Bowdon (5-1, 3-1 Region 5-AA) led 20-13 at the break, but it wasn’t a pleasant one for Red Devil coach Dwight Hochstetler to witness from the sidelines.
Penalties and some defensive meltdowns made for an ugly opening 24 minutes of action that saw the Red Devils get penalized nine times for 95 yards on a night where it seemed to be raining yellow flags.
“The problem was we just didn’t play Bowdon football. We made too many mental mistakes. We had a bunch of holding penalties — I bet we had about 150 yards called back — but we settled down at halftime and in the second half we played real well. On both sides, offensively and defensively, we played extremely well in the second half. I guess the first half was a wake-up call,” Hochstetler said. “They need to realize that in double-A ball, you’ve got to show up to play every game.”
The Red Jackets, who entered the contest on a 19-game losing streak dating back to the 2010 season, delivered the first blow just 34 seconds into the game on a 66-yard touchdown strike from Javonte West to Julius Yarwaye for the early 7-0 lead.
Bowdon pulled within one after going 58 yards in eight plays, capped by a one-yard William Drummond touchdown run, to pull within 7-6 after a botched snap on the extra point attempt.
Bowdon tacked on a 15-yard Darnell Holland run with 22.7 ticks left in the first quarter and a 23-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Thurman to Chris Keith on fourth-and-12 with 6:33 remaining in the second quarter stretched the Red Devil lead to 20-7.
But rather than begin to pull away from Jordan (0-6, 0-4), Bowdon gave up a late touchdown after West fumbled on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line and Red Jacket lineman Damon Lewis pounced on it with 11.6 seconds remaining in the half, making it a one-possession game at the break.
Hochstetler said the late Red Jacket score may have been just what his ball club needed to realize that if it didn’t wake up, it could be a long night.
“I’m glad it happened right at the end of the half. I told our kids that it really gave our opponent a lot of momentum going into the half. I told them that they’re probably believing they can win this ball game, so we need to come out and really make a statement — and I think our squad did that,” Hochstetler said.
The second half indeed proved to be a different story.
Bowdon scored on first possession of third quarter, going 45 yards on seven straight run plays — six by Keith — with the junior fullback’s final run being good for a four-yard touchdown scamper up the middle. Thurman’s two-point conversion put the Red Devils ahead 28-13 with 8:51 remaining in the third.
The Red Jackets attempted a fake punt from inside their own 20 on their first possession of the half and Keith recorded his second interception of the game and returned it to the Jordan 30-yard line. That set up another Bowdon score one play later on a 30-yard Holland touchdown run to put the Red Devils up 35-12 with 7:12 left in the third.
Bowdon tacked on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Thurman to Keith later in the quarter and Austin Carroll closed out the third with a 49-yard touchdown run and the rout was on at 49-13, making for a running clock in the fourth quarter.
Jordan’s Marquise Lindsey returned the opening kickoff of the fourth quarter 70 yards for a score and the Jackets were able to capitalize on a broken play on a punt attempt by the Red Devils to set up a nine-yard William Harris touchdown run to pull within 49-27 with 7:59 left in the game.
And even with a running clock in the fourth quarter, Friday night’s contest spanned 2 hours and 20 minutes, making for a long night in Bowdon.
Keith finished with 107 rushing yards on 16 carries to go along with two receptions for 34 yards. He had three touchdowns on the night — two receiving and one rushing. Holland added 81 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries and Jarod McKey finished with 89 yards on eight carries. Thurman was 3-of-6 passing for 46 yards and two touchdowns while picking up 52 rushing yards on five carries.