Big plays and big defense helped lift Bandys past Bunker Hill, 35-7, on Friday as the Trojans secured fourth place in the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference to conclude the season.
"I am happy with a win," Bandys coach Randy Lowman said, adding the victory helps avenge the Trojans' 49-20 loss to Bunker Hill last year. "They got us so fooled last year, we couldn't even play with them. Our defense played great tonight ... our guys played hard."
On defense, the Trojans held Bunker Hill's potent rushing attack to just one score on the ground. With the tandem of Bear rushers Reggie Davis and Justin Lynch averaging 255 yards per game, the Trojans defense contained the duo. Davis rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while Lynch totaled 44 yards on 16 carries.
With Bandys' defense standing solid against the Bear attack, the Trojans offense used big plays to put points on the board.
Bandys running back Dominique Young ran the Trojans' first play from scrimmage 62 yards to score and give the home team a 6-0 lead. In the second half he added another 58-yard touchdown run.
Meanwhile, in the air, Bandys quarterback David Barrow started the second half with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Lackey to conclude a five-play, 73-yard drive that gave the Trojans a 15-0 lead.
"We have been able to add a little to the passing game getting David back and being able to do some things," Lowman said of Barrow, who was injured in the Trojans' season-opener and returned as starting quarterback last week. "We lost a little bit when we lost Jackson (Gilliam), we had to try to cover that up, and we are finding our balance again."
A serious car wreck ended Bandys running back Jackson Gilliam's season, but the Bandys rushing attack was still solid Friday, as junior full back Austin Kiser filled the lead blocker role.
Young finished the night with 208 yards rushing on 25 carries, and Barrow passed for 148 yards and a touchdown on a 7-of-9 passing performance.
After Bandys took an early 6-0 lead, Bunker Hill worked to respond, but penalty problems stunted the Bears' opening drive. Infractions proved to be a problem all night.
"We made too many mistakes," said Bunker Hill coach Travis Conner. "If you have that many penalties, you are not going to win that many ball games. Penalties just beat us. They beat us to death."
Conner said those penalties hurt Bear opportunities, particularly in the first half.
"It was an ugly game and both teams just got sloppy," Lowman said.
After Young gave Bandys a 6-0 lead on its first play from scrimmage, the Trojans' Peter Guiraud kicked a 22-yard field goal to give Bandys a 9-0 halftime lead.
After Barrow connected with Lackey for the scoring pass, Bunker Hill responded, manufacturing a drive that found the red zone, thanks in part to a pass interference penalty against Bandys in the end zone.
However, one play after the penalty, Bandys forced a Bunker Hill fumble and Pierce Caldwell recovered the loose ball and raced 27 yards to score. His turnover recovery gave Bandys a 21-0 lead.
Davis scored for Bunker Hill early in the fourth quarter on a four-yard run, but Bandys sealed the win courtesy Dominque Young's 59-yard touchdown run, and a three-yard touchdown run by Tewon Smith that capped an eight-play, 44-yard scoring drive.
With the win, Bandys (8-3, 4-3) stands alone in fourth place in the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference, and the Trojans enter uncertain playoff waters. With eight wins, they are assured a playoff berth, but Trojan coaches are guessing where their opening game will be.
"We have no idea who we are playing," Lowman said. "With the new pod system. I don't even know how to guess. We used to know within a couple of teams ..."
Regardless of the opponent, Lowman said the formula for success is simple.
"We have got to be able to keep doing what we are doing," he said, of the Bandys strategy to control the ball and play solid defense.
With the loss, Bunker Hill falls to 6-5 and 2-5 in conference play, and slips into a three-way tie with Newton-Conover and East Burke. Newton-Conover beat Bunker Hill earlier in the season, but lost to East Burke, while the Bears defeated the Cavaliers.
Check back with observernewsonline.com for playoff pairings after they are announced Saturday.