By Gaylen Duskey

Calhoun Middle School's hopes for an undefeated season came to an end Thursday night when Ritchie County claimed a hard-fought 36-22 victory over the visiting Red Devils.

But it didn't come without giving the unbeaten Blazers, 4-0, a major scare.

Ritchie County went into the game not only unbeaten but unscored upon. That "unscored upon" thing lasted all of 17 seconds.

On the first play from scrimmage Calhoun's Johnny Taylor broke through the line then ran away from the defenders for a 67-yard touchdown run. The Casey Ritchie to Cody Ritchie extra point conversion put the Red Devils, 3-1, on top 8-0.

But Ritchie didn't become unbeaten for no reason and the Blazers battled back and scored when Orlando Bergy broke free up the middle and rambled 41 yards for a touchdown. The missed extra point attempt left Calhoun ahead 8-6.

The Red Devils padded that lead on the ensuing kickoff when Taylor fielded the ball at the 13 and raced 87 yards for the score. His extra point run gave the Red Devils a 16-6 lead and for a few moments had the Blazers reeling.

But they recovered as Austin Garrett followed the blocking of Bergy in to the end zone from six yards out. This time Bergy ran the ball to bring the Blazers within two, 16-14.

Then the momentum shifted as Ritchie's defense figured out Calhoun's offense and put a clamp on Taylor while blitzing to cool off the passing attack that only had the 30-yard completion from Casey Ritchie to Cole Ritchie to show for its first half efforts.

Meanwhile The patient Blazer attack was able to move the ball in small bits and large chunks.

The first large chunk was Bergy's second touchdown of the game, this one from 40 yards out that gave the Blazers a lead they would not surrender as Cody Farley's extra point run made it 22-16.

Toward the end of the half the Blazers added another score which further stymied the Red Devils. This one came on a 23-yard Farley to Wyatt Goff pass that set the halftime score at 28-16.

Ritchie got the second half kickoff and moved for another score, a four-yard run by Garrett with Bergy adding the conversion, to get its biggest lead of the game 36-16.

But Calhoun would not roll over and rallied. First came a Casey Ritchie to Devon McKown 15-yard scoring pass making it 36-22.

The came a great goal-line stand that stopped the Blazers on fourth-and-goal at the one.

It appeared Calhoun may be getting a quick score from its own end zone on first down as Taylor broke free and rambled 37 yards before a combination of a slippery field and a nice tackle by the Ritchie safety - the last defenseman between the Red Devil and the goalline - combined to stop him. After that Ritchie and Calhoun traded defensive stands and the clock wound down.

Calhoun was led by Taylor with 166 yards on 19 carries. He also had a 20 yard pass reception and an 87 yard kickoff return. Bergy led Ritchie with 127 yards on nine carries while Garrett added 72 yards on 18 attempts.

Calhoun will try to get back in the winning column next Thursday night when it travels to Braxton County for a Central West Virginia Athletic Conference (CWVAC) game.

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