Letting go as life moves on

Paula Todd King

provided

Bishop England's offense was sufficient and the defense was superb. But the victory celebration, well, that's another story.

With the final seconds ticking off the clock in Bishop England's 21-0 victory over Silver Bluff in the Division II-AA Lower State championship, a couple of players attempted the Gatorade sneak attack on coach John Cantey. Cantey, however, showed some moves that rivaled star running back Andrew Bunch's fake-and-bake and dodged the cold shower.

Silver Bluff couldn't dodge the Bishops, who claimed their first Lower State championship since 1976. Remember the country's Bicentennial? It was a little hazy for Cantey, who was only 2 years old when his father coached the team.

"Thirty-five years," Cantey said. "It took 35 years to get back here, but it's worth it. It was a great win. I didn't think we had a water cooler out here so I didn't think I had to worry. But I caught something in the corner of my eye and was able to avoid it."

The victory, in front of approximately 2,500 fans at Jack Cantey Stadium, gives the Bishops a 12-1 record and a date in Friday's state championship game. The Bishops play Central, a 21-20 winner over Columbia, at 5:30 p.m. at Benedict College in Columbia. Silver Bluff finished with a 9-4 record.

It was more of the same for the Bishops' defense, which recorded its sixth shutout of the season. The Bishops came in allowing only 158 yards per game, and they were stellar against the Bulldogs. Silver Bluff managed only 82 yards, with only 23 in the second half.

"They have a good defense," Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. "I haven't seen a defense that good for a long time. They really play well, and you have to give them credit. They play hard and are well-coached. They have a good football team. It's going to take a heck of an effort to beat them in the state championship."

The Bishops offense churned for 360 yards in the team's 12th straight win after a 14-12 loss to West Ashley in the season opener.

Quarterback Danny Croghan was 9-for-11 passing for 138 yards and a score. He added 77 yards and a score on 19 rushes.

Bunch, a three-year starter, carried 16 times for 76 yards and caught four passes for 88 yards. He scored the first two TDs of the game.

"To go down as one of the best teams in Bishop England history is a great feeling," Bunch said. "All 14 seniors on the team have worked hard. It started this summer when we would get going at 6 o'clock in the morning and it ends next week. I am just amazed right now."

The Bishops outgained the Bulldogs 160-59 in the first half, but the Bishops had three turnovers. Two killed promising drives.

Croghan threw an interception in the Bulldogs' end zone in the first quarter, and the Bishops fumbled the ball away at the Silver Bluff 6-yard line with eight minutes left in the first half.

But the Bishops finally hit paydirt late in the second quarter, marching 70 yards in eight plays. Croghan completed passes of 13 and 16 yards on the drive, and ripped off an 11-yard run. Croghan culminated the drive with a 17-yard TD pass to Bunch with 1:03 left in the first half.

The Bishops pushed the lead to 14-0 with a 76-yard drive. Once again it was Bunch with the TD, as the talented senior broke a couple of tackles and ripped off an 18-yard touchdown run.

The Bishops got the ball right back on a Silver Bluff turnover, and Croghan capped a 24-yard drive with a 7-yard TD run with 10:02 left in the game.

"Our defense played great," Cantey said. "But I didn't think we'd get the shutout tonight. They had too many weapons."

BE--Andrew Bunch 17 pass from Danny Croghan (Drew Costa kick)

BE--Bunch 18 run (Costa kick)

BE--Croghan 7 run (Costa kick)