Bishop England coach John Cantey has always searched out the toughest opponents to start the season.
Cantey, who led the Bishops to back-to-back Class AA state titles in 2011 and 2012, is firm believer that playing the bigger and better programs will help prepare his team for region play when it rolls around later in the season.
Cantey and Bishops probably got a little more preparation than they bargained for Friday night against West Ashley.
West Ashley running back Cameron Byas rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Justin Berry tossed three more TDs and ran for another score as the Wildcats romped past the Bishops, 55-14, at Bishop England High School in the season opener for both teams.
"West Ashley played very well, you have to give them a lot of credit," Cantey said. "Our defense struggled tonight, we've got a lot of young guys out there that are just not used to playing at this speed. We've got to get the best competition before the region starts. That's when it really counts. This game will help us. It'll help us get ready when the games matter the most."
Over the past few years, the Wildcats and Bishops have battled each other in some close games, most coming down to the fourth quarter. But when the final quarter rolled around Friday night, both teams had their second- and third-string players on the field.
The ease with which the Wildcats won surprised head coach Bobby Marion.
"Normally these games with Bishop England are nip-and-tuck and a play here or there usually decides the game," Marion said. "We did a lot of good things, but there's still a lot of work left to be done. It's a good start to the season for us."
The Wildcats dominated both sides of the ball rolling up more than 500 yards of total offense and limiting the Bishops to 206 yards.
"We won the battle at the line of scrimmage, that's the story of this game," Marion said. "When you win that battle good things usually happen for you. When we cut out the penalties, we took control of the game."
With running back Marquize Jenkins sideline with an injury, Byas stepped into the starting role and made the most of his opportunity.
"Cameron ran the ball very well and the offensive line did a good job," Marion said. "I feel like we've got two starting running backs in Cameron and Marquize."
The Wildcats, who rushed for 425 yards on a school record 65 attempts, did not attempt a pass in the second half.
"I wasn't going to go away from what we were doing well in the second half," Marion said.
The Wildcats opened up a 21-0 lead on a short TD run from Berry and two 30-yard scoring strikes to T'qele Holmes in the second quarter. Berry finished the night completing five of nine passes for 87 yards. All three TD catches were made by Holmes.
The Bishops closed the gap to 21-7 on Jonathan Browning's 35-yard TD run with 5:32 left in the first half.
But the Wildcats answered on their next possession with a 17-yard scoring strike from Berry to Holmes with just 8.6 seconds to go that gave West Ashley a 28-7 lead at halftime.
Bays' 17-yard TD run on the Wildcats first possession of the third quarter put the game out of reach.
West Ashley 7 21 7 20 - 55
Bishop Engalnd 0 7 0 7 - 14
WA: Justin Berry 1 run (Daniel Coury kick)
WA: T'qele Holmes 30 pass from Berry (Coury kick)
WA: Holmes 30 pass from Berry (Coury kick)
BE: Jonathan Browning 35 run (Adam Mikulski kick)
WA: Cameron Bays 17 run (Coury kick)
WA: Dexter Freeman 1 run (kick failed)
WA: Freeman 17 run (Ben Johnson kick)
WA: Tyquan Campbell 2 run (Joseph Frimpong kick)
BE: Drew Pampu 58 run (Mikulski kick)