AIKEN — Silver Bluff took a big risk and Bishop England got big rewards on big plays.
That was the difference as the Bishops posted a 42-7 victory over the Bulldogs in the Class AA Division II Lower State championship game in front of about 3,500 fans.
Bishop England, seeking its second straight state title, made two big plays in less than a minute in the second quarter and that propelled the Bishops back to the state championship game next weekend at Benedict College’s Charlie Johnson Stadium. They will play Abbeville at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
With the Bishops leading 14-0 with 5:23 left in the half, they made a brilliant goal-line stand, holding the Bulldogs on fourth-and-goal at the three.
Two plays later, DeAngelo Stephenson took a handoff, headed up the middle, cut left and raced down the sideline for a 92-yard touchdown run that made it 21-0. Silver Bluff never recovered.
“We made that big stop, and I got the ball and wanted to make a big play,” Stephenson said. “I just wanted to win. I’m a senior and I just want to get one more ‘W’ next week. We will play our hearts out and leave it on the field.”
Bishop England coach John Cantey saw his team make three goal-line stands last week in a 31-22 victory over Lee Central.
“That was huge tonight,” he said. “The thing was the defense came up with a play and the offense followed suit. Big plays win big games.”
Stephenson, who entered the game averaging 11.3 yard per carry, missed last week’s victory over Lee Central because of a mild concussion. He carried 15 times for 237 yards and two TDs against the Bulldogs. His big effort pushed his season rushing total to 1,218 yards.
“We struggled a little in the first half last week,” Stephenson said. “It was hard on me to stand on the sideline and do nothing.”
The Bishops improved to 12-1 and are 25-2 the past two seasons. Silver Bluff, which allowed only 15 points per game coming in, finished 11-2.
The Bishops averaged 267 yards rushing on the ground, and they wasted little time establishing the ground game early against Silver Bluff. They rushed for 237 yards in the first half and finished with 370. The Bishops completed their only pass attempt for seven yards.
They marched the opening kickoff 60 yards on a drive that lasted 13 plays, including 12 running plays.
Nick Shiver broke off an 11-yard run to give the Bishops a 7-0 lead with 5:06 left in the first quarter.
The Bishops were just as impressive on their second possession as they put together another 60-yard scoring drive. All 10 plays were runs, including a 2-yard keeper by quarterback Kevin Herbst that pushed the lead to 14-0 with 10:36 left in the first half. Herbst finished with 60 yards and two TDs rushing on 16 carries.
Stephenson’s big run gave the Bishops a three-touchdown lead. Silver Bluff cut it to 21-7 at halftime. But the Bishops converted two turnovers into touchdowns in the third quarter to take command.
“I was worried about how the kids would respond since it was Thanksgiving weekend,” Cantey said.
“You never know how much kids will eat.”
But Friday’s effort proved the Bishops are still hungry.
Bishop England 7 14 21 0—42
Silver Bluff 0 7 0 0 — 7
BE — Nick Shiver 11 run (Brandon Costa kick)
BE — Kevin Herbst 2 run (Costa kick)
BE — DeAngelo Stephenson 92 run (Costa kick)
SB — Jaylen Douse 32 pass from Jalen Jackson (Pedro Zambrano kick)
BE — Herbst 20 run (Costa kick)
BE — Griffie Loy 9 run (Costa kick)
BE — Stephenson 57 run (Costa kick)