With the game tied 13-13 and 8:30 left to play, the Bandys Trojans began to march. And march. And march.
Nineteen plays, 80 yards and 6:21 later, Bandys’ Dominque Young rushed five yards into the end zone to help give the Trojans a 20-13 lead, and a victory over the visiting Newton-Conover Red Devils.
“That is what we have to do,” Bandys coach Randy Lowman said of the long late-game drive. “Our guys have figured that out. They know we can’t rush. We can’t hurry. We have to try to methodically, move the chains, move the chains, move the chains.”
When the Trojans do move the chains and approach the end zone, they seem to get a little bit better, Lowman said, especially in the “big games.”
“It is like they smell a little blood and they start coming off a little harder,” Lowman said, adding he was proud of the complete game his Trojans put together to secure their first victory in Catawba Valley 2A conference action. “We played the whole four quarters. We won the game late in the fourth quarter ... I am afraid, if my heart can take it, we may have a lot more of these where it is right down to the last, but the biggest thing is these guys played really hard, and the defense played outstanding.”
As in recent weeks, much of the Trojans’ success came on the ground. After a shift in offensive strategy against East Lincoln, Bandys has relied on a ground game that has allowed multiple running backs to show opposing defenses different looks.
“It is nice when that works because that is all we can do right now,” Lowman said. “We have just done some little things to tweak what we are doing, and right now, it is working for us.”
Jackson Gilliam is a bruising fullback, who on Friday, rushed for two touchdowns and 157 yards on 18 carries. Complimenting him, Dominque Young is a speedy slasher who posted 141 yards and a score on 36 carries.
“It all started up front,” Gilliam said. “There isn’t a player on this team that couldn’t come through the holes the line was making tonight. We showed that with multiple backs having good games.”
Once Gilliam or any of the Bandys running backs slipped through holes in the line of scrimmage, they often found out-matched defenders waiting.
“There is nothing like seeing a little (defensive back) squatting on his heels back there,” Gilliam said. “I just like to put a shoulder into them.”
Newton-Conover posted the night’s first points. After the Bandys special teams and defense pinned the Red Devils on their own goal line, Jervasse Moss raced 73 yards on a third-down play that allowed Newton-Conover to escape its own end zone. A couple of plays later, Thomas Corpening capped a six-play, 99-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run. Josue Moscotte’s PAT gave the Red Devils a 7-0 lead.
Bandys answered in the second quarter when Gilliam scored on a six-yard run to conclude a nine-play, 58 yard drive.
Both teams misfired offensively in the late stages of the opening half.
First, Newton-Conover quarterback Kevin Cline threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Bandys’ Ryon Ripper. Moments later, Bandys quarterback Anthony Toscano returned the favor. The Red Devils’ Corpening collected an interception to go along with his early touchdown.
Elsewhere, both teams’ defenses held solid. Trojan defensive pressure forced miscues and made tackles for loss against the Red Devils, and Newton-Conover’s Telijah Gibbs recovered a Trojan fumble.
Going into half-time the game was tied, 7-7.
That didn’t last long.
The Red Devils started the second-half with a quick strike by Cline. On the quarterback option keeper, he raced 63 yards to score with just 49 seconds into the third quarter. A failed PAT gave Newton-Conover a 13-7 lead.
“We gave up two big plays,” Lowman said. “Other than that, the defense was pretty solid for us tonight. That is kind of what we have got to do because we are not going to score a lot of points most nights. We have got to keep it close and keep it a one possession game. We feel like if we can do that, we have got a chance.”
After the Cline score, the Trojans put together another long scoring drive. Gilliam found the end zone for the second time on five-yard run to wrap up an eight-play, 80-yard drive. The Bandys PAT failed, too, and the score was tied, 13-13, going into the final quarter, when the Trojans took their first and only lead of the night.
Newton-Conover got the ball back after Young’s late touchdown gave Bandys a 20-13 lead. The Red Devils couldn’t manage a first down, and Bandys was able to regain possession, and run out the clock.
“I am proud of the kids, they played a hard game,” said Newton-Conover coach Nick Bazzle. “They played a lot better than they did last week, and its a moral victory for us. I know we didn’t beat them, but Bandys is a good football team. They have only lost one game. They are good up front and they play a lot of smash mouth football.”
Bazzle said the young Red Devils made strides from last week, and despite struggling with injuries, the team is still giving their best.
“I don’t know what you expect out of kids other than to play their hardest and be good sports on the field,” he said. “I think we got both of those tonight.”
Bandys next travels to West Caldwell, while Newton-Conover is on the road at East Burke.