COLUMBIA - It was a night of milestones for Bishop England Battling Bishops.
The Bishops won the Division II-AA state championship with a 10-0 victory over Central Friday night in front of about 4,000 fans at Benedict College's Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.
It was the football program's 400th victory since the school first fielded a team in 1944. It was the football program's first state championship and the school's 100th state title, overall.
"It's amazing," said 37-year-old Bishop England coach John Cantey, who was 2 when the Bishops played in their last state championship. "The seniors had a couple of lean years, but fought through it and are state champions now. Amazing."
The Bishops finished with a 13-1 record. Central, the defending state champion, fell to 11-3. It was the Eagles' third appearance in the state championship in the last four years. They beat Dillon last year.
The Bishops used solid defense all season long, and the unit was up to the task against the Eagles, a group who relied heavily on the run.
The shutout was the Bishops' third in four playoff games and seventh of the season. When Central passed it often ended in disaster. The Bishops picked off four passes. Senior Andrew Bunch had three, including a juggling-act pick while flat on his back. DeAngelo Stephenson had the other interception.
"It's a great feeling," said Bunch, who finished his career with 44 career touchdowns, which tied the school record set by Derek Hughes in the mid 1970s. "A lot of people said we didn't have a chance -- that we were undersized and not that athletic. We came out here looking for respect. I think we got it."
The Bishops held Central to 155 yards rushing - 45 below the Eagles' season average. The Eagles were only 3 of 12 in the air with four interceptions.
Cameron Swails led the Bishops with 12 tackles while Teck Tecklenburg had nine tackles including one for a loss.
"They whipped us up front on defense," Central coach Joey Mangum said. "We would do all right, get a couple of first downs and then make a mistake to make it second and 10, which isn't good for us. We couldn't sustain a drive and had about five turnovers. You can't turn the ball over against a good team, and they are a good team."
The Bishops tallied 199 yards in total offense. Quarterback Danny Croghan completed 12 of 21 for 120 yards and a score and added 19 on the ground. Griffie Loy led the Bishops with 55 yards on 10 carries. He scored the only TD of the game.
The Bishops took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Loy caught a screen in the right flat and scored from 22 yards out to cap an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 1:30 left in the quarter. Loy had an impressive first quarter with 57 yards rushing and the TD reception.
The Bishops outgained Central 137-110 in total yardage in the first half.
Bunch set up the Bishops' second score when he picked off a Debias Tyson pass at midfield and returned it 31 yards to the Central 19. The Bishops ran seven plays and Drew Costa drilled a 22-yard field goal with 2:01 left in the third quarter to make it 10-0.
In the fourth quarter, Central had the ball on the Bishops' 24, but Bunch intercepted his second pass of the game. The Bishops gave the ball right back to Central. The Eagles had it first and 10 with 4:27 left in the game. But Swails pressured the quarterback and DeAngelo Stephenson intercepted the pass in the endzone.
Bunch recorded his third pick in the final minute as the Bishop faithful began to celebrate into the night. It gave the Bishops 32 interceptions on the season.
"It's amazing," Cantey said. "I am so proud of our players. Cameron Swails played lights out and Andrew Bunch was Andrew Bunch. But on this night, it's one for the entire team."
Bishop England -- Griffie Loy 22 pass from Danny Croghan (Drew Costa kick)
Bishop England -- Costa 22 FG
3 tackles and three interceptions
66 all-purpose yards