OLIVE HILL Daniel Barker called Bath County “one of the most improved teams in the area,” and the Wildcats aimed to prove West Carter’s coach correct on Friday night.
Bath County led twice in the first half and hung within a score at halftime. The Comets began to get separation in the third quarter, but the Wildcats hit on one more big play when Hunter McCoy made a shoestring catch of Jacob Easton’s pass down the sideline and kept on going for a 49-yard touchdown.
Easton then kept it himself for the two-point conversion, and with 4:04 to go in the third quarter, Bath County — winless and out of the playoffs last season — lingered within two scores of the Comets.
“It was amazing,” Wildcats coach Chris Lane said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for all year. To go down (the field) early, and be up, was an emotional and physical roller coaster.”
West Carter’s counter: Cole Crampton.
The junior Comets back needed just one play to get the score and the momentum back — a 53-yard touchdown run.
West Carter steadied itself and locked down a 51-25 victory in the Class 2A, District 8 semifinals at Michael Ed Blankenship Memorial Field.
Crampton rushed for 227 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. He tallied three TDs in the third quarter as the Comets (8-3) turned to their power game to put it away.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime, was re-establishing ourselves and being tough and being physical,” Barker said. “In the second half, I thought our offensive line did a great job. We were rotating seven kids in there, and they were all doing good things. Cole is a hammer, and he’s gonna swing all night.
“We like that being our identity — a downhill-running team, a physical team that will throw the ball a little bit.”
The Comets threw it effectively too. Eli Estepp connected on 9 of 13 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns — three of them in the first half.
Jackson Bond caught six passes for 147 yards, including two scoring receptions. Blake McGlone hauled in two TDs as part of a three-catch, 67-yard night.
Bond laid out for a 35-yard first-quarter touchdown and got his toes down in-bounds for a 13-yarder to close the scoring. McGlone took a short pass 28 yards to the house in the second quarter and dove to snag Estepp’s 29-yard scoring toss on fourth-and-17 with 50 seconds to go until intermission.
“You always feel like if you can throw the ball to them, you’ve got a chance to make a big play,” Barker said of the Comets’ senior wideout duo. “They’re just tremendous, and they’ve been good players here for four years. ... We love throwing to them. We want to keep throwing to them for a few more weeks.”
Bath County (6-6) lost 49-15 in the teams’ first meeting Oct. 1, but the Wildcats scored first Friday on Bryson Stigall’s 30-yard field goal at the 7:25 mark of the first frame. Jack Wilson caught Easton’s 9-yard scoring pass on the first play of the second quarter, and Quentin Lewis eluded, evaded or carried practically half of the Comets’ defense on a counter on a 15-yard scoring run. That got the Wildcats within 19-17 with 4:21 to play in the first half.
But that left enough time for Estepp and McGlone to hook up, which began West Carter’s 32-8 run to close it.
“At first, we started off real slow,” Crampton said. “The second half, we came out and had a real good start. We had a fumble, then we came back, bounced back, had a couple scores. Our line started getting real good and our whole team just started playing better the second half.”
That’s been a theme this season — West Carter encountering an opponent intent on ending the Comets’ dominance of the district and playing like it early.
West Carter has withstood that phenomenon well enough to run its winning streak against district opponents to 20 and counting entering the district championship game next Friday against Martin County, which beat Shelby Valley 53-41 on Friday night in Inez.
“With some of the kids that we’ve got out resting, our kids learned a lot about themselves,” Barker said. “They learned that, No. 1, they can get punched in the mouth by another district team. But then, they also just fought back. These kids are just so tough and they handle adversity really well. Just couldn’t be prouder of them.
“We’d love to have played better, but it’s almost a little sweeter that we had to overcome some adversity.”
Crampton’s four touchdowns was a career high. He has 21 this season and still appreciates all of them, he said.
“I think every touchdown is a big touchdown, to me,” Crampton said. “Scoring four touchdowns is a really big achievement because last year I was behind (graduated back) Leetavious (Cline), and it’s hard to score behind Leetavious because he’s just a beast.”
Crampton entered the game No. 2 in Class 2A in rushing yards per game with 143 — one yard behind Lewis. But the Comets limited Lewis to 51 yards on 13 totes Friday.
Easton carried 14 times for 48 yards and completed 10 of 18 passes for 162 yards and two scores.
Zack Otis caught three passes for 72 yards and McCoy brought down two tosses for 51 yards for Bath County, whose last postseason win was in 2008.
“I told the seniors, ‘You guys are laying the foundation for things to come, brick one,’” Lane said. “They did a great job of showing our young guys what it’s like to fight. Hat’s off to West Carter. They’re a good football team.”
The Comets beat the Wildcats for the sixth straight time. Their all-time series is now tied, 21-21.
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BATH CO. 3 14 8 0 — 25
W. CARTER 7 18 19 7 — 51
BC — Bryson Stigall 30 FG, 7:25
WC — Jackson Bond 35 pass from Eli Estepp (Isaac Bond kick), 6:20
BC — Jack Wilson 9 pass from Jacob Easton (Stigall kick), 11:55
WC — Cole Crampton 18 run (kick fails), 10:26
WC — Blake McGlone 28 pass from Estepp (pass fails), 7:21
BC — Quentin Lewis 15 run (Stigall kick), 4:21
WC — McGlone 29 pass from Estepp (pass fails), :50
WC — Crampton 8 run (I. Bond kick), 7:50
WC — Crampton 22 run (kick blocked), 4:09
BC — Hunter McCoy 49 pass from Easton (Easton run), 3:11
WC — Crampton 53 run (pass fails), 2:43
WC — J. Bond 13 pass from Estepp (I. Bond kick), 5:40
First Downs 14 18
Rushes-Yards 35-120 30-216
Comp-Att-Int 10-18-0 9-13-0
Passing Yards 162 214
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-1
Punts-Avg. 4-23.5 2-20.5
Penalties-Yards 3-38 6-70
Bath County rushing: Lewis 13-51, Easton 14-48, Hart 8-21.
West Carter rushing: Crampton 24-227, Estepp 2-6, Dean 1-(-1), Team 3-(-16).
Bath County passing: Easton 10 of 18 for 162 yards.
West Carter passing: Estepp 9 of 13 for 214 yards.
Bath County receiving: Otis 3-72, McCoy 2-51, Butcher 3-26, Wilson 1-9, Hart 1-4.
West Carter receiving: J. Bond 6-147, McGlone 3-67.