All the talk heading into Friday night’s game between Bunker Hill and West Lincoln was about the two undefeated teams’ offenses.
But it came down to a battle of the teams’ defenses — and the opportunities they would give their offenses — as the Bears topped the Rebels 21-15 in a battle of Catawba Valley 2A front-runners. This was the Deer Park Water Lincoln County game of the week.
After allowing West Lincoln (5-1, 2-1) to take a 15-13 lead at the half, Bunker Hill shut down the Rebels’ offense while the Bears’ offense put together its longest drive of the game to take the lead.
“Both defenses came out and played solid,” Bunker Hill head coach Albert Reid said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We kinda do the same things defensively. We knew we had to stop the things they do, just as they had to stop the things we do. Then we were able to get in the end zone in the second half. I’m proud of the guys doing that.”
Redek Robinson threw for two touchdowns and Jason Willis Jr. ran for a game-high 155 yards and a score (a 6-yarder in the second quarter), as well as a key two-point conversion pass in the fourth quarter as the Bears (6-0, 3-0) moved atop the Catawba Valley 2A standings.
Robinson, who completed 9-of-17 attempts, had a a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jaylan Willis late in the first quarter, then hit Ayden Killiam on a 15-yarder with 10 minutes, 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter to put Bunker Hill ahead to stay.
Jason Willis then came up with a key pass on what appeared to be a busted play, grabbing his fumble and finding Jaylan Willis for the two-point conversion and a six-point lead.
That game-winning drive took up 11 plays over 78 yards, but it wasn’t the biggest drive of the game.
Rather, it was the one Bunker Hill’s defense stopped after the Bears’ game-winner.
Thanks to a 55-yard run by Caden Smith, West Lincoln drove to the Bunker Hill 9 with less than eight minutes remaining. But a combination of stops — Bears defender Anton Elliott sacked Rebels quarterback Gideon Allen twice — and penalties stopped West in its tracks.
“We broke out some big plays there, and they got behind the chains,” Reid said. “Instead of getting second-and-short or third-and-short, they were getting second-and-longs and third-and-longs.”
Caden Smith ran for 143 yards and a touchdown — a 16-yard run late in the second quarter as the Rebels took a 15-13 halftime lead — as well as a two-point conversion run off Jaylin Winnex’s 2-yard TD run midway through the first quarter.
“It was two good defenses,” West Lincoln head coach Darren Ponder said. “They’re a good football team. They’ve got good players and they’re well coached. Hats off to them. Our kids played their butts off, but they wanted it more than we did.”
Three who made a difference
Jason Willis Jr., Bunker Hill: The Bears’ junior running back touched the ball a lot in the first half, with 14 of the team’s 16 rushing attempts for 103 yards and a touchdown. He closed out the game with 29 rushing attempts — more than double what his teammates had combined (11).
Redek Robinson, Bunker Hill: The senior quarterback closed in on 1,000 passing yards for the season with his performance Friday. He now has 965 yards passing and 11 touchdowns over six games.
Caden Smith, West Lincoln: The 5-foot-9 Rebels senior had the biggest run of the game — his 55-yarder — and his touchdown in the second quarter gave West the momentum heading into the locker room at the half.
▪ Bunker Hill is off to a 6-0 start for the third consecutive season and can match the 7-0 starts from 2021 and 2022 with a win next week. However, the Bears’ best start came 56 years ago, when they began the 1967 season with 11 straight wins.
▪ How potent was Bunker Hill’s defense in the second half? West Lincoln had seven first downs in the first half — but only four in the second half. By comparison, the Bears had nine first downs in the first half, but 10 in the second.
Both teams are on the road for their next Catawba Valley 2A games Friday, Oct. 6. West Lincoln plays Newton-Conover in Newton, while Bunker Hill faces East Burke in Connelly Springs. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.
WEST LINCOLN 8 7 0 0 — 15
BUNKER HILL 7 6 0 8 — 21
WL—Jaylin Winnex 2 run (Caden Smith run), 5:45 1st.
BH—Jaylan Willis 32 pass from Redek Robinson (Alan Bahena Soto kick), 2:40 1st.
WL—Smith 16 run (Brooke Eurey kick), 4:22 2nd.
BH—Jason Willis 6 run (run failed), 0:42 2nd.
BH—Ayden Killiam 15 pass from Robinson (Jaylin Willis pass from Jason Willis), 10:57 4th.