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Turnovers doom Dragons

Salisbury's J.C. Burton (33) hits West Davidson's Kyle Smith, causing Smith to fumble the ball in the first quarter of their game Monday at Salisbury. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

SALISBURY | It was the good, the bad and the ugly for West Davidson on a chilly Monday night.

Kyle Smith broke off some nice runs, Tyler Grooms caught six passes for good chunks of yardage and the West Davidson defense made several tackles for loss.

That was the good part.

But five interceptions thrown by quarterback Graham Shoaf — one returned for a touchdown — and two fumbles were the bad and ugly rolled into one.

It all added up to Salisbury handing the slumping Green Dragons a resounding 42-12 defeat in their Central Carolina Conference matchup at Ludwig Stadium.

The lopsided defeat was West’s fourth in a row and probably eliminated whatever slim chance they had of making the 2-A state playoffs. With an overall record of 4-6, the Dragons are playoff-qualified but at 0-4 they are in last place in the CCC.

“We played good in spurts,” said West coach Bryan Lingerfelt. “We had spots where we did some good things. Hats off to Salisbury. I thought they played really well. They had good things happen to them early. Our backs were against the wall early. Just too many turnovers. Story of our season.”

Salisbury (2-8 overall, 1-3 CCC) got two touchdowns apiece from tiny 5-foot-5, 112-pound tailback Tony Krider and Tim Rhodes. And the margin could have even been worse. The Hornets had two defensive touchdowns nullified by holding penalties.

“I thought our guys played real well — offense and defense,” said Salisbury coach Ryan Crowder. “It was a good team effort.”

The Hornets opened the scoring on a 15-yard touchdown run by Rhodes, who had 104 yards on 15 carries, to cap a nine-play, 50-yard drive with 3:47 left in the first quarter.

West was poised to even the score when Smith, who had 23 carries for 125 yards, took off on a 24-yard scamper to the Salisbury 44. But Cameron McLendon picked off a Shoaf pass moments later and raced to the end zone. A holding penalty behind the play wiped out most of the return. But Krider struck for a 38-yard touchdown a few plays later and West found itself in a 14-0 hole.

Smith’s 1-yard run cut Salisbury’s lead to 14-6 with 5:32 left in the first half.

The Hornets came right back when quarterback Riley Myers tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Krider. Myers then threw a two-point conversion pass to Donnell Alexander for a 22-6 lead with 1:12 remaining in the half.

Shoaf executed the two-minute drill nicely in response, marching the Dragons 73 yards in seven plays, with his 20-yard touchdown pass to Justin Bennett coming with 17 seconds left in the half. The try for two points failed but West was still within 22-12 at halftime.

Right after Smith fumbled on a wildcat play in the third quarter, the Hornets’ Ryan Clark bolted 30 yards for a touchdown, once again making it a 16-point game.

“Everything we did, it seemed like it was in big chunks,” Crowder said.

Once again, the Dragons put themselves in position to get back in the game. But when Shoaf tried to hit Zach Queen down the right sideline, Dante Gaston batted the ball in the air and it was intercepted by Darius Jackson. Gaston did an excellent job covering Queen all night, limiting the county’s leading receiver to four catches for 36 yards.

That pick seemed to buoy the Hornets, who immediately put themselves in position to score when Clark ripped off a 46-yard run to the West 21. Two plays later, Rhodes scored on a 3-yard run, all but putting the game out of reach.

“Our guys did a really good job on the wall,” Lingerfelt said. “I thought defensively we played really well against an explosive offense.”

The most explosive play actually came on defense when defensive end Levoid Stratton picked off a deflected Shoaf pass midway through the fourth quarter and rumbled 85 yards for a touchdown to round out the scoring.

West hosts East Davidson on Friday to close out the season.

Notes: Shoaf was 15-for-32 for 170 yards. ... Grooms caught six passes for 92 yards. ... Smith now has 1,005 yards rushing for the season.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or