MOORE — Tailback Kieron Hardrick had just caught a second-quarter screen pass in the Westmoore backfield and found himself directly in the sights of a Moore defender. As he'd been taught, he thrust out his arm and forcefully pushed away the larger defender.
Another defender caught Hardrick 69 yards later at the Moore 1, but he scored one of his three touchdowns on the next play and secured all the momentum for the Jaguars, who eventually cruised to a 37-6 win over their archrivals in the annual Moore War at Moore Schools Stadium on Friday night.
Westmoore (1-0) extended its winning streak over Moore (0-1) to 13 games and the Jaguars can win the Moore city championship next week when they face Southmoore. But first, they wanted to savor a win that came after a long, difficult summer in Moore, starting on May 20 when an EF-5 tornado ripped through town, killing 25 people and destroying Plaza Towers and Briarwood Elementary Schools and hundreds of homes.
“I hope for the community that this was a time for our community to come together and maybe see each other if they hadn't seen each other in a while,” Westmoore coach Billy Langford said. “It was the first big event where somebody's not picking up a bunch of trash or having to do a bunch of work. They could just come and hang out with each other and watch a good football game.”
The pregame ceremony featured bands from both schools on the field, teaming up to play the national anthem before student representatives met at midfield to exchange spirit sticks. But once the game started, things were back to usual in the series, which has meant Westmoore dominance in recent years.
Still, it took a while for the Jaguars to gather steam. Hardrick scored on a 30-yard touchdown run with 5 seconds left in the first quarter, on the first play after a short Moore punt set up the Jaguars in prime field position.
Soon after, the stadium lights went out, resulting in a 15-minute delay. Hardrick made sure the Jaguars kept their momentum. First he carried 24 yards to the Westmoore 33, and three plays later, he caught the screen pass from quarterback Bryson Lee. When asked about his stiff-arm on the play, a wide smile crossed Hardrick's face.
“It was just quick instinct on that one,” Hardrick said. “It was the last thing I could think of, so I just stiff-armed him and kept going. … That kind of got the tempo going with the team. Big plays like that will get us going. After that, it's hard to stop us.”
Devonte Cooper returned the ensuing kickoff 72 yards to put the Lions at the Moore 15, but they had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Dalton Witherspoon. Westmoore then marched 94 yards and scored again 59 seconds before halftime on a 10-yard run by A.J. Oliver, putting the Jaguars up 20-3.
All told, the Jaguars eventually scored on six consecutive possessions from the end of the first quarter through the end of the third quarter. Hardrick, who finished with 77 yards on 11 carries, added a 2-yard touchdown run in the second half and Dahu Green made a leaping 14-yard touchdown grab.
Lee finished 16-of-22 passing for 279 yards and one touchdown.
Moore quarterback Jordan Bernhardy rushed 18 times for 70 yards out of the Lions' triple-option attack, but the Lions finished only 2-of-8 passing for 24 yards. Moore had just 106 yards of offense.
Witherspoon hit another 33-yard field goal in the third quarter to account for Moore's other points.