DUBLIN — West Bladen appeared to play more not to lose than to win and were forced to overcome a slew of penalties against visiting Heidi Trask on Friday before pulling out a 38-34 Four County Conference win.
The Knights improved to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference, while the Titans fell to 1-5, 0-2.
“We played really terrible,” said West Bladen coach Russell Dove. “But we won.”
Trask took the early lead with a 72-yard drive for a touchdown. The PAT was missed but the visitors had a 6-0 lead. The Knights answered quickly by moving from its own 43 to pay dirt in just five plays, with Malique McDowell punching the ball in on a 15-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Stefon McDonald pushed the ball in for the two-point conversion and gave the West Bladen an 8-6 lead with 5:35 left in the first quarter of play.
The Titans came right back, needing just two plays to score — the damage coming on a long touchdown pass. Trask was good on the two-point conversion and took a 14-8 advantage.
Early in the second stanza, West Bladen responded when McDonald returned a punt 54 yards for a touchdown on a play that initially started with a Knights fumble. The conversion failed, but West Bladen had knotted the game at 14-14.
Just before intermission, the Titans drove the ball through the Knights’ territory and scored moments before the half ended. The point after was no good, but the visitors took a 20-14 edge into the break.
Things began to turn the Knights’ way in the third quarter. De’quan Lennon ran for touchdowns of 33 yards and 3 yards in the period and , after PATs from Ray Jones, helped propel West Bladen to a 28-20 lead at the end of three quarters.
After driving deep into Titans territory late in the third quarter, West Bladen took a shot at a rare field goal on the first play of the final quarter. Jones squarely booted a 30-yarder through the uprights and pushed the Knights’ lead to 31-20.
But Trask didn’t quit.
The Titans put 14 points on the board in the final quarter, but McDowell’s 11-yard touchdown late in the game and Jones’ point after all but sealed the win.
What actually DID seal the win for the Knights was Donald McCullum’s recovery of a Titans on-sides kick with just under 20 seconds left in the game.
McDowll led West Bladen’s ground game with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Lennon added 88 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Thye Knights racked up 340 yards on the ground against Trask.
The big downside for West Bladen was the 12 penalties for 130 yards.
The Knights will host Pender County on Friday for their homecoming game.