SPIVEY’S CORNER — Don’t give up on them. Heart is there.
Kai Belle’s message after West Bladen fell 55-32 at Midway in non-conference high school football Friday night has merit. The Knights (0-2) faced a large first-half deficit, and head coach Kris Williams said the way to handle it could have gone either way.
“We’re a young team, a very young team,” the sophomore tackle said in assessment. “The majority of the team is freshmen and sophomores. But we have heart. It’s a brotherhood — we love each other.”
Belle and line mates Kendall Johnson, a sophomore, juniors Cammeron Collins, Nathan Landreth and Lucas Nance, and senior tight end Nelson Drake helped the Three Rivers Conference guests generate 366 yards and 18 first downs after Midway renamed Coach Tommy Sloan Stadium in front of about 1,000 fans. Junior quarterback Tyre Boykin was the Raiders’ toughest task, riddling the 2-A East Central Conference members with three touchdown passes and a pair of scoring runs.
“When the corners played off on us, I told him I’d run a post route,” said sophomore receiver Shy’ron Adams. “They gave me the inside route, so the slant was open.”
Adams caught two of Boykin’s touchdown passes and a conversion toss; on defense, he picked off a pass. He called Boykin the “best quarterback we’ve ever had.”
Boykin had scoring runs of 1 and 22 yards, and scoring tosses of 56 and 8 yards to Adams, and 33 yards to senior Kerron Washington. He was 9-of-15 for 179 yards through the air and added another 63 yards on 10 carries.
“He was outstanding,” Belle said. “He had faith in his line. We didn’t do enough to protect him last week.”
Adams’ 79 yards led receivers; Washington’s 74 yards led the ball carriers.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Williams said. “We didn’t give up. There was a moment where it could have gone either way. They fought. That was the brightest spot.”
Boykin’s air yardage was in part because of Williams’ strategy, and in part because of Midway rolling ahead 41-18 at the intermission. The second-year head coach sought to maintain a level of ball control, but those plans were squashed when the Raiders scored on eight of their first nine possessions — Adams’ second-quarter pick halting the other.
Quarterback Carson Calcutt was lethal making choices out of the Raiders’ shotgun. He consistently read the defense before deciding to keep or hand off to Deantae Byrd and Jam Rich, and he fired accurately when called upon. Running room for him was available on the edges.
His 109 yards rushing and 111 yards passing — in the first half — tore threw a defense that also yielded more than 40 points a week ago. Rich ran for 111 yards and Byrd 97, each on 14 carries. Five receivers caught passes from Calcutt on his 5-for-7 evening.
Midway roared for 504 yards and 24 first downs. Calcutt never threw a pass after halftime and rushed for 175 yards.
West Bladen, on a five-game skid dating back to last year, struggled with tackling and was marked 96 yards on 13 penalties. The first of three turnovers, a recovery by the Raiders’ Drew Matthews at the Midway 13, came on the posssession following the hosts’ successful onside kick and drive for a 28-12 lead.
Calcutt needed just one snap — with a scramble, a cutback and a lunge at the goal line — to convert Carsse Lucas’ interception into a 25-yard touchdown run 1:42 before intermission.
“After the onside kick, it was all catch-up,” Williams said.
Added Adams, of the second quarter momentum change, “We weren’t playing as hard as we can. We started to give up.
“We have to come as a family, and unite.”
Belle believes they will. So do a number of their teammates. Fairmont, in the Three Rivers opener, is next to find out.
Sophomore Malaci Oxendine pushes tries to elude the grasp of Dante Blue, left, and Cameron Barefoot on Friday at Midway.
Second-year head coach Kris Williams said the Knights showed resilience in Friday’s setback to Midway.
Kai Belle, right, blocks Jordan Strickland as Knights teammate Nathan Landreth (72) leads Kerron Washington, hidden, through the hole Friday night at Midway.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or email@example.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.