Photo: West End’s Rocko Sainsbury (left) hands off to Isaiah Roberson during the Patriots’ 44-13 loss to Cleveland on Sept. 10 in Walnut Grove. (Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter)
By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
West End trailed 14-7 and was driving in Cleveland territory on Thursday night when
quarterback, Eli Pearce suffered a right knee injury with 6:24 left in the second quarter.
The injury sidelined the senior standout for the remainder of the Class 2A, Region 6 football contest, and the Patriots didn’t recover as Cleveland pulled away for a 44-13 victory in Walnut Grove.
West End slipped to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the region standings, while the Panthers improved to 2-1, 2-0.
Sophomore Rocko Sainsbury, who until Thursday had never taken a snap in a varsity game, replaced Pearce.
“A lot of wind went out of our sails,” West End head coach Kyle Davis said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t play great last week. I think we were starting really good, and I think we had a really good plan coming out. Things were rolling [and] executing and then we lost Eli. Obviously, when you lose a great player, you’re going to struggle, especially offensively when he’s your quarterback and he makes your offense go. With that being said, we’ve got to learn to line up and run at them and see if we can make something happen.”
Pearce gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead when he hit Trevor Willett with a 36-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-14 play with 9:05 left in the opening quarter.
Cleveland cut it to 7-6 on Logan Washburn’s touchdown pass with 7:45 remaining in the first. The Panthers’ Daquarrius Phillips dashed 50 yards to the end zone at the 2:42 mark. A successful two-point conversion made it 14-7.
The Panthers scored 16 points in the final six minutes of the second period following Pearce’s injury, blocking a punt for a safety and added a pair of touchdowns to build a 30-7 advantage.
Cleveland opened the second half with Washburn’s 54-yard TD pass to Pierce Gilliland with 10:13 to go in the third quarter.
The Panthers picked off a pass on the ensuing West End drive and converted the turnover into their final score of the night on Washburn’s 26-yard toss to Phillips with 7:51 on the clock.
West End’s Isaiah Roberson broke loose for a 38-yard touchdown run with 57.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Panthers stopped Sainsbury’s two-point conversion run.
The Patriots return to Region 6 action Sept. 18 at Gaston. West End hosts Appalachian for homecoming on Sept. 25.
“It’s not just Eli,” Davis said. “We lost [Tyler] Jones two weeks ago to a torn ACL, and he’s our backup [quarterback]. Our third string, Marty Wooten, has a broken hand and is playing safety. He’s playing safety because Jones is out. Rocko has maybe played quarterback a few times in a junior high game, and that’s about it.
“I told the guys that it’s football. We’ve had some really bad, unfortunate stuff. We lost three guys earlier in the year to injuries. Things are happening and they’re not good for us right now, but again, it’s football and we’re going to line up and we’re going to play again next week at Gaston.”