Bulldogs drop season opener to Sand Rock

September 3, 2019 chris
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Photo: Gaston’s Malikah Warren (8) attempts to avoid Sand Rock’s Howie Holland as Josh Campbell (11) looks on during the Bulldogs’ 19-6 loss in high school football last Friday (Aug. 30). (Travis Greene)

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Gaston hung tough against Sand Rock on Friday (Aug. 30), but self-inflicted wounds doomed the Bulldogs in a 19-6 loss at Shinbone Ridge.
The Wildcats turned a par of Gaston turnovers into 13 points, while 10 penalties for 70 yards prevented the hosts from sustaining offensive possessions.
Both teams had difficulty moving the chains. The teams combined for 18 punts, including 16 three-and-outs. Gaston managed only three non-penalty first downs, including just one in the first half.
Despite the above shortcomings, the Bulldogs trailed only 7-6 midway through the fourth quarter. Sand Rock had taken a 7-0 lead on Ian Clanton’s touchdown run and PAT at 3:28 of the second period. Gaston answered in the final minute of the first half when Ethan Stone’s interception set up his own 10-yard TD catch with three seconds left.
After the first six offensive possessions of the second half ended in punts, the Wildcats took advantage of a 30-yard run by quarterback Samuel Alexander. Ian Clanton took it into the end zone on the next play, putting the visitors up by seven points with less than six minutes remaining.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Bulldogs.
Gaston was forced to punt on the ensuing series. A bad snap led to the ball being recovered by Sand Rock at the Bulldog 6, and two plays later, Ian Clanton scored his third touchdown of the night from two yards out.
The extra point failed, but Gaston faced a 19-6 deficit with 4:38 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs’ next series ended on a failed fourth down conversion attempt but Kayden Dupree recovered a fumble as the Wildcats attempted to run out the clock.
Dupree’s big play went for naught, however, as the Bulldogs’ final drive resulted in minus-7 yards.
Gaston finished with 37 total yards, including minus-13 on the ground. Sand Rock had 167 yards, 145 via the rush. Josh Campbell competed 6 of 18 passes for 50 yards.
Ethan Clanton paced the Wildcat rushing game with 58 yards on 10 carries. Alexander ran eight times for 54 yards. Alexander was 4 for 12 in passing for 22 yards.
“Special teams [mistakes] killed us,” said Gaston head coach Swane Morris. “Also, we’re young on our offensive line and we had trouble understanding the spots where we needed to be at. We got better as the game went on but we just couldn’t find a rhythm. Defensively, we flew to the ball and did things we should have done.”
The teams combined for 31 yards and one first down in the first quarter. The second period was much of the same until a five-play, 37-yard drive ended with Ian Clanton’s first touchdown run.
Sand Rock was looking to pad its lead before halftime when Stone picked off a pass at midfield and ran it back 40 yards to set up the Bulldogs’ lone touchdown.
“I’m proud of our overall effort, and I want to see that kind of effort every week,” said Morris. “If our youngsters are competing like that right now, think of how good they’ll compete when they’re 17 and 18 years old.”
Gaston opens its Class 2A, Area 6 schedule next week at home against Ranburne.