PETTICOAT JUNCTION --- Silver Bluff ran into its Goliath -- both literally and figuratively -- in Friday night's playoff game against Cheraw.
The visiting Braves were a bigger and stronger team, and the Bulldogs were also trying to deal with the second-round hex that had kept them from advancing past that round of the Class AA playoffs in recent years.
Silver Bluff couldn't find an answer for either in a 26-21 loss. The Bulldogs turned the ball over five times, and Cheraw rushed for 301 yards and dominated the line of scrimmage for much of the night.
"We turned the ball over five times and, any time you do that, you're going to get beat," Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. "That's the bottom line."
Sammy Merriman scored two touchdowns and quarterback Chad Wilkes found the end zone on the final play of the first half to give Cheraw a 20-7 lead at intermission.
The Bulldogs (9-3) didn't go down without a fight. Silver Bluff pulled to 20-14 on Robert Green's 1-yard run midway through the third quarter, but Merriman's third score of the night put Cheraw back on top 26-14.
Silver Bluff kept Cheraw (8-4) in check for the fourth quarter, and Green's second touchdown of the game -- a 10-yard run -- gave the Bulldogs a chance with more than 7 minutes to play.
After stopping the Braves, Silver Bluff took over on its 29 and drove to Cheraw's 39. On first-and-10, Austin Pollock's pass slipped through Cordrea Tankersley's hands, and three plays later Pollock was sacked on fourth and long.
"Our kids never quit. We had a good drive going there," Lown said. "We made a good throw, we just didn't make the catch. You've got to make plays in the playoffs. There's no ifs, ands or buts."
Cheraw's balanced running attack of Merriman, Wilkes and Darrell Hawkins kept Silver Bluff on its heels much of the night. Quarterback keepers by Wilkes were especially tough on the Bulldogs, Lown said.
"We had seven films on them and we had never seen them run that," Lown said. "It was a good job by them."
Silver Bluff will return a talented group of running backs next year, but that was little consolation Friday night.
"The future is the future, but it hurts right now," Lown said. "I promise, it hurts right now."
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHERAW 26, SILVER BLUFF 21
PLAY OF THE GAME: On the final play of the first half, Cheraw quarterback Chad Wilkes scored a touchdown from 4 yards out to give the Braves a 20-7 lead at the break.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Wilkes, who rushed 16 times for 109 yards and one touchdown. His draws and bootlegs kept Silver Bluff off balance.
WHY CHERAW WON: The bigger Braves protected the football and rushed for more than 300 yards.
WHY SILVER BLUFF LOST: Turnovers. The Bulldogs put the ball in Cheraw's hands five times.
NEXT: Silver Bluff's season over.