By Justin Jarrett | LowcoSports@gmail.com
BLUFFTON — Hunter Eldridge wasn’t himself in the first half Friday.
The Bluffton High School senior completed just four of his first eight passes for a paltry 36 yards. Part of the credit went to the May River High School secondary, but there was something else.
“I think he had to win homecoming king to get the nerves out,” Bluffton coach John Houpt said. “I think that was it.”
Eldridge got his crown and his Camaro ride at halftime, and he threw two second-half touchdown passes to help the Bobcats overtime a halftime deficit and claim a 24-14 win over their crosstown rivals in both teams’ Region 8-3A opener.
I’Kiem Jefferson scored three touchdowns — two rushing and one receiving — and Bluffton’s defense shut out the Sharks in the second half to give the Bobcats their second hard-fought win over May River this season.
“We can fix the missed tackles, or the bad snaps, or whatever. There’s a lot of that stuff that can be fixed,” Houpt said. “You can’t teach heart, and you can’t teach never-quit. And they never quit tonight, and that’s what I love to see.”
The Sharks (1-5, 0-1) punched first, as Cam Adams capped a long drive with a 2-yard touchdown run on their first possession and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ahmad Green to put May River up 14-6 with 7:10 left in the half. Adams finished with 122 yards on 27 carries before leaving with a right knee injury, and Melvin Livermon had four receptions for 99 yards.
Bluffton’s high-powered passing game took a hit last week when speedy receiver Shamar Sandgren suffered a hairline fracture to his fibula. His absence allowed the Sharks to pay extra attention to Patterson and force the Bobcats to the ground.
The Bobcats (4-2, 1-0) used Patterson at quarterback extensively, and he got the ground game going with 80 yards on nine carries. He only caught two passes, but one of them was a quick slant from Eldridge that he took 69 yards for the go-ahead score early in the third quarter.
“I don’t know how he does it,” Eldridge said. “I saw the safety coming down and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Where did the safety go?’ On the ground. The kid’s just good.”
Bluffton’s defense came up with one of numerous big stops on the ensuing possession, forcing a turnover on downs to take over at their own 22, and Eldridge and Jefferson made some magic happen two plays late. Eldridge spun out of a potential sack and lofted a pass up the right sideline. Jefferson ran under it at full stride and sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown.
“He was running an out route, but I knew he wasn’t going to quit on that play,” Eldridge said. “I had total faith that if I lobbed it up like I did, he would be there to catch it.”
It was another close defeat for May River, which has proven in its second season that it can go toe-to-toe with some of the area’s best teams but is still learning how to finish.
“We had a shot,” May River coach Rodney Summers said. “I think maybe it was five drives we didn’t score and come away with some points, and you can’t do that against a team that has that kind of offensive power.”
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