DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – West Point spent 12 hours on a bus getting here to play Daytona Beach Mainland, so why not spend as much time on the field as possible?
The Green Wave wore down Mainland with long drive after long drive before settling for a 14-0 victory in the inaugural game of the Daytona Gridiron Challenge on Friday night at Municipal Stadium.
It was the season-opening game for Mainland’s Buccaneers.
West Point (2-0) held the ball for 22 of the first 28 plays against a Mainland squad that couldn’t generate anything significant on offense until after the Green Wave’s LaKenderic Thomas registered his second touchdown of the night.
The final stats showed West Point with 30:47 of possession compared to Mainland’s 17:13, with a 237-107 edge in total offense. The key stat: seven of Mainland’s nine possessions didn’t last longer than four plays, as the Buccaneers went 0 for 7 on third-down conversions.
“That’s a goal of ours,” said West Point coach Chris Chambless. “We want to keep our offense on the field … sometimes it’s the best defense we’ve got.”
But the defense wasn’t bad Friday: Mainland managed just 62 yards on 24 rushes and completed 4 of 17 passes for 45 yards.
“We’ve been working on our defensive reads,” Chambless said.
The day belonged to Thomas, who had a solid night as a workhorse. He carried 25 times for a game-high 108 yards.
“He was raring to go,” Chambless said of Thomas. “We got on the bus Thursday morning and he was ready to play then.”
West Point established control in the second quarter, registering three drives of longer than 10 plays. A 1-yard run by Thomas with 40 seconds left in the first half capped off a 16-play, 63-yard drive that consumed eight minutes.
The second score came on a short field after Jaquille White’s interception gave West Point the ball on the Mainland 29. Thomas scored three plays later, breaking tackles on a 14-yard with 8:03 left.
Mainland had a pair of late scoring threats, including a first-and-goal on the five after a Stephone Wilson 55-yard punt return, but couldn’t capitalize.
West Point’s Justin Cox complimented Thomas with 84 yards on 13 carries.
The four-game series continues today with three games. Of local interest, Olive Branch (1-0) will face two-time state champion Cocoa.
Dan Ryan/Special to the Journal