In year 1, the B-Town Showdown was a painful proposition for fledgling May River High School.
The Sharks were pummeled 77-3 and 50-0 by the Bobcats, who didn’t hold back on their new crosstown rivals (unless you consider intentionally settling for field goals to break a national record “holding back”).
In year 2, the upstart Sharks were able to throw a scare into the Bobcats — twice — as Bluffton held on for 24-16 and 24-14 victories.
You might say it can’t be considered a true rivalry until the other team has won, but the atmosphere at Bluffton High School tonight will suggest otherwise. This game is worthy of the hype.
The environment is ripe for May River to earn its first win in the series — the Sharks have a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in Ahmad Green and a talented running back in Brandon Morales running behind a veteran offensive line, and their defense shut down an electric Memorial Day offense last week.
But the Bobcats aren’t about to roll over, especially for “the school down the road,” as both playfully refer to one another. Bluffton is reloading after losing 22 seniors to graduation, but the young Bobcats showed some resiliency on the road last week at Screven County, erasing a 17-point deficit before coming up short in a 31-30 loss.
This one has a chance to be the best B-Town Showdown to date, so if you can’t be there in person, tune into the tape-delayed broadcast on WHHI-TV Saturday morning.
Let’s break down the matchup:
Game of the Week
PLAYERS TO WATCH
When Bluffton has the ball:
• Bluffton QB Lee Kirkland: Kirkland showed remarkable poise against a strong Screven County defensive line in his first start. He was especially effective when he was able to move outside the pocket and spread the ball around to a talented bevy of receivers. The Bobcats need another solid performance from Kirkland to stay undefeated against the Sharks.
• May River DB Terry Fields: Fields had four interceptions last season, and he started the year with another last week against Memorial Day. He will be waiting to pounce if Kirkland makes a mistake, and he’s dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands.
When May River has the ball:
• May River QB Ahmad Green: Green put up 110 rushing yards and threw three TD passes last week. He will look to exploit a Bobcat defense that struggled against Screven County’s option game and gave up several big plays on quarterback keepers.
• Bluffton DE Ronald Reid: The Bobcats will be without linebacker Jaylon Thompson, leaving Reid as the leader of the defense. He had a solid game last week but should be able to wreak more havoc in the backfield against a smaller May River offensive line. If he can rack up a few sacks and tackles for loss, it will bode well for Bluffton.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Get the jitters out. Both teams will be nervous playing on a big stage in front of the whole town. The team that can settle down quickest and avoid early mistakes will have an edge.
2. Stay at home. Both quarterbacks can make things happen late in plays – Green primarily by running, Kirkland mostly by waiting for a receiver to come open – so both defenses will need to be ready for anything.
3. Bend but don’t break. There are burners on both sides of the field. Kirkland can chuck it deep and has the receivers to run under one, while Green and Morales both broke long plays last week. The offenses are going to move the ball, but the defense that can avoid giving up explosive plays will have a better chance to limit the damage.
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