The West Bladen football team talked before Friday night’s Senior Night game against Midway about climbing the hill and conquering it.
The Knights repeatedly made the climb, but kept getting pushed back in a 33-15 loss to Midway in a Four County 1A/2A Conference game at the Castle.
Larry Blanks ran for two touchdowns and 133 yards, and Terrel McGee rushed for 121 yards and a score as Midway used its powerful running game and some timely plays in handing West Bladen its second consecutive loss.
West Bladen is 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference. The Knights close the regular season next Friday at rival East Bladen. Midway is 7-3 and 3-3.
Prior to the game, West Bladen recognized seniors Stefan McDonald, Jeremiah Purdie, Ray Jones, Hunter Prevatte, Traquan Horne, Daquan Lennon, Malique McDowell, Devon Malcolm, Deontae McKoy, Idris Najeeullah, Donald McCullum, Ashton Lyongs, David Gittens, Matthew Sturgill, Justin Hall, Mason Skipper and team manager Jeffrey Shipman, who were playing their final home game.
“We would get to the hill and then we’d give up the hill,” West Bladen coach Russell Dove said. “We’d climb the hill again and we give it up. We would play so hard and put ourselves in a position to go ahead or have a chance to win the ball game, and it seemed like every time we got to the top, we got knocked right back down.”
Midway’s Blanks scored his two touchdowns in the first quarter before West Bladen had run a play from scrimmage. The Knights had a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter nullified by an inadvertent whistle, which Midway turned into its final touchdown. Twice during a time-consuming 19-play drive in the third quarter, Midway picked up first downs on third and long yardage and, although the Raiders didn’t score on the drive that ended at West Bladen’s 5, it led to a blocked punt that Derrick Loftis recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
“I was pleased with the effort,” Dove said. “The kids wanted it really bad. They warmed up like they were focused. We moved up and down the field like we needed to, but it just seemed like getting that first down converted on offense, and stopping them from converting on defense is just our Achilles heel. If you’re going to beat a good team, you’ve got to be good in that area.”
Both West Bladen touchdowns came in the second quarter on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Stefan McDonald and a 5-yard run by Malique McDowell. Ray Jones kicked the conversion after the first score and McDonald ran for a 2-point conversion following the second touchdown.
Midway took the opening kickoff and drove 60 yards in 10 plays, capped by Blanks’ 3-yard run with 7:38 remaining. Jackson Carr kicked the conversion.
Midway then recovered an onsides kick and drove 46 yards in 10 plays. Blanks barreled in from the 1 for the score. Carr’s kick made it 14-0 with 3:08 left in the first quarter.
Once the West Bladen offense got on the field, it produced a 56-yard, 10-play drive that ended with McDonald sneaking in from the 1 on fourth and goal. Jones’ kick cut the Knights’ deficit to 14-7 with 9:53 left in the second quarter.
Midway put together a third consecutive scoring drive as McGee ran 15 yards for the touchdown that ended a 12-play, 70-yard march. The conversion kick failed, but Midway held a 20-7 lead with 4:34 left before halftime.
West Bladen countered quickly, sparked by a 42-yard run by James Moore that put the ball at the Midway 22. McDowell scored from the 5 and McDonald ran the conversion as the Knights cut it to 20-15 with 2:07 left before halftime.
The Knights were stopped on their first possession of the second half and punted. Midway took over at its 13 and methodically worked its way down the field on the 19-play drive that consumed 7 minutes and ended on an incomplete pass on fourth down from the 5.
Three plays netted no yards for West Bladen. Midway then blocked the punt that was recovered in the end zone by Loftis. Carr’s kick made it 27-15 with 11:08 left in the fourth quarter.
After another three-and-out series by West Bladen following the kickoff, and the inadvertent whistle nullifying a Knights fumble recovery, Midway put the game away on Olanipekun’s run with 6:23 remaining.
Midway ran 69 plays for 392 yards while West Bladen ran 35 plays for 189 yards.
Midway 14 – 6 – 0 – 13 — 33
West Bladen 0 – 15 – 0 – 0 — 15
M – Larry Blanks 3 run (Jackson Carr kick)
M – Blanks 1 run (Carr kick)
WB – Stefan McDonald 1 run (Ray Jones kick)
M – Terrel McGee 15 run (kick failed)
WB – Malique McDowell 5 run (McDonald run)
M – Derrick Loftis recovered blocked punt in end zone (Carr kick)
M – Akinlabi Olanipekun 32 run (kick failed)
Rushing: M – Larry Blanks 24-133, Terrel McGee 21-121, Shaking Warren 7-41, Akinlabi Olanipekun 4-35, Anthony McKoy 2-15, Team 2-(-3). WB – James Moore 7-74, Malique McDowell 11-68, Daquan Lennon 4-14, B.J. Drake 3-11, Stefan McDonald 8-8.
Passing: M – Austin Raynor 3-9-0-50. WB – Stefan McDonald 1-2-0-14.
Receiving: M – J.D. Lockamy 1-21, Paris Smith 1-15, Dylan Lee 1-14. WB – Malique McDowell 1-14.
Records: Midway 7-3 overall, 3-3 Four County; West Bladen 6-4 overall, 3-3.
Next game: Union at Midway, West Bladen at East Bladen
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