De­fense locks down Wi-Hi

De­fense locks down Wi-Hi, Bild­stein paces of­fense with 104 yards rush­ing in Week 1 blowout

Times-Record - - FRONT PAGE - aalam@star­dem.com By AYMAN ALAM

RIDGELY — The grip on the foot­ball wasn’t al­ways the surest, but the Bull­dogs put the squeeze on the In­di­ans seem­ingly from the get-go.

North Caro­line High lost two of three fum­bles dur­ing a rainy season opener Fri­day against Wi­comico, which had its own is­sues main­tain­ing pos­ses­sion, lead­ing to a fairly rou­tine, 35-8 vic­tory by the Bull­dogs.

Se­nior Joey Bild­stein’s neat-and-tidy 104 yards on 19 car­ries, in­clud­ing touch­down runs of 4 and 13 yards, paced Caro­line’s of­fense, but the de­fense took cen­ter stage against a be­lea­guered Wi-Hi squad.

North Caro­line 35 — Wi-Hi 8

RIDGELY — The grip on the foot­ball wasn’t al­ways the surest, but the Bull­dogs put the squeeze on the In­di­ans seem­ingly from the get-go.

North Caro­line High lost two of three fum­bles dur­ing a rainy season opener Fri­day against Wi­comico, which had its own is­sues main­tain­ing pos­ses­sion, lead­ing to a fairly rou­tine, 35-8 vic­tory by the Bull­dogs.

Se­nior Joey Bild­stein’s neat-and-tidy 104 yards on 19 car­ries, in­clud­ing touch­down runs of 4 and 13 yards, paced Caro­line’s of­fense, but the de­fense took cen­ter stage against a be­lea­guered Wi-Hi squad.

Af­ter al­low­ing a 57-yard scam­per to In­di­ans ju­nior Stephaun Har­ris on the game’s open­ing play, Caro­line (1-0) yielded only 47 yards on 31 other plays from scrim­mage. Break it down a lit­tle fur­ther by sub­tract­ing a late, 42-yard TD run by ju­nior Noah Ste­wart against the Bull­dogs’ sec­ond-team de­fense, the In­di­ans man­aged a pal­try 5 yards to­tal of­fense on non-break­away plays on 30 other snaps.

It was pure dom­i­na­tion by North Caro­line, which is try­ing to reshuf­fle the deck fol­low­ing a 10-0 reg­u­lar season in 2017, af­ter which half of its ros­ter grad­u­ated.

“We wanted to come out and get it,” Caro­line ju­nior de­fen­sive end Ken­dron Way­man said. “In prac­tice, we talk about it all the time, bring­ing the en­ergy and get­ting af­ter it ev­ery play. We kept talk­ing to each other, kept telling each other to keep on do­ing what we do, keep our heads up,” Way­man added of bounc­ing back from the first 57yard gain by Wi-Hi.

Added se­nior line­man Brendin Gestole: “I feel like the team bonded bet­ter as the game went on. We im­proved, we made mis­takes, but we didn’t frown upon them. You just have to not let ev­ery play get to you. Once the play hap­pens, it’s over, get back on the field, and fight back harder.”

A steady down­pour through­out much of the first half led to eight to­tal fum­bles, in­clud­ing three straight pos­ses­sions in the sec­ond

quar­ter — two by Caro­line deep in Wi-Hi ter­ri­tory — that re­versed the mark­ers.

The Bull­dogs gained trac­tion when pound­ing the ball with Bild­stein, who amassed 56 yards on 11 first-half hand­offs. Two sneaks from the 1 by se­nior quar­ter­back Casey Byrd ac­counted for the game’s first two touch­downs, and a 4-yard Bild­stein score 18 sec­onds be­fore half­time forged a 20-0 Caro­line lead head­ing into the break.

“We just want to work hard, grind ev­ery play and make the yards count,” Bild­stein said. “You see it at the end of the game, guys get­ting more tired when you keep grind­ing on them all game, it shows in the fourth quar­ter.”

