Bulldogs swat aside Hornets for first win

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Facing an Ider team that mostly operated out of the almost-extinct Double-Wing offense, Gaston High pretty much knew what was coming during Friday’s Class 2A, Region 7 game. 

It was a matter of whether the Bulldogs could withstand 48 minutes of pounding in the trenches.

Except for the game’s opening drive and one long touchdown run by the Hornets, the Gaston defense put the brakes on the Ider’s ground-and-pound attack en route to a 21-12 victory and the Bulldogs’ first win of the season. 

Out of Ider’s 10 possessions, Gaston (1-2, 1-1) forced six punts and came up with two interceptions. 

“You just have to get used to what they’re doing, because you don’t see that type of offense every day” said Gaston head coach Swane Morris. “As that works, you get into a flow. I coached against [the Double-Wing offense] before, and I told our kids that it would be a war all night long. Your defensive linemen have to be selfless, and I’m very proud of our kids for doing that.”

Senior cornerback Albert Douglas had both of the above picks, the latter of which he returned 75 yards for a touchdown. That score gave Gaston a 14-6 lead at halftime. 

“Albert Douglas has been a great leader for us all year long,” said Morris. “He’s having the type of senior year that a senior wants to have. He’s took that leadership roll and has done everything that we’ve asked him to do.”   

Douglas’ big play was needed, because other than Mitchell’s Smith’s 73-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, the output of the Bulldog offense amounted to 58 yards, four punts and a lost fumble. 

But when the outcome was still in doubt in the fourth quarter, Gaston produced a couple of sustained drives that both drained the clock and wore down the Hornet defense. 

On the opening series of the second half, the Bulldogs used nine plays and moved 45 yards to the Ider 32-yard line, in the process shaving off more than five minutes of clock time.

The possession fizzled out on a failed fourth down conversion attempt, however, and on the next play from scrimmage Tyler Ogle took it to the house for a 68-yard touchdown.

The two-point conversion attempt failed but the Hornets (2-1, 0-1) were within 14-12 at 7:07 of the fourth quarter.

With the game on the line, Gaston responded with its best possession of the night. A 34-yard run by Smith on the series’ second play brought the ball to the Ider 47. D.J. Pope then rambled for 13 yards and Javonte Pope another seven.

The drive – and the game – eventually hinged on a fourth down and 3 situation at the Horner 28.

The Bulldog offensive line got a good push, allowing Smith to scamper up the middle for five crucial yards and a first down.

On the next play, quarterback Jordan Douglas ran it in for the touchdown.

With Riley Mason’s extra point, the hosts had a nine-point advantage with 3:38 left in the game.  

A 23-yard pass from D.R. Dobbins to Jarrett Palmer on the next series moved Ider past midfield, but two sacks by Smith took valuable time off the clock and pushed the visitors well back into Hornet territory.

Morris noted that preparation was a big factor in the win. 

“We worked on some things all week, and out kids came out and did exactly what we wanted them to do. We have a sign in our locker room that says good players inspire themselves but great players inspire others. So I tell our kids not just to worry about themselves and to work for everybody on the team.”

Smith finished with 117 yards on 13 carries. Javonte Pope rushed six times for 37 yards, while Jordan Douglas added 33 yards on nine attempts. 

The Bulldogs found themselves in an early hole when Ider’s eight-play, 68-yard opening possession resulted in Dobbins’ 1-yard touchdown run at 7:24 of the first quarter. The PAT failed.

The hosts dodged a pair of bullets when the Hornets failed to score after recovering the ensuing onside kick, then had to punt later in the quarter after recovering a Gaston fumble. The Bulldogs mustered minus-14 yards over the initial 12 minutes. 

But the hosts took the lead for good on Smith’s touchdown and Mason’s extra point at 8:24 of the second frame, and Douglas’ interception return for a touchdown provided the Bulldogs with an eight-point lead at intermission.

“We’re even now in the region and we’ve got two non-region games coming up,” said Morris. “But the big thing that we’ve got to do is quit looking at the region standings and schedules and look at the next game we play. That’s all we need to worry about.” 

Gaston travels to Class 1A Spring Garden this week.

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