12U Belhaven Bulldogs use strong first half to win title

Published 6:23 pm Saturday, November 19, 2016

GREENVILLE — The 12U Belhaven Bulldogs went three-and-out on their first drive, but their offense bounced right back to claim the 12U crown. The Bulldogs scored three first-half touchdowns, got 2-point conversions on each, and never looked back in a 24-12 win.

A championship win means a lot to just about any team, but meant even more to a Belhaven squad that has faced plenty of adversity this fall.

“We had a couple of guys, their mom’s passed,” Bulldogs coach Brian Butler said. “It’s been real rough, but our motto the whole year has been family. That’s what we lived by the whole year. We went undefeated, and showed it on the field today.”

After that initial stop, Jamarion Windley gave the Washington Dolphins’ offense an immediate jolt. He took off for a 13-yard gain on the team’s first play from scrimmage, but they stalled out just as quickly.

A tackle for a loss and a flag against the Dolphins led to a turnover on downs. Two plays after taking over at the Bulldogs’ 26, Elijah Covington ripped off a 50-yard touchdown. Jeffrey Manning got two, and Belhaven took a 8-0 lead less than six minutes in.

The Dolphins had a short field to work with thanks to a late hit on the kickoff return. Messiah Levy’s 7-yard run brought them down to the 13, but they fumbled the ball away shortly thereafter.

Covington made them pay for it, and in only two plays — runs of 32 and 25 yards. Another conversion later, and Belhaven’s lead doubled to 16-0 with 5:36 left in the half.

Windley didn’t let the game get away from the Dolphins. He erupted for a 42-yard touchdown on the next play from scrimmage. Washington couldn’t get two, but cut its deficit to 16-6.

With 5:02 left on the clock, the Bulldogs were able to take their time marching down the field. Covington carried them down the field. They were set up on the doorstep and simply used their size to push the pile over the plane. Manning punched in the conversion to extend Belhaven’s lead to 24-6 going into the intermission.

Each side’s defense stymied the other’s offense throughout the second half until Windley’s fourth-quarter, 49-yard score. It brought the Dolphins within two possessions. However, with only 4:15 remaining, Washington ran out of time.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, about 17 years,” Butler said. “It feels great to win this title. In the first half, we just stuck with our game plan that got us here. We didn’t change anything up. … That game plan got us here, and we had great coaching.”

With that, the Bulldogs were able to ride out their dominant first half to win the 12U championship.