After seeing the offense struggle in back-to-back games, Tazewell football needed something — some sort of positive sign on offense to show that things were going to be alright.
Midway through the first quarter of their Friday night matchup with John Battle they got just that. Brock Alley would cap off a 9 play, 51-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.
On Tazewell’s third drive of the first quarter, Braxton Dowdy took the handoff from Cassius Harris and dashed through a gaping hole for a 70-yard gain. One play later, Harris scored his sixth rushing touchdown of the season. Zephyr Dagout added the extra-point and Tazewell led 13-0.
That type of production continued all night on the way to Tazewell defeating John Battle 39-16 to pick up their second win of the season.
“Up front the line just did an amazing job,” Offensive Coordinator Bill Dudley said after the game.
The praise of the offensive line was consistent after the game, and that made sense given the fact that 232 of Tazewell’s 312 yards were on the ground.
“The offensive line had a good night, they came up big tonight, they did a great job opening holes for our backs,” Tazewell coach J’me Harris added.
Cassius Harris led the way with 9 catches, 120 total yards and two touchdowns. But behind him Braxton Dowdy, Brock Alley, and AyvRee Zeigler were solid too. Dowdy had 70 yards, Alley had 61 total yards and a score, while Zeigler amassed 29 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Freshman Finn Moss making his first start at quarterback completed 12 of 14 passes for 80 yards and one touchdown. His only interception of the night came in the second quarter and was returned for a touchdown by Battle linebacker Elijah Childress.
Moss’ first touchdown pass as a varsity quarterback came on the Bulldogs next series. He fired an 18-yard strike to Logan McDonald. McDonald bowled his way over four John Battle defenders on his way to the end zone. Dagout added the extra-point and the Bulldogs held a 20-7 halftime lead.
Anytime a team can have four different guys all find the end zone on offense, it’s a good sign – especially after two straight weeks of offensive struggles.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, John Battle quarterback Noah Sills lofted a pass to Izaya Selz for a 75-yard touchdown. After the extra-point, the Bulldogs’ lead was down to 20-14.
Tyler Gillespie added a touchdown for the Bulldogs in the third quarter when he recovered a snap over the John Battle punter’s head in the end zone. The two-point pass fell incomplete and the Tazewell lead was 26-14.
The John Battle defense would answer with points of their own in the third quarter when they tackled Moss in the end zone for a safety to cut the Bulldogs lead to 26-16.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Bulldogs. Harris scored from 4-yards out and Dagout added the point after try to give Tazewell a 33-16 lead. Later in the fourth, Zeigler scored from four-yards out to provide the final margin of victory.
The Tazewell defense starred on Homecoming night. The Bulldogs held John Battle to minus 40 yards on 14 rush attempts. Alley led a spirited Tazewell defense with two tackles for loss and a sack. Kaizon Taylor, Jaime Rizo, Jashon Taylor, Reece Mullins, Cassius Harris, and Tyler Gillespie all added tackles for loss.
Reece Mullins recovered a fumble in the third quarter. Cassius Harris and Logan McDonald added interceptions in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played great tonight,” Harris said. “The defensive line was strong, they understand our scheme, our system, they forced turnovers, it was a great night for them.”
John Battle struggled to get much going offensively for the majority of the night. They finished with 51 yards on 47 plays.
Despite getting the win, Harris still talked after the game about the fact that his team needed to clean up their mental mistakes.
“The kids played great, they played well, but the penalties and missing assignments must end. We have to have better discipline,” he said.
The Bulldogs collected 17 penalties on the night, with the offense, defense, and special teams all guilty at times.
Next week, Tazewell travels to Riverheads for a Saturday afternoon contest.