RICHLANDS — Navy proved to be the richer shade of blue Friday night at Ernie Hicks Stadium.
In his head coaching debut at Richlands, Jeff Tarter got his first win in resounding fashion when his Blue Tornado thumped Gate City 38-13.
The Blues used a three-touchdown barrage in the third quarter to pull away from the Blue Devils.
“We’ve changed our defensive philosophy in the last three or four years,” Tarter said. “We’ve not been very physical and that change showed tonight.”
Richlands senior quarterback Gavin Cox — who measures a staggering 6-foot-8 and 267 pounds — accounted for four scores. He threw two touchdown passes to Drew Simmons and ran for two short-yardage scores.
In total, Cox had 113 yards through the air, completing 7 of 12 attempts, and ran for 15 yards on 10 attempts.
Running back Dylan Brown finished with 113 yards on 14 rushes for the Blues, who amassed 234 yards on the ground and had 22 first downs.
Simmons caught three balls for 88 yards. Penn commit Sage Webb had the final score for Richlands, a 23-yard scamper with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
The Blue Devils had the wind taken out of their sails near the end of the first half.
After Gate City drove inside the Richlands 20-yard line, sophomore quarterback Luke Bledsoe was flushed out of the pocket and threw an interception to Brown at the 5 that halted the drive with 13 seconds before halftime.
“Luke was trying to make a play and things happened,” Gate City coach Jeremy Houseright said. “I thought the kids fought hard and hats off to Richlands because they fought hard, too. It was a tough game. We made some mistakes, but we had a lot of bright spots, too.”
Bledsoe finished 5-of-14 passing for 84 yards and ran for 63 yards on 17 attempts.
Gate City senior speedster Carson Jenkins, a William & Mary commit, had two long touchdowns, including a 56-yard bomb from Bledsoe in the second quarter that cut his team’s deficit to 10 points.
Jenkins came back in the fourth quarter and scampered 83 yards down the Blue Devils’ sideline on his way to the house.
“We had some great blocking on some of those runs,” Houseright said. “Luke Bledsoe ran the ball hard tonight. Defensively, we’ve got to stop giving up the big play and maybe bow our back a little bit more at times.”
Jenkins accounted for 201 of Gate City’s 322 yards of offense and added 103 yards on kickoff and punt returns.
“It was fun to watch Sage and Carson go up against each other on the outside,” Tarter said. “That’s Penn versus William & Mary. I’ve always said that when you’re lined up out there on the outside, you have to not have a conscience because you’re going to get beat sometimes.
“It was like playing race cars tonight with those two. When one went out to get a breather, the other went out, too.”
Gate City hurt itself with four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles.
“We’ve got a long way to go and the kids know it,” Houseright said. “Hopefully, we just keep building and building.”
The Blues will travel to Big Stone Gap next Friday night for a highly anticipated matchup against Union.
Gate City will host Radford next Saturday.