Knights to host conference leader Clinton

W. Curt Vincent -

DUBLIN — The high-school football schedule may take a pause for a storm like Hurricane Matthew, but it hardly takes a deep breath for those teams with numerous injuries — and that’s where the West Bladen Knights find themselves as they prepare for the daunting task of taking on one of the state’s top Class 2-A teams in Clinton on Friday.

At least the Knights will be at home, but they will be trying to snap a five-game skid.

“We’re beat to pieces,” first-year West Bladen coach Todd Pait said. “But we have to find a bright side, and that is that the younger guys are getting invaluable experience. There’s a lot of talent there.”

The Dark Horses, meanwhile, are rolling through another season that appears earmarked for a deep run into the state playoffs. Clinton will invade The Castle carrying a 7-0 record overall and 3-0 in the Four County Conference.

The run-heavy Dark Horse offense, which has put a conference-best 301 points on the board through seven games, is led by Div. I running back prospect Ryheem Skinner, who has rushed for 758 yards and 10 touchdowns on 82 carries. He’s also pulled in seven passes for 158 yards.

But Clinton is hardly a one-man team.

Quarterback Kris Williams has dropped back to pass sparingly, but successfully — completing 14 of 20 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns. he’s also carried the ball 26 times for 266 yards and five touchdowns.

Also in the backfield is Skinner’s heir apparent in Jalen Smith, who has amassed 474 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 66 carries. He’s joined by Tyion Wright, who has rushed for 295 yards and five touchdowns on 42 carries.

Defensively, the Dark Horses have been a shutdown unit, giving up just 36 points this season.

The Clinton defense is led by linebacker Michael Kramer with 70 tackles, 45 of which have been solo, along with two sacks; linebacker Isaiah Page has 41 tackles, 27 solo; and defensive end Devontae Smith has made 51 tackles, 35 solo. And Williams, who is also stationed deep in the secondary, has picked off five passes thus far.

West Bladen has focused on the basics this week during limited practices and Pait is hoping his Knights can use the clock to keep things close.

“Clinton is one of the best teams in the state (but) we’re not going to just lay down,” he said. “We’ll come out swinging with what we have.”

One of the things Pait has is a quarterback in Scott Bowen who started the season as the team’s kicker — but stepped in when Wesley Pidgeon went down.

“Scott stepped in and stepped up big-time,” Pait said. “He asked for this leadership responsibility and I couldn’t be prouder of him — he’s the kind of kid I came from Tennessee to coach.”

Kickoff on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent

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