SILVER BLUFF 34, AIKEN 0
PETTICOAT JUNCTION — It didn't really matter who was taking the snaps Friday night for Aiken High's football team.
It could've been quarterbacks Luke Jones or Luke Hanna. It could've been running backs Ferderian Terry or Iterrius Johnson in the wildcat.
It didn't matter. Whoever was receiving the snap usually had at least one Silver Bluff defender in the backfield just as quickly as the ball arrived.
Silver Bluff's defense dominated, and Traevon Dunbar rushed for 226 yards and three touchdowns as the fourth-ranked Bulldogs moved to 4-0 and kept alive their shutout streak to start the season.
The tally is 158-0 in favor of the Bulldogs through four games, and they showed again Friday night that these shutouts are no fluke.
"We have some veteran leaders on that defense, and they lock and load during the week of practice and they identify what they need to do and the things that need to go on," said head coach De'Angelo Bryant. "I'm really proud of those guys. You're talking about guys like Vernon Lawrence and Jaden McLeod and Jermaine Jackson, who's been a four-year starter for me. These guys are locking in on what they're supposed to do, and so preparation, like we talk to them all the time, that's always half of the battle."
Dunbar turned in another Dunbar-type performance with those yards and touchdowns, but it took him 34 carries. None of those yards were particularly easy to gain against an Aiken (0-4) defense that played tough throughout the game despite spending most of it on the field instead of resting on the sideline.
"Sometimes you have to have games like that," Bryant said. "I talk to Traevon, from being a former running back, of sometimes you have to kind of grit and grind it out. I was really proud of our offensive line. We missed a couple plays here and there, for the most part they got to the point where they kept going and kept battling. ... I'm always proud of what Traevon does, but I'm also going to continue to rave about that offensive line."
The game was scoreless after one quarter before Dunbar put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a 32-yard touchdown run with 10:50 left in the half. He moved them down the field, behind that offensive line, a few minutes later before Marcus Washington powered in from the 7 for a 13-0 lead that Silver Bluff carried into halftime.
"The message (after the game) was to keep fighting," said Aiken head coach Olajuwon Paige. "A 13-0 ballgame is nothing but two plays, so the message was to keep fighting. Keep dialing it in. Keep giving it your all, and something will pop."
Dunbar scored from 8 yards out with 8:18 left in the third quarter for a 21-0 lead. Silver Bluff added two more touchdowns, a 13-yard pass from Maleik Williams to Arthur Walker and a 15-yard Dunbar run, in the fourth quarter for the final margin.
Aiken never got its offense close to dialed in against an unrelenting Silver Bluff defense. Jones went 4-for-11 passing for 21 yards, and Terry was the team's leading rusher with 19 yards - on 18 carries. The Hornets' longest gain of the night came when DJ Simmons took a fake punt 13 yards, but that still came up a couple yards short of the first-down marker.
"Defense played really well. The offense has got to help us. When the offense gets to clicking and gets to helping us, we'll be all right," said Paige. "One offseason ain't going to do the trick, so I don't know why people think one offseason was supposed to have us just dominating like that. These guys, when they get to be juniors and seniors like Silver Bluff's guys, we should get to rolling, too."
The teams are at the opposite end of the spectrum as far as wins and losses are concerned, but the slate is wiped clean now that the region schedule begins next week for both. Paige knows his players will still have a shot at a playoff spot in Region 5-AAAA, while Bryant and his team are focused on putting themselves in position to control their own destiny in Region 5-AA.
Aiken opens region play at South Aiken next week, while Silver Bluff will host Wade Hampton.
"We were sloppy. Give Aiken High credit. I thought those guys played really tough," Bryant said. "I think Coach Paige has a really good group of guys that I think is up and coming. They did some things really well on defense, and they gave us a challenge on offense. I was really proud that our guys really stepped up to the challenge, because this is the type of game where you've got to throw the records out the window. You're talking about two crosstown rivals with a lot of rich tradition. We understand that. They understand that. You can't let that score be the indicator of how this game was."