SARDIS, Ala. – Something was bothering West Point Senior quarterback Will Cochran all week. Fellow senior Carter Thornton had outdone him by catching, running and throwing for a touchdown this season. So, Cochran thought he’d do the same, in a single half. No, Cochran wasn’t seriously bothered by his teammate’s achievement, but yes, he really did accomplish the feat for himself in the first half alone. The Warriors rode a scorching hot offensive night on the road and used a stifling defensive effort to dominate Sardis 43-7.
Sardis started the game off with a couple of big pass plays totaling 63 yards and a touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead. Then, after a penalty stalled out the West Point offense, Sardis regained possession with a chance to take an early two-score lead. But let’s put it this way, those 63 yards would be almost half of what Sardis gained the rest of the night.
The Warriors’ defense forced five three-and-outs and a total of three turnovers. Kenyan Baker, who was stuffing run gaps all night, recovered a fumble forced by defensive back Eli Folds. Ashton Thraikill recovered a fumble after a squib kick bounced right off a Sardis player on a kickoff, and Branson Smith grabbed an interception in Warrior territory and returned it across the 50-yard line to set up the Warrior offense with a short field.
It wasn’t just the defense that had it going. After their first series, the Warriors’ offense went go on to score on six of their next eight possessions, with only an interception and a fumble stalling the other two drives.
West Point used a balanced attack on its next drive that ultimately ended in an 11-yard Cochran touchdown that tied the game at 7. After Smith’s interception, the Warriors dialed up another trick play that was even better than last week’s. Running back Kelton Washington took a handoff toward the left sideline, only to pitch it back to senior Kobe Bowers, who pulled up and threw a beautiful deep ball to Cochran who was streaking down the right sideline wide open. The QB1 showed off his athleticism on the 53-yard strike and followed it up with a 3-yard two-point conversion run that put West Point on top 15-7.
Now here is where the drama of the game started. West Point forced a three-and-out but got pinned on its own 5-yard line. Eighty-three yards later, the drive stalled after Washington’s first fumble of the season. West Point forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive only to give the ball back a couple of plays later on a Cochran interception with only a couple minutes left in the half. Sardis, looking to put together a two-minute drill and tie the game, fumbled just two plays later and the ball was recovered by the Warriors thanks to Folds and Baker.
Now West Point had the ball and a two-minute opportunity. The drive seemed dead after Cochran took a 13-yard sack, but Jacob Dye, who has been nursing an ankle injury, took a short pass and ran 56 yards into Sardis territory. Two flags later, West Point found itself in a second-and-24 situation on the 36-yard line. It just meant more yards for Cochran after he connected with Bowers on a 36-yard touchdown pass, giving West Point the 22-7 halftime lead.
There was no drama in the second half. The Warriors scored on three straight possessions. Cochran found Dye twice for touchdowns of 36 and 7 yards, and Washington got a touchdown on the board with a 13-yard run. Cochran finished with a total of five touchdowns and 317 total yards of offense in the win. Washington had 23 carries for 169 yards and a touchdown. Bowers and Dye recorded five touches each, posting more than 100 yards and 2 scores.
Dye, who had been sidelined or limited in a couple close losses, had this to say about being back on the field contributing to his team: “I’m just glad to be back on the field to help my team win. That’s what it’s about, the team first and getting a win.”
Cochran, who is certainly happy to have one of his many weapons back, said, “We just had fun tonight, but next week we host Douglas, so we have to keep getting better.”
With the road trip coming to an end and a big game against Douglas looming, Head Coach Don Farley added, “I’m proud of my guys’ effort tonight, as I have been all year with some of those close losses. We have a chance to get our first home win next week against a talented Douglas team so we’re looking forward to that.”
The Warriors will return home to host Douglas next week.
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