In ad­di­tion to the strug­gles mov­ing the chains, the In­di­ans also had six penal­ties in the first half, while two other penal­ties were de­clined by the Bull­dogs be­cause the play ended be­hind the line of scrim­mage.”

“We don’t re­ally change what we do,” Bull­dogs head coach James McCormick said. “The kids know the sys­tem, they learn it, get bet­ter at it each week, learn the fun­da­men­tals. We talk about the process, you got to grind, keep work­ing, keep work­ing, get bet­ter.

“We got bet­ter through­out the game,” McCormick added. “We made some mis­takes, it was a lit­tle sloppy out here with some of the weather, turnovers and stuff, but we’re grind­ing, and you can see that im­prove­ment through­out the game.”

Caro­line re­cov­ered a punt fum­bled by Wi­comico (0-1) late in the third, ju­nior Jody Ward pounc­ing on the carom on the In­di­ans’ 40 af­ter the Bull­dogs failed on a third­down pass to set up the boot.

Bild­stein ripped a 12-yard run and chewed up an­other 6 to reach Wi-Hi’s 17. Se­nior Will Man­ship fought through the Wi­comico line for 13, but was tagged with a 15-yard un­sports­man­like penalty for some post-whis­tle ex­tracur­ric­u­lars. Se­nior Ryan Bauer gained 5 on the next run and Bild­stein capped a drive that started on his team’s 27, the 13-yard rum­ble end­ing the lengthy drive that fea­tured nine plays.

The Bull­dogs trig­gered the run­ning clock with 7 min­utes, 29 sec­onds left to play, when re­serve Savion Blake darted through the line and raced the sec­ondary 49 yards into the end zone. The se­nior run­ning back then stuffed in the 2-point con­ver­sion for a 35-0 lead, off­set­ting a point-af­ter nar­rowly missed by Man­ship fol­low­ing Caro­line’s sec­ond score.

The de­fense and spe­cial teams af­forded the Bull­dogs solid field po­si­tion all night, and the of­fense racked up a stout 267 yards on 45 plays from scrim­mage, 5.9 yards per snap. Blake reg­is­tered 64 on only three plays, while Man­ship (15 yards rush­ing), Byrd (18), Bauer (15), ju­nior Tren­ton Hil­lard (18) and ju­nior Hunter Healy (15) also helped keep the chains mov­ing.

“I feel like we have a lot backs who have the chance to be suc­cess­ful,” Bild­stein said. “Next-man-up men­tal­ity, you just want to pro­duce for the team.”

Added Gestole: “It comes down to Coach McCormick and the other coaches keep­ing us dis­ci­plined, mak­ing sure we don’t make the silly mis­takes that can cost us the game.”

Ste­wart’s 42-yard TD ar­rived with less than a minute to play, and Caro­line burned the rest of the time on two Byrd kneel­downs. A thor­ough beat­down of Wi­comico may not be the most ac­cu­rate lit­mus test for a Caro­line pro­gram in the midst of a sub­stan­tial re­build, but the next three games — at Park­side this Satur­day, at home Sept. 14 against Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester and an­other home date Sept. 28 with Queen Anne’s County — should give McCormick plenty of film to study while his team chases a play­off spot in the ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive Class 2A East Re­gion.

The next three weeks is surely a big stretch, but McCormick begs to dif­fer.

“Tonight was a big stretch for us,” McCormick said. “Wi-Hi has got some tal­ented kids, they just made a few more mis­takes than us tonight. We’re go­ing to en­joy this one, and come to­mor­row, we’ll start watch­ing Park­side film. Park­side is big, fast, phys­i­cal, and we get to go down there and play them at their place, and I know they are chomp­ing at the bit to get us.

“We might not have the mar­quee names we had last year, be­cause we don’t know those names yet,” McCormick added. “But we have some good kids, and they’re go­ing to keep com­pet­ing, and we’ll see what hap­pens.”

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