Oct. 6—PETTICOAT JUNCTION — They had seen the finesse. They had seen the speed.
But what everybody wanted to know, and what the Silver Bluff football team had been waiting to see, and what he had been waiting to prove, is how physical sophomore running back Traevon Dunbar can be.
What better time than the third-ranked and undefeated Bulldogs' biggest test of the season to date? Wade Hampton found out the hard way, as Dunbar rushed for 219 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns to help blow the game open in Silver Bluff's 40-14 win in the Region 5-AA opener.
"It's comforting for the offensive line, and I'm sure it's very comforting for Coach (Tyler) Vanhook as a playcaller and our offensive staff to know that you have a guy that can finish a game," said Silver Bluff head coach De'Angelo Bryant. "We see it all the time, just from being a former running back, there are a lot of people that start the game very, very fast — what I call the flash-and-dash backs. Those guys that can finish football games, I think it's just a testament to the attitude of who they are and also the hard work that goes behind who they are and where they want to be."
He was at his strongest in the fourth quarter Friday, rushing for nearly 100 yards and scoring all three of his touchdowns to turn a tight game into a blowout. He didn't just run around and past defenders — he ran through them, punishing whichever Red Devils went for the tackle.
It's the third time in five games this season that Dunbar, the Aiken Standard Player of the Week, has surpassed 200 yards rushing and rushed for at least three scores. His latest big game puts him at 840 yards and 14 touchdowns on 103 carries for the season, and it bumps his career numbers to 1,653 yards and 30 touchdowns on 191 carries.
The reigning Aiken Standard Offensive Player of the Year has one of the state's best offensive lines in from of him — the Bulldogs' three seniors up front all graded out at 90% or higher Friday night — and he's quick to deflect the attention in their direction.
"It means a lot, but it just means I have to keep grinding," he said Friday. "This was one of those games where I had to just keep pounding the ball. I give all the credit and praise to my offensive line. I wouldn't be able to do this without those guys and what they were doing in the trenches."
That humility reminds Bryant of former Wake Forest classmate and NBA star Chris Paul — Dunbar has been firmly in the spotlight since he scored three times against Wade Hampton last year in his first varsity game, yet he's continued to work harder to push it one more degree and clear the high bar that's been set at Silver Bluff.
"He is a very humble kid. He's always hungry. He always wants more," Bryant said. "Sometimes we have to tailor it back a little bit because he feels like he wants to put the world on his shoulders and carry everything and everybody. He has a great attitude, great perspective when it comes to certain things. He's just a very humble young man."