Tommy Mann Jr.
The Port Arthur News
SOUR LAKE —
Bailey Bledsoe ran nearly at will through the Cardinals’ defense and Hardin-Jefferson dealt a serious blow to Bridge City's playoff chances with a homecoming victory on Friday night.
Bledsoe and the Hawks soared past the Cardinals 54-27 for a District 21-3A win on Friday and left Bridge City's playoff hopes hanging by a thread. Bledsoe scored six touchdowns on the night, carrying the ball 18 times for 219 yards. He accouned for 42 of the Hawks 54 points, as he also made six of his eight extra point kicks for H-J.
Hardin-Jefferson set the tone early with a three and out on Bridge City's first possession, and then scored on its first possession following a 26 yard burst up the middle by Bledsoe for a quick 7-0 lead over the Cardinals.
Following another three and out by the Cards offense, the Hawks wasted little time in striking gold again.
Running back Logan Thompson scooted around the end for a 42 yard romp to the Cardinals 24 yard line, but a clipping penalty moved the ball back to the 39. Little did it, matter as the Hawks struck paydirt on the very next play as quarterback Camden Dubois launched the ball deep for Blain Padgett and another H-J touchdown.
The Bridge City offense started its next drive at its own 30 yard line and finally showed signs of life. Quarterback Chase Shugart tossed the ball to Malcolm Busby for a 32 yard gain to the Hawks 13 yard line. Shugart powered the ball to the 3 yard line, where running back Jhett Simmons carried the ball in for the Cardinals first score of the night, cutting the deficit to 14-7.
Bridge City's defense had the Hawks looking at a third and five on its next possession from the H-J 45 yard line, but an unsportmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball to the BC 40 yard line and gave the Hawks a first down. Bledsoe then raced up the middle for another 22 yards to the Cardinals 17 yard line. Bledsoe later capped off the drive with his second touchdown from 5 yards out and a 21-7 lead.
Bridge City (2-6, 1-3) responded on its next drive, which started at its own 27 yard line. After moving the ball up to its on 47 yard line, Shugart dropped back and launched a pass to Busby for 49 yards and a first and goal at the Hawks 4 yard line. Simmons added his second score of the half from 4 yards out, but the extra point kick by Thomas Finley was blocked leaving the score at 21-13.
The Cards defense held H-J to a three and out and got the ball back. Shugart and the BC offense quickly moved the ball downfield as he completed five of seven passes for 43 yards on the drive. Finley attempted a 46 yard field goal as time expired but the kick sailed wide left.
The Hawks (5-3, 2-2) offense started the second half like it did the first, quicker in fact, as it only took Hardin-Jefferson three plays and 62 seconds to add to the Cardinals woes as Bledsoe punched the ball in from 21 yards out and a 28-13 lead.
Bridge City's next drive stalled after the Cardinals failed to convert on a fourth and three with a Shugart pass that was nearly picked off.
Bledsoe and the Hawks made the Cards pay dearly as he added another 13 yard run as he split the defense right down the middle for a 34-13 lead with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Cardinals would not quit and showed the true determination of a winner as Shugart connected on a 38 yard pass to Keaton Langston to place the ball at the Hawks 40 yard line. However, the Hawks defense stiffened and sacked Shugart on as the Cards failed to convert on fourth down and 15 yards to go.
Hardin-Jefferson began to let its ground game eat the clock and it methodically moved the ball down the field. Just when it looked as if the Hawks might self-destruct near the goal line following a penalty, which made it second and goal from the 15, Jared Gieske took the hand-off from Dubois and darted his way to the end zone and 41-13 Hawks lead with 11:43 left in the fourth quarter.
Bledsoe would add his two longest touchdown runs of the night, from 35 yards and 65 yards, respectively, before the night was done.
Shugart finished the night completing 14 passes on 29 attempts with 256 yards, and the Cardinals battled to the end as he connected on a 17 yard pass to Langston for a touchdown midway through the fourth. Shugart added a 22 yard jaunt through the Hawks defense late in the game for the final score of 54-27 in favor of H-J.
"Hardin-Jefferson played well. They got on a roll and we couldn't stop them," said BC Coach Cris Stump. "We moved the ball well, but we would mess things up somewhere along the line and could not overcome it."
Stump said the Cardinals are a young team with a bright future ahead, as it started seven sophomores and two freshmen on Friday night, but the team is taking its lumps while it gains experience which will be beneficial down the road.
"We were not very consistent when it counted," he continued. "But that's what happens when you are young. We'll get back to work this week and get better and do it again next week."
Bridge City will return home next week to take on the Mustangs of West Orange-Stark, while Hardin-Jefferson travels to Silsbee in District 21-3A action.