DUBLIN — Clinton visited The Castle on Friday and did what it does best, scoring on eight of its 10 possessions — only the clock stopped a Dark Horses drive to end the half and the game — and handed West Bladen a 55-0 Four County Conference loss.
The Knights dropped to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference, while Clinton improved to 8-0 and 4-0.
But West Bladen showed some glimpses of success, especially when it opened the game with an aerial attack that seemed to put the Dark Horses on their heels.
The Knights took the opening kickoff and Michael Hepburn returned it 29 yards to the West Bladen 36. Three runs moved the ball to the 46before quarterback Scott Bowen dropped back and hit T.J. Kemp with a 16-yard pass that moved the ball to the Clinton 45. But the next pass went incomplete and the next one was intercepted.
The Dark Horses drove from its own 34 to the West Bladen end zone in just four plays. The PAT gave the visitors a 7-0 lead with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
West Bladen took over at its own 17 and went nowhere. The 37-yard punt set Clinton up on the Dark Horses’ 47 and, six plays later, the scoreboard lit up again with a touchdown. The extra point gave Clinton a 14-0 edge with 4:50 left in the quarter.
The Knights got started at their own 15 and began moving the ball. A pass from Bowen to B.J. Drake was good for 18 yards, a Drake run picked up 9 yards and a Bowen pass to Jonathan Ashworth gained 7 yards to the Clinton 30. A James Moore run moved the ball to the 28, but Bowen’s next pass was intercepted to end the drive.
Clinton needed just four plays to move the 40 yards and find pay dirt. The point after gave the visitors a 21 advantage with 10 seconds left in the opening quarter.
After West Bladen went three and out, Bowen’s 41-yard punt was returned 46 yards to the Knights’ 13. Two plays later, Clinton found the end zone again and the extra point gave the Dark Horses a 28-0 lead with 9:44 left in the half.
The Knights went three and out again, and this time the punt traveled just 20 yards and gave Clinton the ball at the West Bladen 30. Two plays later, the Dark Horses scored with 8:07 left in the second quarter and the point after gave them a 35-0 lead.
West Bladen took over on its own 20 and got something started — a 6-yard run by Moore, 5-yard run by Drake, 1-yard run by Zion Barrett, and 6-yard pass from Bowen to Trent West. But a run for a loss fizzled the march at the West 37 and the Knights punted.
Clinton marched 70 yards in just three plays — the dagger a 63-yard touchdown pass — and even though the point-after try was botched, the Dark Horses led 41-0 with 3:22 left in the half.
Neither team threatened before halftime.
With the clock running throughout the second half, by coaches’ agreement, Clinton took the opening kickoff and began a drive at its own 45. Two plays and 55 yards later, the visitors built a 48-0 advantage just 1:27 into the third quarter when the extra point sailed through the uprights.
West Bladen, starting from its own 20, ran three plays — the last one a pass that got picked off, giving Clinton the ball at the Knights’ 39. The Dark Horses ran the ball nine times and found the end zone on the last one with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. The PAT padded the lead to 55-0.
The Knights, again starting at its own 20, mounted perhaps its best drive of the game when Drake became a workhorse — running for 17, 7, 11 and 5 yards on successive carries to the Clinton 40. A Dark Horses penalty moved the ball to the 25, but three runs combined to lose a yard — and on fourth down, Bowen’s pass fell incomplete.
Clinton took over at its own 26 and nine runs moved the ball to the West Bladen 18 before the Dark Horses took two knees to run out the clock.
“I think we raised their blood pressure a little with the passing game early, and I think maybe we found something there we can use going forward,” West Bladen coach Todd Pait said. “The kids all played really hard and we did the best we could against one of the best teams in the state.”
Drake led the Knights’ ground game with 59 yards on 11 carries. All told, West Bladen gained 75 yards on the ground on 23 carries.
Through the air, Bowen was 6-of-18 for 52 yards with three interceptions. Drake had two catches for 19 yards.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.