Victory has been a long time coming at Paul Laurence Dunbar.
But there it was Friday, just in time for homecoming, as the Bulldogs bit visiting Woodford County 38-22.
"It feels real good," said Paul Jones, who ran 21 times for 240 yards and a touchdown, then led a water-cooler assault on Coach Bob Lawson. "Because we won. We won by a nice margin."
Both teams came in with 0-2 records, Woodford having lost six in a row dating to last season and Dunbar having lost nine in a row. Dunbar got one of its two wins last season over Woodford, 24-17.
There was little doubt about the outcome Friday. Woodford scored on a safety with 1:51 left and a touchdown on the final play of the game to make the margin respectable.
"We came out and competed from the start of the game," Lawson said. "I felt like our execution offensively and defensively was just like we were a little more focused, a little bit more determined to do what it took to win."
Dunbar led 21-7 at halftime, all the scoring coming in the first 121/2 minutes.
Bulldogs quarterback Blake Martin ran for a 10-yard touchdown, then hooked up with William Gary for scoring passes of 30 and 8 yards.
Conrad Smart's fumble recovery of a pitch to Jones led to Woodford's touchdown, a 3-yard run by Brandon Campbell.
Jones expanded the lead to 28-7, rumbling 57 yards up the middle on the fourth scrimmage play of the second half. Jones also had a 70-yard run in the first half to set up Gary's second TD, plus a 60-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter.
"It actually felt good," Jones said of his 57-yarder, "because my first big one I got run down. And after the fumble, I just tried to come back with more mental focus."
Tucker Lyles' 1-yard TD plunge in the final seconds of the third quarter made it 35-7 for the Bulldogs.
Matt Puracchio, 5-for-5 on PAT kicks, added a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Woodford's fourth-quarter touchdowns came on a pair of 6-yard runs by backup quarterback Matt Couch.
"My kids played hard," Woodford Coach Steve Stonebraker said. "My kids have played hard all year long. They fought through. We've got that 'one down, one to go, play-the-next-play' mentality and that's what is going to build this program."
The Yellowjackets gained 317 yards—but only 71 yards rushing, all in the second half. Couch completed three of 10 passes for 60 yards. Starter Ryan Garrahan was 16-for-34 for 186 yards.
Dunbar finished with 323 yards of offense. Martin completed five of 10 passes for 52 yards.
Woodford went three-and-out on its first three possessions.
A punt drilled into the line of scrimmage gave Dunbar great field position—the Woodford 20—to set up Martin's rush touchdown.
After another Yellowjackets punt, Martin found Gary in stride on a fourth-and-7 play from the 30.
Smart's fumble recovery, at the Dunbar 49, came on the first play after Woodford's third punt.
Gary's second touchdown catch, on the first play of the second quarter, came three plays after Jones' 70-yard run to the Woodford 10-yard line.
Woodford then drove to a first down at the Dunbar 8. On third down from the 8, though, Emory Thompson's interception killed the threat.
Woodford County 7 0 0 15—22
Paul Dunbar 14 7 14 3—38
PLD—Blake Martin 10 run (Matt Puracchio kick); PLD—William Gary 30 pass from Martin (Puracchio kick); WC—Brandon Campbell 3 run (Taylor Ratcliff kick); PLD—Gary 8 pass from Martin (Purrachio kick); PLD—Paul Jones 57 run (Puracchio kick); PLD—Tucker Lyles 1 run (Puracchio kick); PLD—Puracchio 38 field goal; WC—Matt Couch 6 run (Ratcliff kick); WC—Safety, ball snapped out of end zone; WC—Couch 6 run (no PAT attempt).
Records—Paul Dunbar 1-2, Woodford Co. 0-3.