Knights crush Pender County on homecoming

W. Curt Vincent -

DUBLIN — De’quan Lennon and James Moore each rushed for more than 100 yards and the Knights played inspired defense to cap off Spirit Week and celebrate homecoming with a 50-21 Four County Conference win over visiting Pender County.

The win improved West Bladen to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference, while the Patriots fell to 1-7, 0-4.

The Knights wasted little time getting on the board. After forcing a Pender punt, West Bladen marched 69 yards in just six plays — highlighted by a 28-yard run by Moore and culminating with a 13-yard touchdown run by B.J. Drake. Ray Jones added the point after to give the Knights a 7-0 lead with 7:59 left in the first quarter.

The Patriots went three and out again, punting to the West Bladen 39. But the Knights couldn’t get anything going and punted the ball back.

Pender County drove from its own 44 to the Knights’ 17 before a fourth and 3 came up short at the West Bladen 15 as the first quarter wound down.

The Knights fumbled the ball away at their own 36 early in the second quarter, and Pender took advantage. A third-down pass gained 34 yards to the West Bladen 2 and the Patriots punched it in from there. The PAT knotted the game at 7-7 with 8:48 left in the half.

The response from the Knights was swift. Starting at the Patriots’ 49, Drake took the first handoff and raced the distance for a touchdown. Jones added the extra point to give West Bladen a 14-7 lead with 8:30 left in the half.

Idris Najeeullah sacked the Patriots’ quarterback to force a punt, but the ensuing punt was fumbled back to Pender at its own 40. But the patriots couldn’t get going and ran out the half.

“The defense is playing great,” West Bladen coach Russell Dove said at the intermission. “But we had two turnovers. The only thing stopping us is us.”

The Knights took the second half’s opening kickoff and Lennon returned it 25 yards to the Knights’ 41. It took just three plays to march 59 yards — featuring a 51-yard run by Moore before he ran it in from 3 yards out. A botched snap on the point after was picked up by quarterback Stefon McDonald and run in for the two-point conversion and a 22-7 West Bladen lead with 10:52 left in the third quarter.

Pender County took the kickoff to midfield, but the Patriots’ first play was blown up by Trequan Horne for a 7-yard loss. Pender eventually turned the ball over on downs at the West Bladen 41.

The Knights needed just four plays to find pay dirt. A 22-yard run by Lennon took the ball to the Patriots’ 32 and, three plays later, McDonald hit a wide open Jonathan Ashworth with a 25-yard touchdown pass. Jones kicked the PAT for a 29-7 West Bladen lead with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

Pender County got a 52-yard kickoff return and started from the Knights’ 14, but the West Bladen defense stiffened and forced a 26-yard field goal attempt — which was blocked by David Gittens.

Starting at their own 20, the Knights methodically ate up clock with an eight-play drive that featured a 24-yard run by Drake, 19-yard run by Malique McDowell and 5-yard touchdown run by Moore. Jones’ kick was good and West Bladen’s lead ballooned to 36-6 with 2:27 left in the quarter.

Pender got another big kickoff return, this time down to the West Bladen 9. And this time the Patriots found success with three runs. The point after pulled Pender to within 36-14 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.

Again the Knights answered quickly.

Starting from West Bladen’s 25, McDonald handed off to Lennon, who ran to the left sideline and outraced everyone for a 75-yard touchdown. Jones added the extra point and gave the Knights a 43-14 lead with 9 seconds left in the quarter.

Neither team could manufacture much early in the fourth quarter, but on Pender County’s second possession, the Patriots marched 60 yards in seven plays and scored with 5:09 left in the game. The kick was good and West’s lead was cut to 43-21.

Pender was penalized before the kickoff for unsportsmanlike conduct and were forced to kick off from its own 25 — and Lennon hauled in the kick at the Knights’ 30, zig-zagged upfield and found the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown. Jones kicked the point after to give West Bladen a 50-21 lead with 4:53 left in the game.

Once again, the Knights’ defense shone down the stretch, as Horne got a sack and Gittens got two sacks over the Patriots final two possessions to end the game.

“It’s nice to have all the kids and a dry surface to do what we can do,” Dove said. “The defense played so well and the backs all ran hard.

“Now we’ve got to get ready for a murderer’s row — Clinton, Midway and East Bladen — and I promise you we will work harder than we’ve ever worked before,” he added.

Lennon led West Bladen’s ground game with 123 yards on five carries. He also had the 75-yard touchdown run and the 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Moore was right behind him with 119 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Drake rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns on six carries, and McDowell ran for 64 yards on 12 carries.

McDonald was 1-for-1 through the air for 25 yards and a touchdown, caught by Ashworth.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent

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