DUBLIN — West Bladen scored on its first seven possessions — highlighted by four touchdown runs from B.J. Drake — and the defense held visiting East Columbus to one score and just 172 total yards en route to a 48-8 win over the Gators.
The Knights snapped a two-game losing streak and picked up their first Three Rivers Conference win, improving to 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
West Bladen took the game’s opening possession after a squib kick at the East Columbus 49. From there, the Knights needed just three runs by Drake to find the end zone, the last one a 15-yard score. The PAT was missed, but West Bladen led 6-0 just 1:17 into the game.
After holding the Gators to a three-and-out, the Knights took over at their own 37 and used just three plays again to find pay dirt. The scoring play came on a pretty pass from quarterback Tyre Boykin to Dayvon Swindell that went for a pass and catch of 72 yards. The two-point conversion try came up short, but West Bladen went up 12-0 with 6:18 left in the first quarter.
East Columbus put together its best drive of the night on its next possession. Starting at its own 35, the Gators used 13 plays, converted two fourth-down tries and marched the 65 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass was good and the visitors pulled within 12-8 just inside the second quarter.
The Gators never threatened again.
West Bladen started its next drive at its own 40 and got a 30-yard run on the first play from Swindell. Moments later, Swindell ran for another 15 and, three runs and a Gators penalty later, the Knights were camped at the East Columbus 1. Drake easily bulled his way into the end zone for the touchdown and Boykin added a two-point run to give West Bladen a 20-8 lead with 9:25 left in the half.
East Columbus mounted a 56-yard drive to the Knights’ 19, but the West Bladen defense stiffened and, on fourth-and-9, Swindell intercepted a Gators’ pass at the West Bladen 6 to snuff the uprising.
Drake took the first handoff on a sweep to the right and raced 34 yards, and a run and pass moved the Knights to the 44. Boykin then launched another perfect pass down the right side and hit Swindell in stride for a 42-yard gain to the Gators’ 14. Kerron Washington ran for a yard and Boykin hit Washington with a pass in the flat for an 11-yard pass to the East Columbus 2. Drake then busted in for a 2-yard touchdown with no time on the clock. The point after was missed and West Bladen took a 26-8 lead into halftime.
“The offense is working well, but we need to close the gaps on defense,” West Bladen coach Kris Williams said. “They did some different things that we’ll adjust to.”
The adjustments worked. The Gators picked up only 62 yards the entire second half, much of which was played under a running clock.
East Columbus took the opening possession at its own 30 and, on the third play, fumbled the ball away. West Bladen’s Jvahn Thomas fell on the ball to give the Knights possession at the Gators’ 29.
Drake raced 28 yards to the East Columbus 1 and Boykin ran the ball in on the next play for a touchdown. Drake added the two-point conversion to give West Bladen a 34-8 advantage with 9:50 left in the third quarter.
It was almost deja vu all over again on the Gators’ next possession. Starting at its own 29, East Columbus fumbled on its second play and Bryan Haro recovered for the Knights at the Gators’ 38.
One play, a handoff to Drake, put West Bladen in the end zone again. The extra point glanced off the upright no good, but West Bladen led 40-8 with 8:51 to go in the third quarter.
East Columbus returned the kickoff 69 yards to the West Bladen 20, but went nowhere but backwards. A 5-yard penalty and two runs put the gators on the Knights’ 28 and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
West Bladen used seven plays —primarily with its backups — to march 72 yards, highlighted by a 16-yard run by Swindell, a 15-yard run by Jalen Drew and a 16-yard run by Washington. Drew scored the touchdown on a 5-yard run with 4:17 left in the quarter, and Masai Carroway ran in the two-point try on a busted extra-point try to give West Bladen a 48-8 lead and started the running clock.
The Gators did nothing on their next possession and punted the ball only out to their own 42. West Bladen ran eight plays and moved the ball to the Gators’ 15 before the drive fizzled — the Knights’ only possession without points.
East Columbus managed to moved the ball 52 yards to the West Bladen 33 before the clock expired.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been on the other side of one of these, and it feels good,” Williams said about the 40-point win. “We didn’t do everything right and there’s a lot to fix, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Drake led the Knights’ ground game with 155 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 carries. Swindell rushed for 61 yards on three carries and had the 72-yard touchdown reception, while Washington ran for 33 yards on six carries and Drew had 46 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Through the air, Boykin was 4-for-4 for 123 yards and one touchdown.
Overall, West Bladen outgained the Gators by a 416-172 margin.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.