In a high school football season that is quickly becoming harder to read than a West Virginia road map, homestanding John Battle took care of business as expected Friday night with a 34-0 whipping of winless Washington County rival Holston.
The Trojans are off to a 3-0 start for the first time in 22 years.
“I am pleased with our kids’ effort,” said first-year Trojan head coach Steve Wright. “The kids are working really hard in practice and our focus is getting better and better, and you can see that our confidence is building week by week.
“But we’ve got a lot we can improve upon fundamentally, and we’re going to keep working to get better.”
Coming off a monumental upset win last week over Virginia High, Battle methodically claimed its second straight non-district victory over Holston (0-3).
Any suspense was dispelled with 22 seconds left in the first half, when Battle linebacker Josh Blackburn sacked Holston quarterback Isaiah Thomas for a 10-yard loss and forced a fumble, which Trojan junior Brandon Balthis scooped up at the Cavalier 3-yard and eased into the end zone for a touchdown.
The play gave Battle a 20-0 halftime advantage.
“That one is on me,” said Holston coach Jason Matlock. “In retrospect maybe we should have done something different there, but sometimes you’ve got to roll the dice.
“But that’s not what beat us. We just made too many mistakes to beat a well-coached team that is enjoying a good run of athletes right now.”
Battle had grabbed an early 7-0 lead when Blackburn hit sophomore wideout Travis Clark on a 33-yard scoring toss. The lead grew to 14-0 when wingback Josh Hughes ran it in from 12 yards out with 6:34 left in the second quarter.
The Trojans, who ran for 227 yards on the night while compiling 396 yards of total offense, took advantage of two short Holston punts to set up their first two scores.
“Again our defense kept us in it early before we were able to make some big offensive plays,” said Wright, whose defense allowed the Cavaliers just 102 total yards. “Then we got that big break there to go up three scores right before halftime – that was huge.
“The kids are playing defense with a lot of effort. What I like about our defense is that we’ve got 11 guys running and hustling, pursuing to the ball very well. It seems when somebody may be out of position, somebody else is hustling to cover up for him.”
The Trojan defense has allowed just one touchdown in three games.
“Our defensive line is getting a great push and our linebackers are filling,” said Blackburn. “We’re tackling well and we’re swarming to the football.”
Blackburn had a hand in the game’s final touchdown, an 85-yard scoring pass to senior wideout Jordan Lingerfelt, who covered the last 50 yards untouched.
“I was glad to see him get that one,” said Blackburn, who hit seven of 11 passes for 169 yards and the two scores.
Cody Rogers scored the other Trojan touchdown on a 13-yard run in the third quarter.
“We’re getting better running the football,” said Wright. “We have to, because I believe that good teams run the football.”
Battle travels to Norton next week to take on traditional power J.I. Burton in what should be a great measuring stick for the Trojans.
“We’ll enjoy this one this weekend and then start getting ready for Burton on Monday,” said Blackburn. “We expect to have another good week of practice.”
Holston faces Bland next week.
Holston 0 0 0 0–0
John Battle 7 13 14 0–34
JB-Clark 33 pass from Blackburn (J.Blaylock kick)
JB-Hughes 12 run (J.Blaylock kick)
JB-Balthis 3 run with fumble (kick failed)
JB-Rogers 13 run (J.Blaylock kick)
JB-Lingerfelt 85 pass from Blackburn (J.Blaylock kick)
First Downs: H 10, JB 19; Rushes-Yards: H 41-79, JB 37-227; Passing Yards: H 23, JB 169; Passes (C-A-I): H 4-11-1, JB 7-11-1; Fumbles-Lost: H 8-3, JB 4-0; Penalties: H 3-20, JB 8-70.