Bishop England was outnumbered in Thursday's season opener against West Ashley, but Wildcats coach Bobby Marion will be the first to tell you the Bishops weren't outmanned.
The Wildcats posted a 13-10 victory over the Bishops at Jack Cantey Stadium in a football game Marion said the Bishops deserved to win.
"They deserved it," said Marion, whose team is coming off a 3-8 season. "We have to block better up front. They manhandled us up front. We're a Class AAAA team, and it's not good when you manhandled up front by a 2-A team."
The Bishops won the statistical battle, but the Wildcats won the war.
The Wildcats used two big plays to win. Junior quarterback Thomas Woodhead ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run with 7:21 left in the game to give his team the lead for good. West Ashley's defense provided the other score with Donovan Bowman's 35-yard touchdown on an interception return in the first quarter.
Take away Woodhead's dash and Jared Mole's 46-yard run late and West Ashley had just 66 yards on 27 plays.
Bishop England, which outgained West Ashley, 176-164, in total yardage, had the ball for nearly 32 of the game's 48 minutes.
"But we were not looking for a moral victory, said Bishop England coach John Cantey, whose team was 4-7 last fall. "Conditioning was a big concern.
We were fatigued in the fourth quarter. We needed to play four quarters of football, not 3 3/4."
The Bishops had 41 players on their roster for the season opener, while West Ashley listed 67 players, and Cantey said depth was an issue.
"If we weren't fatigued, maybe we make the play on Woodhead," he said.
"You have to wrap up the ball carrier, and we didn't in the fourth quarter."
The Bishops needed only 14 seconds to get on the scoreboard as junior Andrew Bunch returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
Bunch took the kickoff, locked in behind a wall of blockers and then exploded into top gear to outrace the West Ashley defenders. Andrew Costa kicked the point-after TD to make it 7-0.
West Ashley's first score came on a big defensive play by Bowman. The senior linebacker picked off Mikell Fosberry's pass and returned it 35 yards for a score with 3:05 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats attempted a two-point conversion, but junior defensive end Danny Croghan snuffed out the play to prevent the conversion.
The Bishops had a 19-play drive that began late in the first quarter and lasted well into the second quarter. But an errant pitchout and a sack lost a combined 24 yards and ended the drive, which took 11:47 off the clock.
Yardage from the line of scrimmage came at a premium in the first half. The Bishops tallied 76 yards, while West Ashley tallied 8 yards on nine plays.
The Wildcats didn't pick up their first first down of the game until the fourth play of the second half.
The Bishops pushed the lead to 10-6 with 43 seconds left in the third period when Costa kicked a 22-yard field goal to cap a 12-play drive that began at the West Ashley 45.
"We needed to get more than three points on that drive," Cantey said. "We took eight minutes off the clock."
But the Wildcats needed only one play to turn the game as Woodhead scored on a keeper.
The Wildcats lost four games last fall by a touchdown or less, so Marion was happy his team rallied.
"We would have lost this game last year," he said. "But we have heart this year and the kids have bought into what we're preaching.
"A team makes its biggest improvement from Week 1 to 2, so we have to get better."
BE--Andrew Bunch 86 kickoff return (Andrew Costa kick)
WA--Donavon Bowman 35 interception return (run failed)
BE--Costa 22 FG
WA--Thomas Woodhead 58 run (Matt Stonaker kick)