Battle Tested Bombers Hold Off Rockets
By Tim Taylor
It may not have been the prettiest victory of the year for the Ballard Memorial Bombers, but the bruised and beaten road warriors found a way to pull out the 34-21 victory on Friday night in Marion, KY. The district win over Crittenden County insured the Bombers of the number three seed in the district race as the regular season winds down. For the fourth time in five road games this season, the Bombers came away with the win. "It was a big win. We knew it was going to be a battle," said Coach John Elliott.
The game was a tale of two halves. Both teams appeared to be measuring their opponents up in the first half and then exploded in the second half. On the Bomber's second possession, they held for ball for 18 plays, but penalties hurt the Bombers and they came away with no points. Collin Garner got a sack on the Rocket's quarterback on the first possession to stop the first Rocket drive, and then Jabarie Bledsoe got the big sack on the second series to stop that drive. The third time was the charm for the Bombers. On their third offensive series, it took Ballard Memorial 3:19 seconds to go 51 yards on eight plays for the score. A fourth and two conversion by Andrew Burton, followed by a ten yard run by Ethan Dunning put the Bombers deep into Rocket territory. Senior receiver Dre Bledsoe would come in motion to take the handoff from Burton and take it around the left end for 13 yards, lunging into the end zone for the 7-0 Bomber lead. The Rockets would respond going 60 yards on nine plays to move the ball to the Bomber eight yard line with just under a minute remaining in the half. However, a bad snap to the Rocket quarterback was recovered by Garner to stop the drive and allowed the Bombers to cling to the 7-0 halftime lead.
The Rockets would pick up the second half where they left off in the first half. Thanks to two offside penalties by the Bombers and a favorable spot on a fourth and one play, the Rockets capitalized. They scored on a one yard touchdown run to tie the score at seven all with 7:39 remaining in the third quarter. The next Bomber's drive would start with an offside penalty again, but the offense would start getting big chunks of yardage. An 18 yard run by Dunning followed by a 12 yard run by Devyn Bledsoe and 18 yard run by Dre Bledsoe would move the ball to the 13 yard line. Devyn would get a nice run inside the five, but a hard hit by a Rocket defender would jar the ball loose. An alert Butch Williams recovered the ball for the Bombers at the nine yard line. Dunning would finish off the drive with a nine yard touchdown to give the Bombers the lead. An unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the play pushed the Bomber's extra point attempt back to the 18 yard line. The Bombers elected to go for two and Burton hit Dre with a pass in the back of the end zone to complete the two point conversion, putting the Bombers up 15-7. The Bomber defense forced a three and out series for Crittenden and allowed the Bombers to take over at their own 45. Two plays later, Dre would take another hand off and go 51 yards for the score. The extra point attempt failed leaving the Bombers up 21-7. "Coach told us before the game, the seniors had to step up and I did what I could do to help the team," said Dre Bledsoe following the game as he added, "The line did a lot to get me open and the receivers blocked well." Fellow senior Dunning would get an interception on the next Rocket series to setup the third Bomber score in the quarter. Burton did a nice job evading the Rocket defenders and shuffled a pass to Dre for 30 yards to move the ball to the three yard line. Dunning finished off the drive going into the end zone from three yards out with 16.1 seconds remaining to push the lead to 28-7. Crittenden would respond and trim the lead back to 14 with an impressive nine play 66 yard drive. Ballard Memorial had an answer as Dre would set up younger brother Devyn for the next score. Dre went 30 yards on a run to move the ball to the one yard line and Devyn finished the drive with a one yard touchdown for the 34-14 advantage. After forcing Crittenden into a punt, the Bombers looked to put the game away, but Burton was intercepted on the next play. The Rockets returned the ball to the Bomber 40 yard line to give the home team another chance. The Bomber defense would make a stand and force a turnover on downs with just over four minutes remaining. However, another Bomber turnover as the exchange between Burton and Dre was mishandled allowing the Rockets to recover at their own 49 yard line. The Rockets were able to score on a 22 yard touchdown reception on a second and 17 play with just over a minute remaining to leave final at 34-21.
"I am proud of our kids getting the win tonight. This is our third season in a row where we have at least seven wins in a season," said Elliott. He added, "It is quite an accomplishment for our program, our kids, our community, and our school. I am very pleased."
Dre Bledsoe would have 197 yards of total offense as he had four carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns to go along with five catches for 76 yards. Dunning added 77 yards on 12 carries with two touchdowns and hauled in two receptions for 12 yards. Devyn Bledsoe had 57 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns, and Andrew Burton gained 17 yards on five carries while completing 8 of 11 pass attempts for 103 yards and the one interception. Drew Collier had one reception for 15 yards. Speaking of his first year as quarterback, Elliott said, "He played his best game of the year by far." Burton said of the transition from receiver to quarterback, "It has been a pretty big adjustment and a totally different view of the game." He added, "I am a lot more comfortable."
The Bombers stand at 7-2 on the year and 1-2 in district play and return to Bomber Field for their home finale for Senior Night against Massac County. Senior Dre Bledsoe said, "It's going to be a big game." Elliott said, "The best way to honor the seniors is to win," as he concluded, "I hope our fans come out and show their appreciation for these seniors."