Horton, Bulldogs run away from Heritage, 54-28

The Bearden Bulldogs simply out ran Heritage in Friday night’s high-scoring district opener.

The Bulldogs struck early and kept a comfortable lead throughout the game against a stubborn group of Mountaineers, finally pulling away and winning 54-28.

Bearden’s early onslaught began after Heritage coughed up the opening kickoff. Senior tailback Malachi Horton scored two plays later, then added his second touchdown in the opening three minutes on a punt return.

Horton carried the ball 20 times for 197 yards and scored four total touchdowns. Quarterback Xavier Johnson rushed for two scores and threw for two more to Emad Aqqad.

“I got it going early, and it just carried over throughout the game,” Horton said. “Our whole team was playing well with Xavier having a good game and other guys contributing.”

Johnson finished with 114 yards on the ground, five of those coming on a frantic scramble into the end zone as time expired in the first half to put Bearden (1-2, 1-0 District 4-AAA) up 28-14.

It was an important bounce back game for Johnson and the offense after they failed to score last week against 4A state champions Fulton.

Of course, neither Johnson nor Horton would have gotten anywhere if not for the play of the offensive line.

“I thought the experience of our offensive line came up big tonight,” Bearden Coach Brad Taylor said. “Those guys worked hard this week, and it all really paid off tonight after the rough time they had last week.”

The offense tallied a total of 522 total yards in the first victory of the season.

The Bulldogs gave up 245 yards to Heritage, most of that coming from running back Orlando Bledsoe, who ran for 157 yards. Bearden’s defense forced 3 fumbles, two of which they took for themselves.

Bearden took a three-touchdown lead on three different occasions in the opening three quarters, and each time the Mountaineers (0-2, 0-1) answered with a score of their own. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Bulldogs finally put the game out of reach.

“Obviously we still have some work to do, but I’m really proud of how my guys played tonight,” Coach Taylor said.

The Bulldogs play their final non-district opponent of the year in Morristown East (2-1) next Friday at home.