Fireworks throughout from one of the state’s leading offenses wasn’t enough to offset the Bulldogs’ disappointing effort on the other side of the football during the team’s 76-45 victory over West Bladen.
St. Pauls head coach Trey Sasser says he’s out of answers as to why his team’s defense continues to struggle with missed assignments and poor tackling, two areas that haunted the Bulldogs against the winless Knights.
It’s back to the drawing board this week, he says, for a unit that gave up three touchdowns on fourth down — including a 33-yard jump ball — and 432 total yards to a squad averaging just 15.3 points per game coming in.
“It almost felt like a loss to be honest,” Sasser said. “We do some things that aren’t real smart and give up plays that we coach during the week not to give up. It’s just how we’re playing right now and I don’t know what to say.”
Offensively, however, St. Pauls put on its usual no-huddle masterpiece, scoring 48 points and picking up more than 400 yards by halftime. At one point in the second quarter, the Bulldogs were picking up yards at a near 15 yards-per-play rate, frustrating West Bladen with quick-snap shotgun handoffs and bootlegs by quarterback Kane Banner.
Shawn Williams tallied 168 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 10 carries while Banner notched 145 total yards and two scores of his own by intermission. Jhamel Leonard made his one carry count on a 65-yard touchdown scamper on a jet sweep and that was followed by a 36-yard highlight on a similar play from Malik Livingston in the third quarter.
Early, West Bladen moved ahead 13-8 in the first quarter but after Livingston’s first score — a 17-yard catch following a nifty sack escape by Banner — the Bulldogs never trailed again.
“It took us awhile to wake up because we heard they weren’t a good team,” Banner said. “They were a great team and we had to realize that before we got beat. We expect to score a lot of points as an offense, but we have to always give 100 percent to do it.”
It took three possessions for the Bulldogs to shake away the cobwebs.
“They smacked us in the mouth when we came out and thought we had the game won,” Banner said.
St. Pauls’ third straight win by double digits wasn’t satisfying enough for a program with conference championship aspirations. The same mistakes that plagued the Bulldogs during a season-opening loss to Gray’s Creek are still there, something they’re trying to correct before Three Rivers play opens in three weeks.
Chuck Walters’ 64-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter was one of the only bright spots on a frustrating night. West Bladen’s Malcolm Vaught ran for a touchdown and caught two others while tailback Deandre Long gashed the Bulldogs for 212 yards on 27 carries and two scores.
“We have a lot we need to fix and that needs to happen fast,” Sasser said. “We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of and we’re letting guys get beat. We just aren’t playing very clean. Defense is all about effort and hustle and we’ll continue to work on it."
St. Pauls 76, West Bladen 45
STP — Shawn Williams 33 run (Williams run)
WB — Zach Wilcox 5 run (kick failed)
WB — Deandre Long 13 run (Tony Gonzalas kick)
STP — Malik Livingston 17 pass from Kane Banner (Williams run)
STP — Deion Gilchrist 44 pass from Banner (Livingston run)
STP — Jhamel Leonard 65 run (Livingston pass from Banner)
STP — Williams 38 run (Javon Crawford pass from Banner)
WB — Malcolm Vaught 33 pass from Wilcox (kick blocked)
STP —Williams 31 run (Williams run)
WB — Long 19 run (Gonzalas kick)
WB —Vaught 4 run (kick failed)
STP — D.J. Inman 15 run (run failed)
WB — Wilcox 3 run (Gonzalas kick)
STP — Livingston 36 run (pass failed)
STP — Chuck Walters 64 interception return (Gilchrist pass from Banner)
STP — Inman 5 run (Inman run)
WB — Vaught 11 pass from Wilcox (pass failed)
Rushing: WB — Wilcox 13-24-2-158. STP — Williams 18-209; Banner 7-110; Livingston 6-59; Leonard 1-65; Inman 5-17. Passing: WB — Long 27-212. STP — Banner 11-19-1-147. Receiving: STP — Crawford 2-14; Gilchrist 5-79; Livingston 3-35; J. Locklear 1-19. Records: West Bladen 0-4. St. Pauls 3-1.