Bulldogs run away from West with big second half

Thomasville running back D.J. Spann runs between West Davidson's Daniel Everhart (40) and Phoenix Gaddy for a gain with the help of Spann's teammates JayQuan Hinson (left) and Kharice Wilder. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

THOMASVILLE | Thomasville and West Davidson opened up Central Carolina Conference play seemingly headed in opposite directions. The visiting Dragons wrapped up their nonconference schedule with a 4-2 record while Thomasville limped through a treacherous nonconference slate with a 1-5 mark.

When the final horn sounded at Cushwa Stadium Friday night, Thomasville emerged with a 33-6 win over the Dragons that served notice to CCC opponents that the Bulldogs are ready to turn their fortunes around.

Sophomore D.J. Spann had 162 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns to pace a potent Thomasville rushing attack that amassed 287 yards. Senior tailback Demoris Payne added 112 yards on the ground as the Bulldogs pulled away from West Davidson in the second half after trailing for most of the first half.

West Davidson took the opening kickoff and put together an impressive 12-play, 66-yard drive, capped off by Kyle Smith’s 2-yard touchdown run at the 7:33 mark of the first quarter. Graham Shoaf’s 2-point conversion attempt sailed over the head of Zach Queen in the back of the end zone and West led 6-0.

The Dragons’ defense, aided by a Thomasville holding penalty, held the Bulldogs on downs and then West put together a 9-play, 48-yard drive that stalled behind delay of game and illegal formation penalties that forced West to punt.

Thomasville was only able to run five offensive plays in the first quarter as the Dragons dominated time of possession while racking up 114 yards of offense compared to 15 yards for the Bulldogs.

In the second quarter the two teams traded punts before Thomasville took control of the line of scrimmage and reeled off a 15-play, 78-yard scoring drive finished off by Spann’s 3-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 23 seconds remaining in the first half. Brett Hokenson nailed the extra point to give Thomasville a 7-6 lead heading into halftime.

The second half started like the first half ended — with the Bulldog runners getting to the edges and picking up chunks of yardage. On the first play of the second half Payne raced 33 yards down the near sideline before being wrestled out of bounds by West’s Daniel Everhart.

Eventually the Dragon defense would stiffen and a host of West defenders stopped Payne on a fourth-and-1 run inside the Dragon 20-yard line to force a turnover on downs.

But the Dragons failed to capitalize on the momentum swing — a moment not lost on West head coach Bryan Lingerfelt.

“When we held them on fourth down and then we couldn’t get a first down, that was big. At that point we couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively. A dropped pass here and a penalty there, this offense has to have rhythm. Defensively we were playing well but they just wore us down with that power game running at us,” Lingerfelt said.

Following West’s stoppage, Thomasville’s defense forced a three-and-out and the Bulldogs got the ball back in West Davidson territory following Ike Marsh’s punt return across midfield. Six plays later Jalen Jenkins scored on a 3-yard touchdown run that gave Thomasville a 13-6 lead.

With 10:52 left in the game Spann took a toss sweep off right tackle and raced past the West secondary for an electrifying 51-yard touchdown run that sealed the game for the Bulldogs. Thomasville put two more touchdowns on the board in the fourth quarter as they pulled away for the final margin of victory, outscoring West 26-0 in the second half.

The Dragons, forced into catch-up mode, made several mistakes down the stretch as Thomasville picked off two Shoaf passes in the fourth quarter. Ja’hare Thomas returned the second interception 39 yards for a touchdown with 2:12 left in the game to finish the scoring for the Bulldogs.

Thomasville assistant coach Dickie Cline was pleased to pick up a win to open conference play but knows his team must eliminate some of their mental mistakes to compete for a conference title.

“We made some nice plays and did some good things. But we’ve got to eliminate penalties. We’d break nice runs and there would be a yellow flag on the ground. We have to eliminate those — especially next week against East Davidson. They’re a veteran squad. They’ve got a good football team. We’ve got to get better. And we will,” Cline added.

West Davidson (4-3) hosts unbeaten North Rowan (7-0) next Friday while Thomasville (2-5) travels to play rival East Davidson (6-1).

Notes: After giving up 114 yards in the first quarter, Thomasville held West to just 33 yards over the final three quarters…. Shoaf was 14-of-31 for 116 yards but did have 3 interceptions…Ryan Tillotson and Justin Williams were both credited with 12 tackles for West… Thomasville’s Quidell Hill had two sacks…In addition to Thomas’ fourth quarter pick-6, he also intercepted Shoaf in the second quarter.