By Justin Jarrett | LowcoSports@gmail.com
Evan Hayes lined up for the game-winning field goal on first down and never got the chance to kick it. A botched snap sent Bluffton High School back to the drawing board.
Three plays later – and from 10 yards farther out – Hayes booted a 37-yard field goal high between the uprights, lifting the Bobcats to a 37-34 double-overtime win over Hilton Head Island High School in the 2017 edition of the Bridge Bowl rivalry.
“Every kick is the same,” Hayes said. “Extra point or 50 yards, it doesn’t matter. Every kick is the same.”
But his last two meant a little more. The junior kicker made a game-tying extra point despite a bobble on the hold to force overtime, then delivered the game-winner in the second overtime period to cap a classic that ties the all-time series at 7.
The Seahawks seemingly were in command when Kevin Schofield broke a 33-yard touchdown run up the left sideline for a 24-20 lead and Jonathan Orr’s second field goal of the night made it 27-20 with 3:43 to play.
The Bobcats had an answer, though – or more appropriately, two answers. Hunter Eldridge hit Shamar Sandgren with a deep pass, then found Jermaine Patterson for a 34-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4 to pull Bluffton even with 2:33 left.
Eldridge threw four touchdown passes – two to Patterson and one each to Sandgren and I’Kiem Jefferson – and the Bobcats consistently burned the Seahawks’ secondary.
“They lined up on offense and said, ‘We’ve got two guys better than all five of your DBs,’ and they proved it all night,” Seahawks coach B.J. Payne said.
Hilton Head’s Sterling White had a big night, including a 41-yard touchdown reception on a swing pass and a 62-yard run that set up Orr’s second field goal, but the Bobcats stopped him on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the second overtime.
Bluffton then lined up for its first crack at a game-winning field goal, but the botched snap prevented Hayes from trying the 27-yard kick. Three plays later, he got another chance and made the 37-yard try with plenty to spare.
It was the first overtime contest in Bridge Bowl history and the second straight meeting decided by three points.
“My hat’s off to Hilton Head,” Bluffton coach John Houpt said. “Whether we win or lose this game, they played a great game. That’s what this game is about. It needs to be a great atmosphere, and it was. A lot of fans missed out tonight, because it should have been packed even more than it was, and they missed a great ballgame.”