By James H. Jimenez/For Sand Mountain Reporter
Jordan Malin ran for four touchdown while Payne Stancil and Tyler Grant connected three times for scoring plays as the West End Patriots rolled over the Susan Moore Bulldogs, 65-42, on Thursday (Aug. 25) in Walnut Grove.
However, the football game merely set the stage for a much bigger event – a memorial for Trent Gibbs.
A member of the WEHS football team, Gibbs passed away in May in a two-car wreck just outside of Altoona on the last day of classes.
Gibbs was an on-and-off starter on the offensive line and was described as being a great teammate and person.
Before the game, a special ceremony was held to honor Gibbs’ memory. Gibbs’ family gathered at the 50-yard line, and players and cheerleaders held red balloons as a prayer was said. The balloons were then launched into the sky and a canvas jersey was revealed in the end zone to officially retire Gibbs’ No. 50.
“It felt like Trent’s presence was here,” said West End coach Kyle Davis said. It’s emotional. It was really great to unveil that jersey. A lot of the coaches from Susan Moore knew Trent and wanted to be here for this. It’s great for two communities to come together and have a moment for a good kid like Trent. We miss Trent, but he’s still looking over us.”
Davis admitted the sheer emotion of the ceremony might have gotten to his players early, but was happy with the adjustments they made along the way.
“We needed to come out strong this week [after last week’s 28-21 loss to Glencoe],” Davis said. “We had most of the breaks in the first half, and we took care of business where we needed to.”
Davis was very impressed with the performance of Malin, who ran for four touchdowns and logged a highlight-reel 80-plus yard run to set up a touchdown on the second play of the game.
“Jordan’s a big kid, strong and tough,” Davis said. “We’ve been trying to get him to run downhill for a year-and-a-half in practice, and he finally did it. The offensive line also did a great job of opening up a bunch of holes for him.”
Other contributors for West End (1-1) included Andre Little, who had a 71-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter; Levi Armstrong, who had a 33-yard rushing touchdown; and Dewayne Miller, who had a fumble recovery.
Stancil added a rushing touchdown for the Patriots, who scored 10 touchdowns.
Susan Moore (0-1) struggled to produce on offense in the first half, but poured on the points in the second half, scoring 36.
Jeffrey Threatt had two rushing touchdowns, while Gabriel Ramirez, Angel Maldonado, Angel Duarte, Alan Diaz and Anthony Cervantes each had one.
Ramirez had a highlight reel 52-yard pass to Duarte on a play-action fourth-down play in the third quarter that eventually led to a 9-yard Diaz touchdown.
Duarte had a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty and two more near-returns stopped within the Patriots’ red zone before finally scoring on a 52-yard receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“They scored four touchdowns on our second and third string, and we only allowed two in our first half with our starters,” Davis said. “We had them in second-and-long and third-and-long, which is good. They’re a 3- or 4-yard offense that tries to grind you out.
We played a good three-and-a-half quarters.”
West End will look to win on the road next week against sixth-ranked Tanner.
“They’re one of the best teams in the state,” Davis said. “It’s always either Tanner or Fyffe in the 2A [state] championship. You’ve got to throw your best game at them, get some turnovers and make some plays on offense and see if anything good