DUBLIN — The effects of a 50-0 loss to Clinton on Friday lingered through the weekend for the West Bladen Knights, now 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the Four County Conference, but coach Russell Dove thinks that was a good thing.
“It really bothered them a lot,” he said. “That showed us they cared. Now we just have to get them focused on the next challenge.”
That challenge comes on Friday in the form of the 6-3, 2-3 Midway Raiders, and Dove knows this one will be a tough battle.
“Midway is very good at home, so I’m glad we’re getting them here,” he said. “But they are still a very good team. They had Wallace-Rose Hill 14-0 and they gave East Bladen a tough game, so we can’t do anything but bring our ‘A’ game.”
The Raiders’ offense is nearly a mirror image of West Bladen’s, and is led by 6-foot, 4-inch junior quarterback Austin Raynor. Although Raynor will throw from time to time, he primarily hands off to a solid stable of running backs — including senior Akinlabi Olanipekun and senior Larry Blanks. Senior wide receiver Juane Summers, 6-3 and 220, is a tough blocker and can snare a pass when targeted.
Midway has scored 221 points through nine games this season, just ahead of the Knights’ 218 total, and they are coming off a 64-28 win against Heidi Trask last week.
“They really do look a lot like us,” Dove said. “We finished working on our offense during practice and I told the kids, OK, that’s pretty much Midway’s offense, too.”
On defense, the Raiders will set up in a 44 and 52 and are led by 6-1, 220 junior linebacker Michael Kramer.
Midway has given up just 172 points this season, while the Knights have allowed 251.
“They have a pretty stout offense with good blocking, size and running backs,” Dove said. “And they play good, sound team defense. This will be a tough game ahead.”
Dove said West Bladen has to improve on the offensive side of the ball this week.
“We’ve got to start stretching the field and finishing drives,” he said. “Converting third downs and getting Midway off the field on third down will be a big key for us.”
He added that he expects special teams play to potentially be a difference Friday night.
“This one could come down to an extra point or kick return,” Dove said.
The Knights are expected to be healthy for Friday’s contest, which will be Senior Knight for West Bladen.
The game will be broadcast live on Cool 105.3 by the Bladen Sports Network crew of Ricky Leinwand, Robert Hester, Dan Allen, Joe Melvin and Ron Daniel. The pre-game show begins at 7 p.m. and the kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.