Sep. 17—ST. PAULS — It wouldn't be truthful to say St. Pauls played its best football Friday night. But despite plenty of things for the Bulldogs to fix, the winning result was still quite definitive.
St. Pauls earned a 52-6 win over Fairmont in the Southeastern Athletic Conference opener for both clubs at G.S. Kinlaw Stadium.
"We just wanted to make a statement, the fact that a lot of people talk about (Kemarion Baldwin), and I just told our kids, that's what everybody's going to do, but we've got to figure out a way to play," St. Pauls coach Mike Setzer said. "There's some discipline things that need to happen, as far as following up on some plays and when to pull up and when not to, things like that — football discipline, on the field."
St. Pauls (3-1, 1-0 Southeastern) rushed for 357 yards, led by 202 yards on 19 carries from senior Kemarion Baldwin, who scored five touchdowns to move within one rushing touchdown of Eric Murphy's St. Pauls career record.
Quarterback Theophilus Setzer ran for 86 yards on 12 carries, while completing five of his 15 pass attempts for 47 yards.
"(We've talked about) are we going to continue to let people talk about K.B., or are we going to help him," Setzer said. "We are all part of this team, we've got to be a team, so we've got to start stepping up. So I'm extremely proud that Theo stepped it up; he's got some growing to do as a sophomore, big shoes to fill at this position, but I thought he did well tonight and that's going to take some pressure off K.B. moving forward."
Yoshua McBryde ran for 60 yards and a touchdown and Kenneth Jones caught three passes for 26 yards for the Bulldogs.
And yet, it could have been an even bigger night offensively. St. Pauls lost three fumbles inside the Fairmont 10-yard line, ending potential scoring drives with the ball in the Golden Tornadoes' possession.
"We need to take care of the ball, and we've got to understand that once we get in the red zone we should start to salivate a little more," Setzer said. "But that shows that we're a little more talented than what people are giving us credit for, and that's fine."
"That just shows us that we're way more than what we've shown," Baldwin said. "We could be way better than 52 points; turnovers cost us today. Everything will be alright — we'll come back, day one on Monday, and we'll get that win against Red Springs next week."
Fairmont (1-4, 0-1 Southeastern), however, was unable to turn any of those turnovers into points.
"Anytime our defense forces a turnover we've got to take advantage of that, and we didn't really take advantage of any of those opportunities tonight," Fairmont coach Lonnie Cox said. "We've just got to keep working, keep battling."
Another point of improvement for St. Pauls is penalties, which were particularly costly on Fairmont's lone scoring drive. After St. Pauls' first score — a 39-yard run by Baldwin for a 6-0 lead — the Golden Tornadoes' scoring drive was aided by 43 yards in Bulldogs penalties, and was also kept alive when a punt grazed a St. Pauls player and the Golden Tornadoes recovered. Gabriel Washington found Travelius Leach for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 3:26 left in the first quarter to tie the score at 6-6.
"We've got to work," Bulldogs linebacker Trejon McBryde said. "We've got to get better; we've got to learn to stop the foolishness."
Baldwin scored on a 1-yard run on the next Bulldogs possession, and St. Pauls led 12-6 after the first quarter.
While St. Pauls had four turnovers, they also forced four, with a quartet of interceptions. After the first came when Jakhi Purnell intercepted Fairmont's first play from scrimmage, Trejon McBryde got the second on the third play of the second quarter, and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown; the two-point conversion, a pass from Setzer to Yoshua McBryde, made it 20-6.
Trejon McBryde's pick-six was already his third of the season, and his second in as many weeks.
"My little brother, you saw him running the ball down the sideline, and he fumbled," Trejon McBryde said. "I was like, 'I'm going to get a pick-six and run it back.' The third defensive play, the quarterback threw it and I picked it and ran it back."
Baldwin completed the first-half scoring with a 12-yard touchdown run with 2:01 on the clock, making it a 26-6 game at intermission. He also scored the first two touchdowns of the second half — a 3-yard run and a 25-yard dash — for a 39-6 lead; the Bulldogs' third interception, by James Holmes, came in between the two scoring runs.
Jayden Barnhill notched the Bulldogs' fourth interception late in the third quarter. Yoshua McBryde scored on an 18-yard run on the ensuing possession for a 46-6 lead with 11:28 to play. Jamir McMillan provided the final touchdown of the night on a two-yard run with 7:06 remaining.
Washington threw for 68 yards and a touchdown for Fairmont; Leach caught three passes for 28 yards with a score. But the game left Cox thinking what needs to be done to get his team more competitive with the top teams in the Southeastern Athletic Conference.
"The war is often won before it's fought — and we've got to do a better job in the weight room," Cox said. "You can have all the X's and O's plays, all the great blitzes, all the special teams fakes, but if you can't win simple one-on-one matchups with the guy across from you, your chances of being successful go down significantly. Our primary goal going forward is to get in that weight room and get physically strong, and give ourselves a chance to battle against teams like St. Pauls that are very strong in the trenches."
St. Pauls travels to Red Springs for its second straight in-county game next week; Fairmont hosts Midway.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.