BY DEAN HOCKNEY
RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – The Blackford Bruins football team arrived in Russiaville for its Class 3A Sectional 28 football opener against Western behind schedule due to a bussing issue. The night never got better for the visiting team. Four first quarter Panther touchdowns propelled Western to a 38-0 victory in week one of playoff action.
Western took the opening drive of the game up the middle of the field, capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Kyler Vail. That drive took 2:13 off the first quarter game clock. They were back in the end zone with just 2:25 off the clock. On the ensuing kickoff, Blackford fumbled at the 29 yard line. One play later, wideout Jacob Douglass took a handoff from quarterback Tyler Knepley, then stopped and fired a 29-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Heady to put the Panthers up 12-0 less than two-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Blackford finally got on track with Chase Mahan completing his first pass 27-yards downfield to Gavin Dyer. But the drive stalled, forcing the Bruins punt unit to take the field. A personnel mix-up forced Blackford to call a timeout, and out of the timeout they snapped the ball well over the punters head and Western had the ball with excellent field position. Four plays later, Knepley found Vail for a touchdown strike and the Panthers led 18-0 three seconds past the halfway point of the first quarter. The only downside to Western’s performance to that point was missing all three two-point conversion plays.
Western’s Black Attack defense stayed aggressive and forced another Blackford punt on its next possession. Western’s first two plays resulted in no gain, then Douglass made a great leaping catch for a 59-yard pass play from Knepley. Four plays later, Vail found the end zone for the third time in the first quarter, this one a 5-yard run. After the extra point cleared the uprights, the Panthers led 25-0 after one quarter.
With 8:26 left in the second quarter, Cameron Dessing put the game away with a 69-yard bolt up the middle to put the Panthers up 32-0. He tacked on the final score late in the fourth quarter, and the defense stood tall in the final seconds at the goal line to preserve the shutout – Western’s second of the season.
Dessing ended with a career-high 201 yards rushing and two touchdowns; Douglass rushed for 73 yards. Knepley, who only played one half due to an injury, finished 3-4 for 83 yards while Douglass stepped in and finished with 35 yards passing. The Panther offense finished with 420 yards of total offense (308 rushing, 112 passing).
Western (3-7) travels to play No. 8 Yorktown Friday night for a sectional semifinal matchup. Yorktown (9-1) defeated No. 11 West Lafayette 48-35 to advance.