CATAWBA — The Newton-Conover defense went to Bandys with an attitude on Friday night and crashed the party for the Trojans’ homecoming. The Red Devils held the Bandys rushing attack in check and pulled away in the second half for a 36-13 win.
“I told them right here in the (postgame) huddle they surprised me a little bit,” Newton-Conover head coach Steven Pack said about his team’s defensive dominance. “I didn’t think they could do what they did. I mean, they were flying around, they were getting after it. Our corners, we talked about our corners all week. Brandon Johnson, our safeties, our linebackers, Allan Shade — they all just played a great game.”
The Red Devils’ defense limited Bandys to just 211 total yards for the game, 100 in the second half. Of the Trojans’ 111 first-half yards, 43 came on the lone pass completion on the night for Bandys.
The Trojans started Friday averaging over 317 rushing yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry. The Red Devils limited them to 168 rushing yards and 3.7 yards per carry.
“It is a big game for our program. Bandys is a great program,” Pack said. “They were last year’s conference champions. Last year they embarrassed us a little bit on our home turf, so it feels good.”
The striped team had a busy night, and that was partially what led to a scoreless first quarter. Both teams were flagged 11 times. Of those 22 flags, eight came in the first quarter and stymied both teams.
The Red Devils finally put points on the board after an 8:18 drive that ended the first quarter and carried into the second. Addison Hayes cashed in a 33-yard field goal.
The Trojans started on their own 5-yard line after the kickoff and on the second play from scrimmage, Newton-Conover’s Johnson swept in and caught Chris Culliver reversing his field for a 7-yard loss and a safety.
Then the Red Devils took the free kick and marched back into the Trojans’ half of the field before bogging down in the red zone. Hayes delivered another field goal, this time from 23 yards out, for an 8-0 Newton-Conover lead with 3:51 remaining in the first half.
Faced with third-and-9 from their own 40, the Trojans connected on their biggest play of the game. Parker DeHart threw deep to Jackson Spicer, which put the ball on the Newton-Conover 17. Bandys went back to the run and DeHart pushed it across from inside the 2-yard line.
The Trojans tried but failed to tie the score on a 2-point conversion run. Bandys, however, caught a break with its short, high kickoff that went untouched. Caleb Moore recovered on the Newton-Conover 43.
The Newton-Conover defense came to the forefront again and forced the Trojans seven yards in the wrong direction to end the first half.
“I don’t think that was a major factor,” Bandys head coach Tom Eanes said about his team failing to cash in on the conversion or extra possession after the kickoff. “I mean, it would have been nice to have been tied at halftime, but that wasn’t the problem. We just made too many mistakes in a lot of different spots. It’s been that way for the last few weeks, so we’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
After forcing the hosts to punt on the first possession of the second half, the Newton-Conover offense went 53 yards in just five plays. Allen Wilfong went off right tackle for the last 18 yards and the conversion kick made the score 15-6 in favor of the Red Devils.
But it was the Newton-Conover defense that delivered the crushing blow moments later. On Bandys’ first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Sakarri Morrison snatched a pitch out of mid-air and raced untouched 32 yards for the Red Devils’ second touchdown in a 13-second span.
“Oh man, the ball was in my hands and I was in the end zone,” said Morrison, still wearing a wide smile after the game. “Everything just slowed down. I was in the end zone celebrating with my teammates. It felt great.”
Shade added a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown for Newton-Conover before the third quarter ended and Wilfong ended another long Red Devils scoring drive with a brutally punishing 15-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t have a clue where I was,” Wilfong said of his run that featured running over and bouncing off of several Bandys would-be tacklers. “All I know is the end zone is that way and I’ve got to push for it to get there. If you don’t get in my way, I’m not falling down.”
Wilfong finished the night with a game-high 142 yards on 23 carries. It was his second 100-yard rushing performance of the year. Wilfong was the only ball carrier for either team with more than 50 yards rushing. Isaiah Gilchrist led Bandys with 44 yards on 11 carries.
“It was frustrating,” Wilfong said of teams overcrowding the line of scrimmage to bottle him up. “I’m just used to having big plays. When it doesn’t come my way, it makes me mad. Tonight, I felt good.”
Bandys added a late touchdown on a 6-yard run by DeHart.
“We’ve got to get better overcoming adversity. When things don’t go your way, you just can’t be disappointed. You’ve got to fight through things. That’s something we’re having trouble doing right at this moment,” Eanes said of the Trojans. “Maybe things were too easy last year. So, we think we’re still in last year. Well, last year has been over for a while.”
Newton-Conover quarterback Justice Craig had another effective night passing the ball, completing 15 of 21 passes for 138 yards without an interception.
“We didn’t say much (at halftime). Our kids wanted this game,” Pack said of the Red Devils’ second-half eruption. “We didn’t play a perfect game. It’s like I told them right here in the huddle, we can get a lot better.”
Newton-Conover is now 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the South Fork 2A Conference as it prepares for a home game next Friday against West Lincoln. Meanwhile, Bandys slips to 3-3 and 0-2 ahead of a road game against Lincolnton the same night.
Newton-Conover: 00 | 08 | 20 | 08 — 36
Bandys: 00 | 06 | 00 | 07 — 13
NC — Addison Hayes 34-yard field goal, 7:56.
NC — Safety on tackle by Brandon Johnson, 7:04.
NC — Hayes 23-yard field goal, 3:51.
B — Parker DeHart 2-yard run (run failed), 1:10.
NC — Allen Wilfong 18-yard run (Hayes kick), 7:00.
NC — Sakarri Morrison 32-yard fumble return (kick failed), 6:47.
NC — Allan Shade 1-yard run (Hayes kick), 1:57.
NC — Wilfong 15-yard run (Hunter Carpenter pass from Justice Craig), 5:13.
B — DeHart 6-yard run (Jesse Pope kick), 3:31.
First Downs: Newton-Conover 19, Bandys 10
Rushes-yards: Newton-Conover 45-208, Bandys 46-168
Comp-Att-Int: Newton-Conover 15-21-0, Bandys 1-2-0
Passing yards: Newton-Conover 163, Bandys 43
Fumbles-Lost: Newton-Conover 3-0, Bandys 2-1
Penalties-yards: Newton-Conover 11-80, Bandys 11-75
RUSHING — Newton-Conover: Allen Wilfong 23-142 and 2 TDs, Allan Shade 11-36 and 1 TD, Justice Craig 8-33, Brandon Johnson 1- (-5), Demarcus Beatty 1-5, Zane Redmond 1-(-3). Bandys: Isaiah Gilchrist 11-44, Josh Williams 2-11, Jackson Spicer 8-35, Hunter Jones 4-13, Parker DeHart 10-19 and 2 TDs, Chris Culliver 6-27, Quenten Maddox 5-19.
PASSING — Newton-Conover: Craig 14-19-0 for 138 yards, Redmond 0-1-0, A. Wilfong 1-1-0 for 25 yards. Bandys: DeHart 1-2-0 for 43 yards.
RECEIVING — Newton-Conover: Redmond 2-7, Johnson 4-27, Josh Nichols 4-51; Keagen Covington 4-46, Wilfong 1-32. Bandys: Spicer 1-43.