The Granite Bears couldn’t move the ball for two and a half quarters and fell far behind West Stokes in a 40-14 loss Friday night.
The Wildcats went up 33-7 in the third quarter with the only Bear score coming on a fumble in the end zone.
The Bears finally had some success running the ball in the third and fourth quarters, but by that point the deficit was too great.
Mount Airy opened the game with a three-and-out. West Stokes took over at its 47-yard line.
A wide receiver screen pass took the ball to the 31-yard line.
Quarterback Alex Manley broke free for a 29-yard run down to the 2. From there, halfback Rashad Witherspoon scored to make it 7-0 with 8:03 in the first.
On the next drive, the Bears couldn’t move the ball even with a 15-yard penalty for running into the punter.
West Stokes took over on its 39-yard line and marched down to the 33 of the Bears before fumbling. The Bears fell on it at their 28.
Mount Airy drove to West Stokes’ 29-yard line and attempted a long field goal, but it was blocked.
The ball rolled toward the goal line, and Logan Holder dove on the ball to down it at the 3-yard line.
Backed up to their own goal line, the Wildcats still tried to run a play from the shotgun.
Manley lost the ball, and Julian Rawley fell on it to give the Bears their first score with 3.4 seconds left in the first quarter. That tied the game 7-7.
West Stokes used a 27-yard pass play to move into Bear territory. Then Witherspoon pounded the ball to the 29 on three straight runs.
Andrew Jones sacked Manley to stall the drive. West Stokes went for it on fourth and 20 and turned the ball over on downs.
The Bears took over at their 35, but a bad snap shot over the head of Holder down to the 20, where the Wildcats recovered the ball.
Two runs moved the ball to the 4-yard line where Witherspoon scored again. That made it 14-7 with 6:04 left in the half.
Devontae Dobson ran a long kickoff back across midfield, but a block in the back started the Bears at their own 10. A false start moved it back to the 5, and the Bears would end up punting from their 19.
Mitchell Brown uncorked a beauty that took a nice bounce to the Wildcats’ 23, for 58 yards of field-position change.
Unfortunately, the Cats used their ground attack to reach the 7-yard line, and Witherspoon would score his third TD of the first half.
That made it 21-7 with 2:31 to go in the half.
The Bears marched down to the 20-yard line with 12.8 seconds left, but Brown’s field goal was just off to the left.
“We struggled in the first half,” said Coach Kelly Holder. “We didn’t throw it or run it very well. We desperately needed to score there, but we couldn’t punch it in.”
During halftime, Holder said he decided to just line up and work on getting better in the running game in the third quarter.
“We did a really good job of that there for a while,” he said.
Unfortunately, West Stokes got the ball to start the half and promptly marched down for a score.
Manley took a quarterback keeper up the middle and out to the left sideline. Isiah Simmons made a great tackle to save a score, but Manley picked up 62 yards to the 16-yard line.
After losing one yard, Manley passed to Ricky Kirchenbauer on a bubble screen for a 17-yard touchdown.
A two-point try failed for a 27-7 lead with 10:23 in the third.
Starting at their 20, the Bears tried a wide receiver screen of their own, but Dalton Seat jumped the route for an interception and carried it to the 1-yard line.
Witherspoon got his fourth and final score from there to make it 33-7 with 10:07 in the third. The kick was blocked.
On the next drive, the Bears finally got to try that running game. Dobson and Shay Wilson took turns carrying the ball to the 23-yard line. Fullback Andrew Jones nearly broke free for a touchdown, but the last man got him off-balance and he fell at the 8-yard line.
Jones took it to the 4 on the next play, then Dobson scored around the left end to cut the margin to 33-14.
The Bears had another good drive going at the end of the third quarter. At the start of the second, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-1, but couldn’t convert.
West’s Manley would score from seven yards out for the final 40-14 margin.
West Stokes’ offensive line was getting to the linebackers quickly and stopping them from making plays, said Holder. And the running back was pretty good, too.
Of course, Holder added, “The quarterback hurt us as much as he did. He had a good night.”
Manley had 17 carries for 95 yards and was an accurate 9-12 for 163 yards through the air.
Witherspoon had 18 carries for 93 yards and four TDs.
The Bears had 32 carries for 155 yards, led by Wilson with 19 for 93 yards, a 4.9-yard average.
Logan Holder was 3-14 for 34 yards with one interception. The Bears also had a couple of drops in the first half.
“Our goal every year is to be great teammates and win the conference,” said Holder. “We still have a chance to do that.”
The Bears are 3-3, but have yet to play a game in the Northwest Conference. After a bye week, the Bears open Northwest play at home against Bishop McGuinness.
For the next week, Holder said, “We’re going to try to heal up a little bit and learn how to run the football and make tackles.”
Defensive tackle Brian Bennett went out with a knee injury in the first half and did not return. Holder said he was unsure of the player’s status as he was headed to a hospital for evaluation.