SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Bulldogs showed speed, power and versatility in ripping Class 5A Grace King, 49-16, in Friday night’s homecoming game.
The Bulldogs also showed they are ready for the most important part of the schedule.
Kimanae Claiborne scored four touchdowns and Gharmaine Ashton rushed for 224 yards and two more scores as the Bulldogs improved to 3-1 going into next Thursday’s District 8-3A opener at home against Pope John Paul II.
The Bulldogs hit the winless visitors from Metairie with a 30-point second quarter, highlighted by Claiborne’s 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to wipe ou an 8-6 King lead. Claiborne added a 58-yard scoring pass reception from Joseph Kemp and touchdown runs of 10 and 55 yards.
Ashton pounded the King defense in the second half, dragging multiple defenders with him on power plays up the middle. He scored on runs of 44 and 56 yards. Springfield also got an 8-yard touchdown run from Zack Clark to get the scoring started, set up by Ashton’s 35-yard burst up the middle.
The victory was a nice rebound after last week’s 38-6 loss to Class 5A parish rival Live Oak.
“Yeah, being 3-1 and playing a 5A team moving forward I’m definitely happy where we’re at,” Springfield Coach Ryan Serpas said. “But like I told the kids, everything starts over next week. Everybody is 0-0, the second part of the season is on. We’ve got to be focused and ready to go in district.”
Claiborne demonstrated his breakaway speed after King had gone ahead on a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback David Davis to Andrew Rosiere and the same combination connected for a two-point conversion pass. Claiborne grabbed the ensuing kickoff at his 12, made two cuts and streaked up the left sidelines for the go-ahead score.
“I think what sparked us was that long kickoff return by Kimanae,” Serpas said. “He’s really a difference maker with his speed.
“Gharmaine Ashton running he ball, the kid, he’s just a bowling ball, you can’t bring him down. He’s so strong, carrying five or six tacklers at times.”
Ashton helped Springfield pile up 384 yards rushing. Although the Bulldogs threw only three passes, Kemp connected on two. He also hit Chuckie Vickes for 37 yards to set up Claiborne’s 10-yard scoring run. It was a key play because it came on fourth-and-4 with 26 seconds remaining in the first half.
Kemp replaced starting quarterback Shaq Smith, Serpas said, to give his offense some variety, which could be helpful down the stretch.
“Joseph was our starter last year,” Serpas said. “When we started running the option, we went more with Shaq because he did it naturally, but this (Kemp) is a kid who works hard and throws the ball a little better.
“He’s going to be a changeup we can go to. If we want to be a more physical run team, we can go with Shaq. If we want to throw the ball a little more we can go to Joseph. It gives our offense another dimension the other team has to worry about.”
Serpas was as enamored of his defense, which made some big plays and gave some up. Springfield sacked King quarterback David Davis twice and recovered three King fumbles. But the Bulldogs also had trouble containing Davis’ scrambles. He rushed for 135 yards on 13 carries and King amassed 16 first downs.
“We were able to do some stuff offensively to break it open,” Serpas said. “Defensively, at times we made plays but at times we gave up play. It’s good to have a win but it’s a lot of stuff we need to work on to get better.”
Davis, operating out of a five-wide receiver set most of the night, kept King (0-4) in the game with his running ability. He ran 23 yards for a touchdown to cut Springfield’s lead to 30-16 to start the second half.
Springfield answered after Tanner Wild’s fumble recovery. Claiborne took a handoff and sped 55 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night to cap a four-play, 77-yard drive. After Springfield stopped King on downs at the Bulldogs’ 44, Ashton needed only two carries to get back to the end zone.
King’s Davis completed 16 of 33 passes for 138 yards before getting shaken up twice in the fourth quarter and leaving the game.
“We don’t know ho to win yet so when we learn how to win we’ll be more successful,” first-year King Coach Alan Boyd said. “What it takes to win a ball game is something we’re trying to learn right now. It’s hard being patient during the season. We like our kids. They work hard they hustle but they’re just coming up short. It’s tough for them and tough on all of us.”
Springfield Grace King
17 First downs16
384 Yards rushing138
95 Yards passing138
479 Total yards276
Score by quarters:
Grace King 0 8 8 0 — 16
Springfield0 30 12 7 — 49
Springfield – Zack Clark 8 run (kick failed)
King – Andrew Rosiere 7 pass from David Davis (Rosiere pass from Davis)
Springfield – Kimanae Claiborne 88 kickoff return (Taylor Wild run)
Springfield – Claiborne 58 pass from Joseph Kemp (Thomas Armstrong run)
Springfield – Claiborne 10 run (Wild run)
King – Davis 23 run (Ricaredo Courtney pass from Davis)
Springfield – Claiborne 55 run (run failed)
Springfield – Gharmaine Ashton 44 run (run failed)
Springfield – Ashton 56 run (Milan Love kick)