Run, then run some more worked just fine as a strategy for Henry Clay on Friday night.
Elijah Bell ran for 172 yards and D.J. Jackson added 167, each scoring two touchdowns to lead the visiting Blue Devils to a 39-23 victory over Class 6A district rival Dunbar.
The 1-2 combination of Bell and Jackson helped Henry Clay outgain Dunbar 359-239 on the ground.
"When we've got our line out there blocking and our receivers out there blocking, there's a lot of people who can't stop us," Jackson said.
As big as the run game was, the game also turned on a huge defensive play by the interior line.
Henry Clay was clinging to a 27-23 lead late in the third quarter, with Dunbar 7 yards away from the end zone. On fourth-and-one, though, a run up the middle was stacked up and Henry Clay took over.
Two plays later, Jackson rumbled 88 yards to the Dunbar 1, and Bell took it in from there.
What was Bell happiest about in the game?
"Our defense," he said. "They shut the whole thing down. We started out (slow) and picked our game back up at halftime."
Lakwon Givens led Henry Clay tacklers with four unassisted and 10 assists.
"It was a good win for us," said Sam Simpson, coach of the Devils (7-1, 1-1 district). "That's a good football team, and our defense played when we needed to. The biggest play of the game was the fourth-down stop."
Paul Rains, coach of the Bulldogs, saw things the same way.
"We were in position to score and come back and even take the lead," Rains said. "It could have been a difference maker right there."
Henry Clay jumped to a 14-0 lead and was up 20-17 at intermission.
The Blue Devils took the opening kickoff and drove down the field — 71 yards on eight plays — to take a quick lead on Sammy Carter's fourth-down, 19-yard pass to Austin Black. Henry Clay made it 14-0 on Jackson's 1-yard run with 6:01 left in the first quarter.
Then it was Dunbar's turn to reel off 17 points in a row.
The Bulldogs started with a 13-play, 82-yard drive, capped by Cam Pergram's 2-yard blast into the end zone.
An Emory Thompson fumble recovery led to a 21-yard field goal by Levi Clark.
Then Donte Allen came up with an interception to set up Pergram's second short TD run, a 3-yarder.
Henry Clay regained the lead, 20-17, on a 64-yard scoring scamper by Bell.
Second half, Henry Clay's defense took the ball away on the second play, a fumble recovery by Maurice Gibson.
One play later, Carter and Black hooked up for their second score, a 23-yarder, and a 27-17 lead.
Pergram scored his third touchdown on a 2-yard run to bring the margin down to 27-23, setting the table for Henry Clay's fourth-down stand.
Henry Clay also got a 2-yard TD run by Jackson with 5:52 left in the game.
"We showed some character coming back," Rains said. "But we made too many mistakes tonight. I don't know what it was — maybe it was the fact that we were playing a little bit from behind.
"And, of course, you've got to give them credit. Bell and Johnson, those two running backs, made some big plays. We contained the big plays on the pass, but they made plays when they had to make plays."
Henry Clay 39, Paul Dunbar 23
Henry Clay 14 6 13 6—39
Paul Dunbar 7 10 6 0—23
HC—Austin Black 19 pass from Sammy Carter (Taylor Dunbar kick); HC—D.J. Jackson 1 run (Dunbar kick); D—Cam Pergram 2 run (Levi Clark kick); D—Clark 21 field goal; D—Pergram 3 run; HC—Elijah Bell 64 run (kick failed); HC—Black 23 pass from Carter (Dunbar kick); D—Pergram 2 run (kick failed); HC—Bell 1 run (kick failed); HC—Jackson 2 run (kick failed).
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.