RAGLAND – It was a defensive slugfest to start the season, and when the smoke had cleared, the Ragland Purple Devils had held on to a 14-7 victory over the Gaston Bulldogs.

It was the 21st time the two teams played each other. Ragland had won only four of the first 20, but the Purple Devils fought hard for their fifth-ever victory over the Bulldogs.

Gaston scored the first time they had the football, driving 62 yards in 10 plays. The touchdown came on a four-yard run by Mitchell Smith with 4:44 remaining in the opening stanza. The PAT by Riley Mason was good to make the score 7-0.

The Purple Devils finally found the end zone midway of the second quarter thanks to a running game led by Christian Morrow and Jadon Killings. Morrow picked up 16 and 36 yards rushing on two carries, and then Killings had 5 yards and the final 9 yards for the touchdown. Keith Darden added the PAT to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:49 remaining in the first half.

By halftime, the score was still knotted at 7-7.

After a scoreless third quarter, Ragland scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run by Killings. Darden added the PAT to make it 14-7.

On the ensuing kickoff, Gaston’s Jashon Cammeron raced 80 yards, breaking several tackles along the way, for the apparent tying touchdown, but the Bulldogs were flagged for a block in the back to nullify the great run.

Gaston turned the ball over on downs and Ragland started at its own 38-yard line. They drove to the Bulldog 5-yard line where they too, turned the ball over on downs.

Once again, a penalty hurt the Bulldogs as an apparent long touchdown run was brought back because of a holding penalty. Ragland held on to win the game 14-7.

Ragland coach Jonathan Nix said it was a great way to start the season and it was a great game.

“It was a physical game,” Nix said. “Both teams fought hard. Both teams dealt with adversity throughout the game. We started out slow on offense, then started grinding and finding that rhythm. Our offensive line did a great job. There was a lot of character tested tonight.”

Gaston head football coach Swane Morris said Ragland’s linemen were just so much bigger.

“They leaned on us all night long,” Morris said.

When asked if they learned anything about the game, Morris said, “Yes. Don’t commit 1,500 penalties. We had two touchdowns called back, and you just can’t have those type penalties in a game like this. You can’t do that.”

Ragland, 1-0, travels to Wadley next week while the 0-1 Bulldogs travel to Section.

Contact Gary Hanner at ghanner@thestclairtimes.com.