Bluffton football team ready to host playoff game, tired of uncertainty

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High School Football

Bluffton football team ready to host playoff game, tired of uncertainty

Bobcats scheduled to face Conway in second round tonight
Published Friday, November 16, 2012   |  1067 Words  |  

There was no celebrating at Ken Cribb's house Wednesday night when word trickled down that nationally ranked Goose Creek had been disqualified from the Class 4-A Division II playoffs.

"I went upstairs, got in the bedroom, watched some NCIS and fell asleep on the couch," Cribb said.

Maybe that was due to exhaustion more than anything. The last week has been one of uncertainty and at times confusion for three South Carolina high school football teams, and Cribb's Bluffton Bobcats are at the center of it.

Out are the undefeated Gators, who were disqualified after playing an ineligible player in 10 games this season. In is Conway, which Goose Creek blasted 48-7 a week ago.

But those teams could swap places again should Goose Creek's lawsuit against the S.C High School League be successful this morning.

And then there are the Bobcats, who spent much of the week wondering who they would play tonight and where they would play it.

"I was physically and emotionally drained last night," Cribb said Thursday. "Just a little bit of anxiety waiting to hear the final word, but you're still not sure. You heard word (they lost), then you hear they're going back in for a mercy ruling. It's just wearing on you physically and mentally."

Count Conway coach Chuck Jordan among those who lost a fair amount of sleep this week.

"This has been quite unusual," he said. "I feel like I've been on a fast roller coaster all week. You find out one thing, you find out something else. You have different emotions all the way through."

The Tigers collected pads from players on Monday as they prepared to wrap up a 5-7 season before news hit the following morning of Goose Creek's disqualification. Conway (6-6) then passed equipment back out later that afternoon, held a practice consisting of not much more than fundamentals work and then waited until Wednesday to begin preparation for Bluffton (11-1).

The two teams are scheduled to square off at 7:30 tonight at Bobcat Stadium for the right to advance to the semifinals. For Bluffton, a win would represent its third consecutive appearance in the final four after Cribb led the the Bobcats to the Lower State final in each of the past two seasons at the Class 3-A level.

"Trying to get ready for a team that has so many guns offensively is very difficult, particularly in a short week," Jordan said. "They play very sound, fundamental, hardcore defense. We've got our work cut out for us. I hope we can stand up to them, honestly."

Neither team has had much of a chance to check out the other. Cribb didn't begin to dissect Conway film until late Tuesday and Jordan didn't peek at Bluffton until the following morning.

"It's been a little bit exhausting after doing so much work," Cribb said. "We've got to play the hand we're dealt. It's not a big problem. I'm a little more tired than normal, but I know I will make it up because I don't have to make that travel."

Added Jordan: "We've been burning the midnight oil since we found out. You've got to do everything you can as a coach to try and put your kids in a position to be successful and that's what we're trying to do."

Jordan has a bevy of Bluffton weapons to prepare for, but one name in particular stands out for Cribb -- quarterback Mykal Moody. The senior, who was named to this year's Shrine Bowl, has missed the last three games after suffering a thigh bruise. That includes a double-overtime defeat against Carolina Forest, which dropped the Tigers to the 16th and final seed, and last week's blowout loss at Goose Creek.

Moody has thrown for 1,543 yards and 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions this year. He leads the Tigers in rushing with 813 yards and 15 scores. If he's unable to go, Conway will turn to Sawyer Jordan, who in three games has thrown for 465 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.

Jordan wouldn't say whether Moody -- who has offers from N.C. State and Ole Miss, among others -- would play, but Cribb said the Bobcats are preparing to face him regardless.

But with the way this week has gone, a little extra uncertainty may not faze Cribb and the Bobcats.

Conway (6-6) at Bluffton (11-1), 7:30 p.m.

Last meeting: First meeting

The skinny: The Tigers are getting a second life this season after dropping their first-round playoff game to Goose Creek, 48-7. Bluffton gets a home game against the .500 team after originally being scheduled to travel to nationally-ranked Goose Creek. The Bobcats can advance to their third consecutive Lower State Championship with a win and their first at the Class 4-A level.

Players to watch: Aside from Shrine Bowl QB Mykal Moody, the Tigers feature plenty of weapons capable of testing Bluffton. WR Malcolm Greene is the deep threat and jump ball specialist for Conway, as he leads the Tigers with 1,172 yards and 11 touchdowns. Red zone WR Bryan Edwards has just 225 yards on 17 catches this year, but nine of them have gone for touchdowns. Bluffton WR Marquis Webber churned out yet another 100-yard effort last week against South Florence and could eclipse the century mark again tonight. RB Tykeem Major picked up 149 yards on the ground last week in the first-round playoff romp.

Keys to the game: If Bluffton's offensive line can keep Conway DE Tre Longs from having much of an impact, the Bobcats should be able to do what they want. Longs has 46 tackles this season and leads the Tigers with nine for loss and four sacks. Defensively, Bluffton will need to bring the pressure on Moody or whoever plays quarterback for the Tigers, as Conway's offensive line has struggled for much of this season.