CATAWBA — Bandys’ recipe for success, at least in the early going of the 2019 football season, has been simple but effective: wear out a team by relentlessly pounding the ball on offense and strangle the life out of an opponent with a suffocating defense. Friday’s 27-7 win over Fred T. Foard was strikingly similar to the Trojans’ opening night win a week earlier over St. Stephens.
Spotting Foard a 7-0 first-quarter advantage and tied at 7 with the visitors at halftime, Bandys (2-0) pulled away from the Tigers after the break with three second-half scores while holding Foard to just 74 yards of offense after the intermission.
“We didn’t block as well as we have, but we did what we had to do when we needed to do it,” said Bandys coach Tom Eanes, noting his team refused to give up in the face of injuries and early mistakes. “I’m proud of the kids tonight.”
The Tigers (0-2) showed some resiliency of their own on their second possession with a 14-play drive that chewed up 73 yards and took more than six minutes off the clock in the first quarter. Corey Siemer got one big chunk of yardage with a smash off of left tackle and a Will Frye to Daniel Lackey pass picked up a crucial third-down conversion in Bandys territory.
Siemer finally broke through for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead for Foard on a 1-yard smash through the teeth of the Bandys defense.
But Parker DeHart matched Siemer’s touchdown with one for the Trojans when he kept the ball on an option play and scored from 16 yards out. Both teams had ample opportunites to score again before the break, including a 64-yard punt return by Bandys Quenten Maddox that went the distance but was called back on penalties as time expired in the first half.
“Offensively, I think we gave up the ball at crucial times,” said Foard coach Ryan Gettys.
The Tigers put the ball on the ground five times and lost two fumbles. They also gave up the ball on downs deep in their own territory when a high snap forced punter Dakota London to run and come up short on fourth down.
But Bandys had its own issues and lost a fumble on the threshold of the end zone as well. Hunter Jones finally put the Trojans in front when he took a pitch around the left end for a 4-yard scoring run and a 14-7 lead at the 5:38 mark of the third quarter.
“We just go by whatever Drew (Eanes) thinks will work. He’s the coordinator. He calls and tries to set it up,” said Tom Eanes. “He usually does a good job like he did tonight.”
With the Tojans’ defense putting a stranglehold on the Foard offense, the Bandys attack continued to pressure the Foard defense from every angle on the field with multiple weapons. The Trojans used quarterbacks Jackson Spicer and DeHart as well as running back Isaiah Gilchrist to pound at the middle of the Foard defense, while Malik Kennedy, Jones and Chris Culliver stretched the Tigers thin by pressuring the corners with pitches and reverses.
Eleven different Trojans had a hand in carrying the ball 59 times for 301 yards. Spicer led the way with 64 yards. DeHart had 54 and Gilchrist added 53.
“It does help to have a lot of different playmakers. I thought Malik Kennedy really did a good job of making some big plays for us,” said Eanes, who noted the number of players carrying the ball was as much by necessity as it was design. “We had a lot of kids banged up by the end. We were playing JV kids. We were a little bit tested at times. They did a great job.”
Christian Sigmon finally put a little distance between the Trojans and Tigers with a 15-yard run around the right end on the second play of the fourth quarter. The clincher came with 5:01 to play on Bandys lone completed pass when Jones took a pitch and then found Blake Reynolds behind the Tigers’ defense for a 25-yard score.
But in spite of the setback, Gettys felt his team held its own.
“Bandys, first of all, has a really, really good offense. Their misdirection, all kinds of stuff. Our defensive staff worked extremely hard all week,” Gettys said. “They were on our guys all week and our guys responded tonight.”
Likewise, Eanes was very proud of his defense that held Foard to just 208 total yards, 180 on the ground. Although Siemer led all rushers with 92 yards, he needed 19 carries to get there.
“I thought our defense was tremendous tonight getting some turnovers for us,” Eanes said, citing the play of Josh Williams, Josh Ellis, Sigmon, Jones, DeHart and Styborski. “The interior of that line, we played so many people. It’s like every two or three plays he’s throwing another group in there.”
Eanes shared his feelings about facing Siemer, who had 2,500 yards last year as a junior. He noted Siemer is nicked up at the moment.
“I think he’s a great back. If he’s healthy — I don’t want to have to play him if he’s healthy,” Eanes said. “He’s so good. Thank goodness we got out of here with a win.”
Bandys plays at South Caldwell next Friday, while Foard hosts Draughn.