GRAFTON—The Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) Knights opened their season under the lights of McKinney field on Thursday and handed the Mountaineer Middle School Mountain Lions a 44-12 loss.
The Knights started the game strong, receiving the ball at kickoff, and making it into the endzone of their third play of the game, with Kaden Keener running it in on a third and five. Following the touchdown, the Knights found success on the two-point conversion attempt with Cole Runner punching it in for the extra points.
The Mountain Lions would answer Keener’s touchdown with a carry to the four-yard line on their first possession and were able to sneak into the endzone for the touchdown. Mountaineer Middle would fumble on the conversion attempt, putting the Knights back in control of the close contest.
As the end of the first quarter neared, Keener once again found his way to the endzone, rushing 46 yards with just 2:23 left on the clock. This time, the Knights came up short on the two-point attempt.
The quarter ended with the Mountain Lions in possession, but unable to move the ball against the tough defensive line of TCMS.
At the start of the second quarter, the Knights led 14-6, and the Taylor County defense continued to make valuable stops, with a quarterback sack made by Knight Dylan Gutshall, resulting in a loss of yards for the Lions, once again putting the Knight offense back on the field.
And they wasted no time finding the endzone with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Keener, followed by another fruitful two-point conversion ran in by Jaxson Hall.
Starting the second half of play, Mountaineer Middle continued to struggle with the Knight defense, unable to get much ball movement, but in a last stitch effort on a fourth and seven, the Lions were able to break free from the Knights’ hold, running it down to the two-yard line, and setting them up for a first and goal situation.
Knights were able to defend the endzone on the first play of the drive, and pushed the Mountain Lions back a yard, however, Mountaineer Middle saw success on the next drive, shaking defenders and earning the touchdown.
A flag was thrown on the Lions offense for a false start, pushing them back ten yards for the two-point attempt, in which they fell shot, leaving the score at 22-12.
TCMS went scoreless in the third, but Knight Hall made up for it in the final eight minutes of the contest scoring back-to-back touchdowns.
On the first drive of the quarter, Hall ran in the touchdown for the Knights, and was also credited for the extra point attempt.
With a kickoff recovered by the Knights, TCMS was once again in possession, and Hall was hungry for more, rushing 44 yards for a second touchdown and coming away successful again with the two-point conversion for the Knights, earning the team 18 points in under five minutes.
Mountaineer Middle failed to make it into the red zone for the remainder of the game, while the Knights would tally one more on the evening with a 66-yard rush by Jonathan Maier.
An incomplete pass resulted in a failed conversion attempt, but none the less, the Knights cruised to the 44-12 victory to start their season.
“It is always nice to win the first game of the season,” commented head coach Bobby Beltner. “We played pretty well, but there are several things to improve on, and we will get those things fixed.”
He shared that he was happy with the energy of his team and wanted to extend gratitude to the students and community for coming out and packing the stands in support of the program.
The Knights will be back in action on Wednesday, September 8 at home, taking on Philippi. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 p.m.
Individual player stats: Kaden Keener: 10 carries, 128 yds, 3 tds, 19 tackles,1 fumble recovery, Jaxson Hall: 3 carries, 94 yards, 2 tds, 6 tackles, Jonathan Maier: 2 carries, 84 yards, 1 td, 6 tackles, Cole Runner: 1 carry 16 yards, 1 interception, Isaac Young: 1 carry, -5 yards, Riley Humphries: 5 tackles, Brayden White: 5 tackles, Dylan Gutshall: 4 tackles.
Team stats:17 carries, 317 yards, 6 tds.