stopped the momentum and Patterson was picked off two snaps later by Raycron Williams at the 2.