A new head coach typically comes with a litany of questions, ranging from scheme changes to chemistry concerns. Not so at Bluffton High School, where the buzz word is continuity as longtime assistant John Houpt takes over the Bobcats with the hope of maintaining their status as a perennial power.
Houpt, who replaced Ken Cribb after 10 years as an assistant for the Bobcats, has tried to stick to the program that has made Bluffton a Lower State power in recent years, including an undefeated regular season a year ago.
One big change, though, is Houpt has taken over offensive play-calling after serving as Cribb’s defensive coordinator. Houpt takes over an offense that returns six starters, including quarterback Hunter Eldridge and receivers Jermaine Patterson and I’Kiem Jefferson, as well as three offensive linemen. Patterson and Shamar Sandgren give the Bobcats a couple of burners on the outside, and John Swinton is poised to have a big year running behind Bluffton’s stout offensive line.
The biggest questions are on defense, where Bluffton returns only three starters and has to replace the entire starting defensive line. The inexperienced defense will be tested early with tough matchups against Screven County (Ga.) and Beaufort High in the first two weeks but should round into form in time for region play.
BLUFFTON BOBCATS FOOTBALL
Coach: John Houpt
Record at Bluffton: 0-0 (first season)
2016 record: 12-1 (4-0 region)
Playoffs: 2-1, lost in Lower State semifinals
Returning starters: 6 offense, 3 defense
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 3-4
Top returners: WR Jermaine Patterson, WR I’Kiem Jefferson, QB Hunter Eldridge, OL Quan Bell, OL Kahlil Bellamy, OL Drew Lee, OLB Richard Jenkins, CB Reggie Brown, SS Tristen James
Breakout candidates: WR Shamar Sandgren, TE/QB Lee Kirkland, RB John Swinton, OLB Jaylon Thompson, DE Ronald Reid, FS Rakim White
Outlook: Replacing so many seniors is no easy task, so the Bobcats could have a bumpy ride early in the season, but the talent is in place for them to round into form in time to win the region and make another deep run in the playoffs.
Video courtesy of Beaufort County School District
|8/19||vs. Screven County (at Georgia Southern)||8 p.m.|
|9/1||at Beaufort High||7:30 p.m.|
|9/8||vs. New Hampstead||7:30 p.m.|
|9/15||at Hilton Head Island||7:30 p.m.|
|9/22||vs. Whale Branch||7:30 p.m.|
|9/29||vs. May River*||7:30 p.m.|
|10/6||at Battery Creek*||7:30 p.m.|
|10/13||vs. Wade Hampton*||7:30 p.m.|
|10/27||at Ridgeland-Hardeeville*||7:30 p.m.|