DUBLIN — The third game of the season has been a perennial stumbling block for West Bladen, and on Friday it reared its ugly head once again, sending the Knights to a 22-12 conference-opening loss against visiting Fairmont.
West Bladen falls to 2-1 overall, 0-1 in the Three Rivers Conference.
The Golden Tornadoes opened the game with a six-play, 64-yard march that ended with a 38-yard touchdown pass just 2:30 into the first quarter. The two-point run attempt failed but the visitors led, 6-0.
The Knights tried to answer, driving from their own 36 to the Fairmont 34 — helped by 30 yards in Fairmont penalties — but the drive ended with a fumble.
The Tornadoes, starting from their own 37, used eight plays to move the ball to the West Bladen 35 before Kerron Washington sacked the quarterback for a 5-yard loss and B.J. Drake got a sack for a 14-yard loss. A 4-yard punt put the Knights in business at midfield late in the first quarter.
Despite starting with a 5-yard penalty, West Bladen drove 55 yards in 11 plays — including a 24-yard pass from Tyre Boykin to Dayvon Swindell on fourth and 11 — with the final play a 1-yard touchdown run by Drake with 9:18 left in the half. The PAT was missed, but the game was knotted at 6-6.
Fairmont returned the kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, but a personal foul on the play brought the ball back to the Tornadoes’ 11. The visitors went on a nine-play march that covered the 89 yards. The two-point conversion run was good and Fairmont was up, 14-6, with 5:46 left in the second quarter.
West Bladen, starting at its own 20 after a 15-yard penalty before the kickoff, managed to sneak into Fairmont territory, but two negative runs pushed the Knights back to their own 38. The ensuing punt was blocked and the Golden Tornadoes took over at the West Bladen 20.
But the Knights held the visitors to a three-and-out, and on fourth and 12 the Tornadoes fumbled, giving the Knights possession at their own 28. Six plays that included a 29-yard run by Boykin moved the Knights to the Fairmont 8, but the half ran out.
“We’ve got to do a little bit of everything better,” said West Bladen coach Kris Williams before the second half.
Things started better pretty quickly.
The Knights took the second-half’s opening possession at their own 32 and, on the first play, Swindell raced around the right side and was gone for a 68-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion fail, but West Bladen had pulled to within 14-12 with just 13 seconds off the third-quarter clock.
Fairmont was stopped on its next possession, thanks in part to a sack by Kendell Johnson, and West Bladen took over at the Tornadoes’49. Six plays moved the ball to the Fairmont 15 where the Knights faced a fourth and 4 — but Drake’s run came up a yard short.
Fairmont started at its own 12, but fumbled on the second play and Johnson fell on the ball at the Tornadoes’ 15. Four plays netted only 9 yards for the Knights and they turned the ball over on downs.
Fairmont took advantage, marching 94 yards in eight plays and, after a two-point conversion, took a 22-12 lead with 11:53 left in the game.
Neither team could threaten on their next two possessions. But with the fourth quarter winding down, West Bladen took over at its own 44 and began driving. Drake had a 13-yard run, Boykin had a 13-yard run and Swindell had a 10-yard run — driving to the Fairmont 14 before time expired.
“It was tight and we had our chances, but I never felt like we were overmatched,”Williams said. “We’ll learn from this and bounce back. This can be good motivation for us.
“Penalties didn’t help us,” he added.
There were 19 penalties called in the game for a total of 182 yards — West Bladen had nine flags for 83 yards.
On the ground, Swindell led the Knights with 100 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, followed by Drake with 98 yards and touchdown on 23 carries. Boykin gained 72 yards on eight carries and was 4-for-13 through the air for 46 yards with an interception.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.