CLINTON — The Dark Horses of Clinton opened a big lead over visiting West Bladen on Friday, but had to hold off the hard-charging Knights for a 42-29 Four County Conference win.
The loss dropped West Bladen to 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the conference, while Clinton secured the No. 1 Class 2-A seed out of the conference and is now 6-2 overall, 5-0 in the conference.
The Knights lit up the scoreboard first when Trevor Lesane fell on the loose ball on the o0pening kickoff at the Clinton 26. After two unsuccessful plays, quarterback Colby Lewis hit Malcolm Vaught with a 28-yard touchdown pass an Colby McLean booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead just 1:25 into the game.
It would be West Bladen’s last points until midway through the third quarter.
The Dark Horses drove to the West Bladen 3, but could not punch it in as the Knights’ defense stiffened. When West Bladen took over, however, the Clinton defense broke through the line and hauled down a Knights runner for a safety, cutting the deficit to 7-2.
Following West Bladen’s kick, the Dark Horses marched to the end zone quickly, scoring on a 41-yard run. The extra point was good to give Clinton a 9-7 lead that would never be given up.
Late in the quarter, the Dark Horses added another touchdown, this one on a 50-yard pass. The point after was missed, but the Dark Horses had expanded the lead to 15-7.
In the second quarter, Clinton tacked on another score and this time added the point after for a 22-7 edge that stood up until halftime.
In the third quarter, Clinton added another touchdown and opened its biggest lead of the game at 29-7. But West Bladen’s rally was coming.
The Knights responded with a 72-yard touchdown run by Malique McDowell and McLean’s PAT cut the deficit to 29-14.
After stopping Clinton, the Knights put together a 76-yard march that concluded with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to De’quan Lennon. West Bladen scored the two-point conversion — a pass from Lewis to McDowell — to creep within 29-22 late in the third quarter.
Clinton answered in the fourth quarter with a touchdown, but could not post the two-point try and held a 35-22 edge with 4 minutes to play.
West Bladen manufactured a 67-yard drive that featured a 31-yard pass from Lewis hit Tavion Graham and a 20-yard pass from Lewis to Xavier McKoy. Moments later, Lennon took a pass from Lewis and raced to the Clinton 1 before Lewis scored on a keeper with 1:54 remaining. McLean’s point after cut the gap to 35-29.
But the Dark Horses put the game away 1 minute later with a touchdown and extra point.
McDowell led the West Bladen ground game with 81 yards on five carries, while Vaught had 30 yards on seven carries.
Through the air, Lewis was 10-for-17 for 173 yards. Lennon had two catches for 62 yards, Graham had two catches for 28 yards and McKoy had two receptions for 25 yards.