Westside and Burke County will never be mistaken for veteran teams. The Patriots have 47 players who are freshmen or sophomores, and the Bears have 44.
Westside's youth showed Friday. Burke County's did not. The Bears were faster and smarter at ARC Stadium, and they left with a 16-13 victory because of it.
"We've got a lot of potential," said Bears coach Steve Summers, whose team improved to 2-0. "I loved these kids' effort. Their effort is outstanding."
Burke County tailback Isaiah Lockhart amassed 124 yards and a touchdown, 113 of those yards in the first half. Westside tailback Duane Gregg seldom found many running lanes but managed 80 yards on 20 carries.
The Patriots' defense was penalized eight times for jumping offsides.
"We keep walking into these games thinking we're just going to walk over people like we have in the past," said Gregg, a senior whose team went 9-3 last season and advanced to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs. "In the past, we could just show up and win. It's not the same this year. I don't know if it's a lack of senior leadership or what. But we're going to have to turn it around."
Westside (0-3) has been outscored 41-0 in the first half of its past two games.
"We keep digging ourselves in a hole," said seventh-year coach Gerald Barnes. "Last week we didn't play in the first half, and we got a little frantic."
The Bears amassed 189 rushing yards in the first half. Burke County used a dose of trickery on its second trip to the end zone, as Chris Gardner took a reverse 27 yards to give his team a comfortable lead.
"They were pursuing pretty hard on the backside, and we just caught them one time," Summers said.
Summers was particularly proud of linebacker and running back Marcus Washington. Washington was the defense's chief aggressor, making plays and harassing Westside quarterback Jason Williams.
After his team pulled to 14-6 on a 1-yard run by Gregg late in the third quarter, Williams made a critical error two possessions later by running into his own end zone under intense pressure. He made a futile attempt to throw, but none of his teammates were around. He was penalized for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety.
"He's young, and he's learning," Barnes said of Williams, a junior. "We're just all kind of learning together what we can do and what we can't do.
"This might be the youngest team I've had since I've been here, but you've still got to play. It doesn't matter. There ain't no excuses for it."
BURKE COUNTY 16, WESTSIDE 13
Burke County 01402-16
Second Quarter BC-Isaiah Lockhart 72 run (Julius Patterson kick), 11:43
BC-Chris Gardner 27 run (Patterson kick), 4:45
Third quarter W-Duane Gregg 1 run (kick blocked), 1:15
Fourth quarter BC-Safety, intentional grounding on Westside in end zone, 5:21
W-Gregg 3 run (Obi Egekeze kick), 2:03
BC -- W
First Downs 138
Passing Yards 048
RUSHING-Burke County: Isaiah Lockhart 18-124, Donnie Lambert 6-5, Marcus Washington 6-18, Jerome Thompson 5-5, Daniel Fowler 5-22, Chris Gardner 4-55. Westside: Duane Gregg 20-80, Willie Elam 7-18, Jason Williams 5-6, Sergio Campbell 3-12.
PASSING-Burke County: Fowler 0-0-0. Westside: Williams 6-13, 48; Eric Taylor 0-1-1; Gregg 0-1-1.
RECEIVING-Westside: Gregg 1-(-4), Eric Taylor 5-52.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.