BURNS OUTLASTS SOUTH POINT IN CONFERENCE OPENER
By: Anthony Perkins
Lawndale – The Burns Bulldogs hosted the South Point Red Raiders for the Southwestern 2A Conference opener for both teams and escaped with a 30-28 victory when Zack Benfield’s twenty-eight yard field goal attempt split the uprights with only sixteen seconds left in the contest.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the first play from scrimmage when quarterback Cam’ron Sweezy took the opening snap at the Burns twenty and spotted KJ Leslie at least 15 yards behind the South Point defense near mid-field. His pass hit Leslie in stride and Leslie galloped the rest of the way to the end-zone without being touched by a Red Raider defender for a 7-0 lead only fifteen seconds into the game. After that opening shocker both defenses settled in and the rest of the first quarter saw both offenses making only one or two first downs before being forced to punt.
The first Burns possession of the second quarter started at the South Point 45 after the Red Raiders failed to get a first down on fourth and three. Five plays later Burns pushed out to a 14-0 lead when fullback Nick Jackson scored on a four-yard run.
The Red Raider offense came to life on their next possession by finishing off a 67-yard drive with a five-yard run by fullback Hunter Hogue that cut the margin to 14-7. South Point’s defense rose to the occasion on the next Bulldog possession and forced at punt from the Burns thirty-six and set their offense up at the South Point thirty-yard line with just over four minutes left in the half. After the Red Raiders gained a first down it looked like the Burns defense had stopped the Red Raider drive on an interception but a “pass interference penalty” gave the Red Raiders the ball at the Burns forty-four. Four plays later, a twenty-one yard pass from Javus Davis to Ray Rose knotted the game at 14-14 with 33 seconds left in the half and the visiting Red Raiders would get the opening kick-off in second half.
The second half seemed to start off just as bad as the first half for the Red Raiders when they were forced to fall on the ball at their own six-yard line after the kick was mishandled. Slot back Will Rhinehart gave the Red Raiders a shot in the arm when he broke into the secondary on the first snap and there was nothing but green grass between him and the end-zone. However, Burns defensive end, Dorien Starnes, never gave up on the play and chased Rhinehart down and caught him at the Burns 43. That was the first of many great plays in the second half that potentially changed the final outcome. After Starnes’ touchdown saving tackle the Red Raiders could only move the chains once more before turning the ball over on downs.
The scoreless third quarter ended with South Point punting the ball away to the Bulldogs to set up a fourth quarter scoring frenzy. Burns started the final quarter the same way they started the first quarter. On their first snap, fullback Kujuan Pryor broke free for a 66-yard dash to pay dirt that pushed the Bulldogs out to a 21-14 lead. South Point followed suit with a nine play, 57-yard drive that tied the score at 21-21 when Jammari Lewis scored on a 12-yard run.
Burns next possession turned out to be a five play, 66-yard drive that Pryor capped off with a 21-yard run. However, a collective sigh could be heard on the Burns side of the field when the point after sailed to the left to leave the score at 27-21 with just over five minutes left on the clock.
The ensuing kick trickled out of bounds inside the South Point 10 and the “illegal procedure penalty” gave the Red Raiders good field position at their 35. After their first three plays had netted only two yards, South Point was facing a fourth and eight from their own thirty-seven. New life was breathed into the Red Raiders when quarterback Javus Davis connected with Devon King for a thirteen-yard gain and two plays later Ray Rose got to the edge on a sweep right and dashed 43-yards untouched into the end-zone. Kicker Carson Smith (4 for 4) split the goal posts on the point after to give South Point their first lead of the game at 28-27 with just under three minutes left on the clock.
Burns started their final drive of the contest at their own 20 and ten plays later they had advanced the ball to the South Point eleven. Without any timeouts remaining, quarterback Sweezy spiked the ball with only 20 ticks left on the clock giving Benfield the opportunity to kick a field goal for the win. The following snap, hold and kick were perfect and Benfield took full advantage of the opportunity to redeem himself after the previous missed extra point and in so doing he gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 win.
As great as the offensive effort had been for the Red Raiders the defense was simply not able to stop Kujuan Pryor in the fourth quarter. Pryor was the only Burns player that touched the ball in the fourth quarter except for Sweezy spiking the ball before the field goal attempt. Pryor’s fifteen, fourth quarter touches netted 206 yards and two touchdowns. In this observer’s eyes, that was a perfect example of a player putting his team on his shoulders and carrying them to victory. What a great performance!
Next week Burns will be at home to take on an undefeated Chase Trojan team and South Point will be back at home to face their cross-town rival East Gaston Warriors.