ROSE HILL — Bolstered by the return of its two senior running backs, West Bladen overcame a 17-8 deficit to beat Union on Monday in the Four County Conference opener, 28-23.
The win improves the Knights to 4-1 overall, 1-0 in the conference. Union falls to 3-2, 0-1.
Despite a 17-day layoff because of a bye week and this game being postponed from Friday because of predicted bad weather that never arrived, the Knights got out of the gate quickly against Union — getting a safety on Union’s first possession, then going on an eight-play, 68-yard touchdown drive finished off by a 2-yard run from quarterback Stefon McDonald for an 8-0 lead.
But the Spartans answered with a 76-yard march and a touchdown. The two-point conversion knotted the game at 8-8 early in the second quarter.
After trading possessions, Union managed to boot a 30-yard field goal field goal with 15 seconds left in the half and took an 11-8 lead into intermission.
The Spartans found the end zone midway through the third quarter and took a 17-8 advantage, but West Bladen responded moments later when B.J. Drake got loose for a 52-yard touchdown run. McDonald ran in the two-point try and the Knights had cut the deficit to 17-16 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
On its next possession, West Bladen saw Malique McDowell tote the ball for a 76-yard touchdown early in the final quarter and the Knights were back on top, 22-17.
But that only helped to create a wild finish.
The Spartans took advantage of a poor snap on a West Bladen punt that gave Union the ball at the Knights’ 10 with about 3 minutes left to play. Just 25 seconds later, the Spartans scored to take a 23-22 lead.
But West Bladen was folding. Starting from their own 20 with 1:20 to play, the Knights put together a methodical 80-yard drive that included a 46-yard pass from McDonald to Traquan Horne to reach the Union 19. From there, it was all McDowell, who finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.
McDowell led West Bladen’s ground game with 124 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries, while Drake added 109 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Through the air, McDonald was 4-for-6 for 57 yards.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.