GATE CITY, Va. – Dressing just 17 players and bringing along some three dozen fans, John Battle opened its football season in impressive fashion Monday night at Legion Field with a convincing 16-6 win over shell shocked Gate City.
Battle came into the game having beaten their Mountain 7 District rival only four times in 40 meetings, but the Trojans dominated the Blue Devils in this one.
The Trojans of second-year head coach Bradley Ricker flashed an impressive ball-control veer offense, running a whopping 66 plays to Gate City’s 31.
“That was the game plan, to hold on to the football,” said Ricker, who has been on the Battle staff since 2012. “These seniors man, they’re tough. They grinded and stuck to the game plan and toughed it out.
“Hats off to these kids. I won’t take any credit for this win because that was all them. Toughness, grit — they finished four quarters.”
Gate City coach Jeremy Houseright saluted the Trojans.
“Give John Battle a lot of credit, they played a good ballgame,” the second-year Blue Devil leader said. “They came in here and played the pace they wanted.
“He [Ricker] does a great job. We’ve just got to get better.”
Quarterback Jack Thurston ran and read the veer, an offense introduced in the 1960s yet left for dead many years ago, to near perfection for Battle, which produced 221 yards rushing on 56 attempts.
Thurston was responsible for both touchdowns, first tossing a 12-yard dump pass to hard-nosed tight end Nich Lail for an 8-0 lead at halftime, then helping up the edge to 16-0 on a 7-yard option keeper with 6:22 left in the game.
“We have a lot of confidence in Jackie as a senior quarterback,” Ricker said. “He’s just been waiting on his time and he’s excited to get it.
“Those five up front (offensive line), starting with our senior lineman (guard) Nash Clifton, he led them hogs all the way. He’s grown up and he sees the game of football well and he led us out there.”
Thurston finished the game with 87 yards rushing on 17 carries, while completing three passes for 45 yards. Zack Moore ran it 18 times for 60 yards and fellow running back Shannon Wohlford gained 54 yards on 15 cracks.
Gate City managed to get on the scoreboard one play after Thurston’s TD scamper, when 6-foot-4 wide receiver Matthew Gose ran unnoticed and grabbed a perfect 47-yard strike from quarterback Luke Bledsoe.
Otherwise, the Devils offered little offensively, producing just 84 total yards.
“We know this is going to be a work in progress, which it is for every school right now,” Houseright said. “Time is limited, but that’s part of it. We’re fortunate to be out here to get to play and we’re very thankful for it.
“We’ll have a lot to look at on this film that hopefully we can get corrected.”
John Battle 0 8 0 8 — 16
Gate City 0 0 0 6 — 6
JB — Lail 12 pass from Thurston (-Martin pass from Thurston)
JB — Thurston 7 run (Wohlford run)
GC — Gose 47 pass from Bledsoe (pass failed)
First downs: JB 15, GC 5; Rushes-Yards: JB 56-221, GC 15-10; Passing yards: JB 45, GC 74; Passes (C-A-I): JB 3-10-0, GC 4-13-0; Fumbles-lost: JB 2-1, GC 2-1; Penalties: JB 7-35, GC 3-15; Punts: JB 0-0, GC 3-23.3.