For The News Courier
ELKMONT — For the first time in 13 years, West Limestone enjoyed the short bus ride back to Salem after playing at cross-county rival Elkmont.
With the halftime score deadlocked at 14, the Wildcats took advantage of two key turnovers by Elkmont to defeat the feisty Red Devils 41-14 in a non-region tussle at a soggy Boss Hill Stadium Friday night.
Class 3A Elkmont (1-4) trails West Limestone 40-17-1 in a heated series that dates back to the early 1950s, but the Red Devils have dominated the rivalry in the past 13 seasons with a 9-3 record. During that span, Class 4A West Limestone (3-2), a former 3A school, beat Elkmont only in 2010 (35-34, 3OT), 2004 (20-12) and 1999, when the Wildcats earned a 34-28 road victory.
West took a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard Tucker McCormick run with 9:18 to play in the first quarter, but Elkmont seized a 7-6 advantage less than three minutes later in the quarter on a 27-yard TD by Dustin Ward and an Alexis Hernandez PAT.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats took a 14-8 lead on a 5-yard TD dash by Logan Pugh, but the Red Devils answered again when senior quarterback Bryant Wales connected on a 60-yard touchdown play to junior receiver Rhett Bailey, who was playing in his first game since sitting out the 2011 season and the first four games this season due to cancer.
With the halftime score tied at 14, Elkmont had the first possession in the third quarter, but West’s Matthew Reyer forced a fumble on a high snap and Pugh recovered the ball. The Wildcats’ offense took advantage of the turnover when Dillon Miller found the end zone from the Elkmont 4. The 2-point conversion failed, but West took the lead for good at 20-14.
West defensive back Drew Blakely picked off Wales on the next Elkmont possession, and the Wildcats turned the turnover into a 28-14 lead when Miller rushed for a 9-yard touchdown and Drake Lopez ran in the 2-point conversion.
West added 13 more points in the fourth quarter on a 51-yard scamper by Pugh and a 5-yard quarterback keeper by Caleb McConnell. The Wildcats went for two on Pugh’s score and didn’t convert, but Matthew Sanders booted the PAT on the second score for the 41-14 final score.
Pugh had a team-high 134 yards on 19 carries and a pair of touchdowns, and Miller finished with 18 carries for 118 yards and two scores.
Mike Tucker led Elkmont in rushing with 50 yards on six carries and finished with a team-high five tackles, and Ward added 43 yards on six rushes for one touchdown Wales finished 2 of 6 passing for 57 yards.
West outgained Elkmont 320-179, including 311 yards on the ground, and had a 15-5 advantage on first downs.
Both teams resume region play this Friday as West plays at Wilson, while Elkmont hosts to No. 4 Madison Academy.
—Michael Carter contributed to this report.