ISRAEL LONG

West Carteret’s Israel Long, right, celebrates a 36-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Kel Jones, left, Friday in the 41-14 win over Farmville Central. (Zack Nally photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — The West Carteret football team’s big-play offense came alive Friday in a 41-14 victory over Farmville Central.

The Patriots (2-3 overall) had six plays go for 25 yards or more, including an 87-yard touchdown run from Camden Ballou on the first play from scrimmage. Four of their six touchdowns came on first plays of scoring drives.

The defense also came up with its share of big plays, forcing four fumbles and an interception. The Jaguars (0-6) have turned the ball over 12 times in the last two games.

“It was a good win,” West coach Daniel Barrow said. “I like how aggressive we played on both sides of the ball. There’s still a lot of little things to be cleaned up.”

The victory snapped a two-game skid for the Patriots and set the table nicely for this week’s county clash with Croatan. The two teams will meet in Ocean on Friday for a

contest that was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian.

“It’s a huge game next week,” Barrow said. “It’s a county rival again. We have a lot to get cleaned up before we have to play again.”

Despite the lopsided score, the Patriots were far from perfect, turning the ball over three times, squandering five possessions that started in Farmville Central territory and earning just one first down.

The lack of first downs was due to West’s short-field scenarios set up by the bevy of Jaguars turnovers. The longest drive of the night was the opening one, with Ballou scoring from 87 yards out on the first play. The senior running back scored twice in the game and also recovered a fumble in the third quarter.

“He had a great game on all sides of the ball,” Barrow said. “I was really happy with his performance. But more than his effort, I was happy with his leadership all night. He was getting everybody up and staying positive.”

West didn’t score again until its sixth possession of the night, but the defense kept the visitors at bay in the meantime. Defensive end Trey Clarke came up with the first fumble recovery of the night on Farmville Central’s second drive. On its third, Travis Barbour and Clarke teamed up for their first sack of the night. The duo brought down Dantavious Short in the backfield again in the second quarter.

Jaiden Rittenhouse’s 1-yard sack helped stall the Jaguars’ fourth drive, and the safety chipped in again on the fifth drive with a fumble recovery after Andrew Williams’ punt was blocked.

The blocked punt set the Patriots up on the Jaguars’ 36-yard line, allowing quarterback Kel Jones to throw a touchdown to Israel Long for another one-play scoring drive, the last of the half.

Down two scores, Farmville Central came out in the second half intending to attempt an onside kick. The attempt erred aggressively, bouncing backwards and far from the Jaguars’ supporting kick coverage unit, allowing Will Bodnar to scoop up the ball and carry it 37 yards to set up a first-and-goal. Jones capitalized on the play with a 3-yard pass to Kobi Owen to make it a 21-0 game following C.J. Rocci’s extra-point kick.

West cycled through two signal-callers in the game, also getting Rittenhouse in the backfield. The junior connected with Rocci for a 30-yard touchdown 1:39 into the half to put the Patriots up 28-0.

The passing touchdown was West’s second score in the first two minutes of the third quarter. The period went on to be a banner one for the Patriot offense. Ballou scored on a 3-yard run with 5:19 left, and Dakota Hudson caught a 28-yard pass from Jones with 3:46 on the clock.

The Patriots’ passing game was efficient and explosive  against Farmville Central, with Jones and Rittenhouse combining to finish 7-of-11 for 126 yards. Jones went 6-of-8 for 96 yards. Four receivers finished with 28 yards or more. Long had one catch for 35 yards, Chambers three for 33, Rocci one for 30 and Hudson one for 28.

“We have a lot of people involved in the passing game, “Barrow said. “Typically, we get our running backs involved too. I thought the protection was good most of the night. Farmville was really aggressive on defense. They blitzed a lot with man-to-man on the outside without safety help. They challenged us to beat them, and tonight we did.”

West’s gratuitous lead allowed the coaching staff to insert bench players, giving the Jaguars a chance to be more productive on offense. The visitors churned out 34 yards in 10 plays, reaching the Patriots’ 24-yard line before quarterback Brandon Knight’ lofted pass to the endzone was picked off by Rittenhouse at

full stretch.

The Jaguars were their most productive on the final drive of the night, marching 84 yards in eight plays. Brandon Paige caught a 16-yard pass from Knight to give the game its final score.

Paige had the only two catches for Farmville Central for 49 yards. Both passes came from Knight who finished 2-for-4. Short didn’t make a pass attempt from under center, but he was sacked three times for a net loss of minus-24 yards.

Short was the Jaguars’ leading rusher with 96 yards on 16 carries. Richard Peterson had 56 yards on 13 carries and Paige 36 yards on three carries.

West will be at Croatan Friday, followed by a home game with Havelock on Friday, Oct. 11, for the start of its 3A Coastal Conference schedule.

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