DUBLIN — Senior Night at West Bladen proved to be frustrating for the Knights as visiting Midway scored two quick touchdowns and the referees helped make sure West Bladen had no chance to manufacture a comeback. When it was over, the Raiders took a 33-15 Four County Conference win.
The loss drops the Knights to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference, while Midway went to 7-3 and 3-3.
The Raiders took the opening kickoff at their own 40 and traveled the 60 yards in 10 plays using 4:22 on the clock. The extra point gave Midway a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, an onsides dribbler was recovered by the Raiders at the West Bladen 47 and Midway began another methodical ground attack that covered the 47 yards in 10 plays, scoring a touchdown with 3:08 left in the first quarter. The point after gave the visitors a 14-0 advantage.
The Knights took over after the kickoff at their own 44 and quickly began moving. Malique McDowell busted loose for a 30-yard run to highlight the drive and quarterback Stefan McDonald finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:53 left in the first half. Ray Jones booted the PAT to pull the Knights within 14-7.
Midway answered with a 70-yard drive that took 12 plays and 5:19 and, though the extra point was missed, the Raiders held a 20-7 lead.
West Bladen responded quickly. Starting from their own 35, the Knights got a 42-yard gain on a jet sweep from James Moore and then finished off the march with a 5-yard touchdown run by McDowell. McDonald then took the extra point snap and took off, finding the end zone for a two-point conversion and pulling the Knights within 20-15 with 2:07 left before halftime.
The Raiders used up the rest of the half to move 25 yards.
“We need to score and hold,” West Bladen coach Russell Dove said at halftime. “We made some tweaks on defense, so we’ll see.”
The Knights couldn’t score and they couldn’t hold.
Neither team found points on their first possession of the second half, but Midway did move to the West Bladen 5 before a fourth-down pass fell incomplete. But when the Knights couldn’t move further than their own 6 and were forced to punt, that punt was blocked and the Raiders fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The PAT gave Midway a 27-15 edge with just 52 seconds gone from the fourth quarter.
West Bladen didn’t get anything going and punted the ball away. Midway began a drive at its own 25 and on the fourth play, a fumble continued to bounce through a pile of players until the Knights’ David Gittens fell on it — only to have the referees nullify the play because of an inadvertent whistle.
The Raiders took advantage, using three plays to find pay dirt with 6:23 left in the game. The extra point widened the Midway lead to 33-15.
After the PAT, a mini melee broke out and a Midway player threw a punch. As West Bladen players quickly got off the field, the referees ejected a Midway player — the wrong player — and penalized the Raiders 15 yards on the kickoff.
Despite starting at midfield, West Bladen moved to the Raiders’ 24, but three penalties didn’t help and all but helped snuff any momentum. Midway took over at its own 46 and ran out the clock.
“I’m proud of how our boys handled that mess,” Dove said. “It shows they learned (from last year’s similar situation against Heidi Trask, which cost the Knights a playoff berth).
“They (referees) took two turnovers away from us and that was huge,” he added. “But we got behind early, and it only takes one lapse, which is what happened on that kickoff we lost — and we just couldn’t get it back.”
West Bladen had just 190 yards of offense and were led by Moore’s 74 yards rushing on seven carries. McDowell was right behind with 67 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Through the air, McDonald was 1-for-1 for 14 yards on a pass to McDowell.
On Friday, West Bladen will travel to face East Bladen in the annual Battle for the Bell and regular-season finale.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.