DUBLIN — Monday night football and the new grey home uniforms agree with the West Bladen Knights.
Behind a bend but don’t break defense and two game-changing plays, the Knights ended a 19-game losing streak by beating South Robeson in the season-opener for both teams, 34-12.
The Mustangs ended a two-season losing streak against West Bladen in the season-opener last year.
“This will go a long way toward getting us the confidence we need,” said West Bladen coach Russell Dove. “Getting that first win is big for us.”
The Knights opened the game with a seven-play, 86-yard drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown run by Malcolm Vaught at the 9:05 mark. The kick was no good, but West Bladen led 6-0.
South Robeson needed just 12 seconds to knot the score, as the Mustang returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the game was knotted at 6-6.
The Knights got a first down before losing a fumble at their own 39, and South Robeson used just three plays to score. The conversion try failed again, but the Mustangs led, 12-6, with 5:28 left in the first quarter.
West Bladen thought it had tied the score when Vaught returned the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, but the play was called back to the South Robeson 23 because of a penalty. The Knights drove to the Mustangs’ 5 before fizzling.
South Robeson couldn’t muster anything and, on third down at its own 14, a South Robeson pass was picked off by West Bladen’s Xavier McKoy at the Mustangs’ 25. But the Knights only went backwards and were forced to punt.
The Mustangs never got going on offense, and a sack by the Knights; Stanley Bellamy halped keep South Robeson stalled. A 12-yard punt gave West Bladen the ball at the Mustangs’ 40, where the Knights began a four-play drive to pay dirt — finished off on a 19-yard run by Vaught with 4:28 left in the half. Edward owns bulled in for the two-point conversion and West Bladen took its first lead of the game, 14-12.
The Knights stopped South Robeson again and took over on their own 36. A fumble lost 7 yards but, after a 5-yard gain by Malique McDowell, Dove went into his bag of tricks. Quarterback Colby Lewis pitched the ball to Trevor Lesane, who took a step toward the line then dropped back and heaved a perfect pass to a streaking Stephan McDowell up the middle for a 66-yard touchdown with 1:20 left. The conversion failed, but West Bladen led, 20-12.
“We worked on that play all week and I just felt like it was the right time to do it,” Dove said. “Thank goodness it worked.”
South Robeson had a fumble, penalty and a sack by Scottie Storms to end the half.
The two teams traded unsuccessful possessions to open the second half before South Robeson worked field position and got the ball at the West Bladen 27. But on the very first play, a run up the middle, West Bladen’s Parker Allen stripped the ball carrier and rumbled 73 yards for a touchdown. De’quan Lennon ran in he conversion and the Knights led 28-12 with 5:15 left in the third quarter.
“That was the momentum of the game right there,” Dove said. “Parker did what great players do … make big plays.”
The two teams traded insignificant possessions into the fourth quarter before Vaught came out of a pile with a South Robeson fumble at the West Bladen 28. The Knights used five plays to travel the 72 yards, highlighted by a 55-yard run by Lennon, and scored when Lennon finished the drive with a 21-yard touchdown run. The conversion failed, but West Bladen led 34-12.
South Robeson took the kickoff to the West Bladen 38 and moved to the Knights’ 25 before Owens put an exclamation mark on the West Bladen win by tattooing the Mustangs’ quarterback for a 13-yard loss late in the game.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” Dove said. “The defense, after a tentative start, really showed up — giving up just six points. We did what should have done — beat a team I thought we should beat, and closing it out.”
The Knights gained 222 yards on the ground, led by Lennon’s 139 yards on five carries.