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It took a half for the West Bladen offense to get in rhythm. The Knights defense was dominant from beginning to end.

West Bladen erupted for four touchdowns in the third quarter and the defense held Pender to minus-16 yards rushing for the game as the Knights celebrated homecoming with a 50-21 Four County 1A/2A Conference victory. Two of Pender’s scoring drives were less than 10 yards following long kickoff returns.

“The defense played great,” West Bladen coach Russell Dove said. “It’s the best they’ve played all year. Even though the scoreboard shows 21 points, the kickoff team put them in a spot a couple of time. We really stressed to them to do your job and they did.”

David Gittens led the West Bladen defense. The senior defensive end was in on at least 10 tackles, including a three quarterback sacks, and also blocked a Pender field goal attempt midway the third quarter. Hunter Pait, Traquan Horne, Luis Ramirez, Idris Najeeullah and Traquan Smith also made it difficult for the Pender offense to have a sustained drive.

The bulk of Pender’s offense came through the air. Quarterback Jake Rawls completed 11 of 17 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Offensively, Daquan Lennon carred the ball only five times, but gained 123 yards, including a 75-yard scamper down the left sideline for West Bladen’s fourth touchdown of the third quarter. The senior also returned a kickoff 66 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

James Moore rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns and B.J. Drake added a pair of scoring runs and 95 yards rushing for West Bladen. The Knights’ other touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Stefan McDonald to Jonathan Ashworth. Ray Jones was a perfect 6-for-6 on extra point kicks and McDonald ran for a two-point conversion.

“We were able to make some adjustments at halftime,” Dove said. “We gave those backs the ball and let them do their work. We were able to get outside a little more and we stopped trying to plug it in the middle. That loosened everything up for us.”

The win improved West Bladen to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play. The Knights finish their regular season at Clinton, home against Midway, then play at rival East Bladen. Those opponents have a combined 19-5 record.

“We’ve got a murderer’s row coming up,” Dove said. “I’m excited about. We’re going to work like we haven’t worked before to get ready.”

Pender is 1-7 overall nnd 0-4 in the conference.

After stopping Pender on its first possession, West Bladen drove 69 yards in six plays with Drake covering the final 13 on a sweep around the left side that gave the Knights a 7-0 lead following Jones’ kick. The key play was a 28-yard run by Moore.

Pender tied it at 7-7 with 8:48 left in the second quarter when Rawls snuck in from the 3 and Matthew Ezzell kicked the conversion. The score was set up when Rawls connected with Justin Hooper on a 33-yard pass play on third-and-10 that moved the ball from the West Bladen 36 to the 3.

West Bladen regain the lead for good on the next play from scrimmage with Drake racing 49 yards for the score. Jones’ kick made it 14-7.

The Knights scored on all four of their possessions in the third quarter to open a 43-14 lead. After Pender pulled within 43-20 with 5:09 left in the fourth quarteron Rawls to Sammy Hudson touchown pass, Lennon returned the ensuing kickoff and Jones booted the conversion to account for the final score.

Scoring summary

Pender             0 – 7 –   7 – 7 — 21
West Bladen    7 – 7 –  29 – 7 — 50

WB – B.J. Drake 13 run (Ray Jones kick)
P – Jake Rawls 3 run (Matthew Ezzell kick)
WB – Drake 33 run (Jones kick)
WB – James Moore 3 run (Stefan McDonald run)
WB – Jonathan Ashworth 25 pass from McDonald (Jones kick)
WB – Moore 5 run (Jones kick)
P – Justin Hooper 4 run (Ezzell kick)
WB – Daquan Lennon 75 run (Jones kick)
P – Sammy Hudson 6 pass from Rawls (Ezzell kick)
WB – Lennon 66 kickoff return (Jones kick)

Rushing: P – Hooper 15-9, Chris Devane 2-2, Isaiah Sergeant 1-(-2), Latrell Brown 5-(-3), Rawls 14-(-22). WB – Lennon 5-123, Moore 10-117, Drake 6-95, Malique McDowell 12-60, McDonald 1-6, Jeremiah 1-0, Luis Ramirez 1-(-1), Derrick Grant 1-(-2).

Passing: P – Rawls 11-17-0-155. WB – McDonald 1-1-0-25.

Receiving: P – Hudson 6-94, Hooper 3-38, Hayden Kreitzer 1-20, Sergeant 1-3. WB – Ashworth 1-125.

Records: Pender 1-7 overall, 0-4 Four County; West Bladen 6-2 overall, 3-1 Four County.

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