Bastrop 38, Richwood 17

RICHWOOD — Bastrop started slow but finished fast in a 38-17 victory over the Richwood Rams on Friday night.

Five plays after recovering a dropped punt at the 19, Richwood went up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

Bastrop had more turnovers (3) than first downs (2) at halftime. Yet, the B-Rams carried a 12-7 lead into the break.

"I think the biggest problem we had in the first half was Richwood's energy level was too high for us to match," Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette said.

Burnette expected the Richwood intensity after Bastrop miraculously scored twice in the last three minutes to win last year's meeting 21-20.

"I told our kids what to expect, and they either didn't get it or didn't believe it," Burnette said. "They came in with a chance to go 3-1, and they are probably going to win their district. Obviously, they remembered what happened last year."

Not all of the B-Rams' offensive woes were self-imposed.

"There's a lot to be said for what Richwood does," Burnette said. "Their people were playing hard, too. Their defensive end is probably going Division I. Their cornerback has committed to TCU. They have a linebacker who has six or seven offers. They probably have the most underrated defensive lineman in Louisiana."

Richwood reciprocated Bastrop's gift, fumbling the ball away at their own 15 early in the second quarter.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty gave the Rams their first first down of the evening before Bobby Smith scored on a 4-yard screen pass. Richwood blocked the PAT to preserve a 7-6 lead with 11:12 remaining in the half.

Two series later, Bastrop took over with a short field at the 21, but soon fumbled the ball back to Richwood.

Richwood had problems protecting the football in the first half as well. While the R-Rams held an 8-2 lead in first downs at halftime, four fumbles stalled the offense.

Attempting to run out the clock, Richwood put the ball on the ground, once again, at the Bastrop 35.

This time, Bastrop made the R-Rams pay. On the next play from scrimmage, Quaterius Hawkins hit SirQuan Hawkins for a 35-yard TD strike to put the B-Rams in front 12-7 just 59 seconds before halftime.

"We missed a lot of stuff early," Burnette said. "Richwood gave our quarterback — and he's still young — some different looks, and it took him a little time to figure it out. By the second quarter, he was feeling the frustration because he wasn't getting it. Early in the third quarter, it finally clicked for him. Once it clicked, it clicked."

Richwood's fifth of six lost fumbles — this one on a punt — led to Bastrop's first touchdown of the second half.

Awarded a fresh set of downs at their own 45, Bastrop sent its offense back onto the field. From there, Quaterius Hawkins found SirQuan Hawkins for 34 yards, and again for a 21-yard touchdown. Bastrop was up 18-7 with 8:26 to play in the third quarter.

A low shotgun snap, followed by a Richwood personal foul, presented the B-Rams with another short field at the 26. Celento Traylor's 21-yard reception helped set up Desi Holmes' 2-yard touchdown run as Bastrop's lead swelled to 26-7 at 4:20 in the third quarter.

Richwood crossed into Bastrop territory on its next sequence. With the R-Rams facing third-and-10 from the Bastrop 37, Lawrence Moore took it the other way for an apparent 99-yard pick-6. However, the play was taken off the books due to an illegal block.

"In old school football, which is the way I coach, those blocks were legal," Burnette said. "They were just old school crackback blocks."

While acknowledging the block is illegal, Burnette says he will not discourage aggressive play.

"It's kind of a catch 22," Burnette said. "Do I stop it? Hey, you know what, it's hard not to because it's taking points off the board. To me, a penalty is a clip, a facemask, a late hit or jumping off sides. I'm not about to slow these boys down. If I have to take one of those (illegal block penalties) every two or three games, I'll take it."

For Bastrop, the illegal block represented the start of a penalty epidemic.

Flagged on six straight plays, including a holding call in the end zone, Bastrop gave up a safety.

Richwood then returned the free kick 70 yards for a touchdown.

Bastrop's 19-point lead had suddenly dwindled to 26-17 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.

Regrouping, Bastrop imposed its will throughout the fourth quarter.

Christian Smith's 36-yard TD catch capped a five-play, 62-yard drive as the B-Rams opened up a 32-17 spread.

Richwood had the ball back for only three plays as a third down sack by Markell Peoples and Denterrius McHenry brought on the punting unit. Bastrop allowed only two first downs in the second half.

"I'll say this for coach (Earl) Thaxton, coach (Korea) Davis and all of our defensive coaches — our defense is playing so relentless, they will break your will at the end of the day. They will not stop getting after you.

"Robeyone (Williams) hurt his shoulder, (T.J.) Blanch was cramping and Moore's knee was hurting," Burnette said. "They came off the field hurting, but when the offense came off the field, they went right back on."

"Really, the defense didn't give up anything. Their scores came off of a muffed punt, a safety and a kickoff return."

Taking over at the 32 after the Richwood punt, the B-Rams quickly moved the sticks on a 14-yard run by Kyrese Lawrence. Moments later, the Hawkins-to-Hawkins combination struck again for a 36-yard TD to wrap up the scoring.

SirQuan Hawkins was the Rams' offensive star with eight catches for 208 yards and three touchdowns — all career-highs.

Moore nabbed a pair of interceptions in his first start at free safety to lead a defense which featured multiple standouts. Strong safety C.J. Mullens led the team team in tackles.

Bastrop's front four rotation — a group that includes Xavier Whitmore, McHenry, Germany Powell, Quadarious Rhodes, Markell Peoples and Jordan Doaty — controlled the line of scrimmage despite being significantly out-sized.

Wrapping up a two-game road swing, Bastrop (2-2) visits Alexandria Menard on Friday at 7 p.m.