CLEMSON — It was certainly not a position that the Bluffton Bobcats were used to.
With an explosive offense which scored less than 42 points only once this season, the Bobcats went to the halftime locker room scratching their heads with only seven points on the scoreboard.
The reason -- an aggressive South Pointe defense, featuring a speedy secondary and front seven, which the Bobcats were unable to break with consistent big plays.
Bluffton featured an offense which had staggering offensive numbers. The Bobcats produced 787 points and averaged a whopping 56.2 points per game. Their quarterback, C.J. Frazier, had passed for 3,367 yards and 55 touchdowns, and receivers Dimitri Lowery and Eric Boyles had both surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau with 1,099 and 1,002, respectively.
But those numbers did not matter to the Stallions defense, which yielded just two touchdowns per game this season.
South Pointe forced three turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, and also used an effective ball-control offense as a weapon to keep the Bobcats' playmakers on the sidelines.
Having just stopped a Bobcats drive with an interception at its own 4-yard line, South Pointe used a methodic 96-yard drive which ended with a 7-yard Manzey Miller touchdown run, which put the contest out of reach, 35-7.
Bluffton did score 20 fourth-quarter points to make the final score more respectable, 42-27, but that was well after the Stallions had done their damage.
First-year South Pointe coach Strait Herron credited defensive coordinator Jason Winstead for implementing an effective gameplan and using solid players to execute the strategy.
"It was speed and coaching; we have guys with speed and a coach who came in with a great game plan," Herron said. "And we have played teams like Northwestern, Rock Hill, Spartanburg, and West Rowan, who played for the state championship in North Carolina today.
"So we came in here prepared and it showed."
Defensive lineman Isiah Zeke Rodney added that a statement made earlier in the week really motivated the Stallions.
"They said in a press conference that they had more team speed than us; we knew that they did not have more speed and we wanted to show that tonight," Rodney, a sophomore starter, said. "A lot of people underestimated us this year, especially after losing (Jadaveon) Clowney and (Gerald) Dixon.
"We wanted to show that we still have one of the best defenses around."
Defensive back Tay Hicklin said that the Stallions blended speed and physical play to take the Bobcats' offense out of their game.
"We just played South Pointe defense," Hicklin said in explaining the key to success. "We just played smash-mouth football. We jammed them off the line of scrimmage and just got physical with them. They were not used to this style of football."
Safety Montay Crockett agreed, adding that the Stallions also carried out fundamental assignments in the process.
"We made sure to fill all of the holes and stayed in front of receivers in the flats," Crockett said. "And we could see when they got frustrated by not being able to put up the points that they were used to."
Corey Neely, who had two punt returns for touchdowns and also a bone-crunching hit which laid out a Bobcats receiver in the closing seconds, said that last year's loss to Myrtle Beach in the state finals provided extra motivation for a strong defensive play.
"We lost last year because they were stronger than us," Neely said. "We were not going to let that happen this year."