West Jefferson made homecoming a special one with a 38-27 win over Bonnabel in the District 8-5A opener for both teams on Friday night at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
West Jefferson improved to 2-4 and Bonnabel fell to 1-5.
Bonnabel outgained West Jefferson 452 yards to 233, had a pair of 100-plus yard rushers and nearly doubled them up on first downs 22-12, but West Jeff survived by creating five turnovers and scoring two defensive touchdowns.
West Jefferson (2-4, 1-0) struck first when Dejon Thompson picked off Samaje Franklin and returned it to the Bruins’ 8-yard line. That set up a 25-yard field goal by Raul Aranda for a 3-0 lead.
The Buccaneers defense came up big again on the next drive. Blake Gray picked off a Franklin pass and took it 65 yards for a TD and a 10-0 lead.
“When I first caught the ball, I just took off,” Gray said. “My (teammates) were leading me to the other side, but someone told me to cut to the right, and I just scored a touchdown.”
The Bruins trailed at the end of the first quarter despite outgaining West Jeff by nearly 100 yards.
Bonnabel got something going when Franklin hit Kairen Landry for a 47-yard catch and run to the 11. Maurice Britton ran it in from 3 yards out two plays later. The Bruins capitalized on their next drive when Franklin broke through with a 38-yard touchdown run to give Bonnabel the lead with just under a minute remaining in the first half.
West Jeff answered right away, though. After a long kick return aided by a penalty, the Bucs regained the lead with a direct snap to Ivory Jenkins with 27 seconds remaining and took a 17-14 lead into the break.
Bonnabel outgained West Jefferson 256 yards to 74 at the half, yet still trailed.
The Bucs got to work quickly on the opening drive of the second half. David Carter ran through a big hole up the middle for a 67 yard touchdown to put West Jeff back up by 10. Bonnabel answered with a 1- yard run by Franklin on fourth-and-goal to climb back to within three.
Bonnabel forced a punt and was looking regain the lead. But Ernest Kimble picked off Franklin deep in Bruins territory, leading to a 22-yard touchdown pass from Coley Ransaw to Jenkins.
Bonnabel got a much-needed drive going, but misfortune hit it again in the worst possible way.
First a 40-yard touchdown run by Franklin was wiped out by a block-in-the-back penalty. Then on third-and-long, Franklin tried to buy time by scrambling only to be hit from behind and lose the ball.
Dylan Wilson scooped up the ball and returned it 60 yards for a Buccaneers touchdown to go up by 17 and put the game out of reach.