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Empire's defensive gameplan was simple and effective Friday night against Crescent.
The Bulldogs set out to lock down deep threat Tristan Lacey, stop the underneath routes, and chase the living daylights out of Crescent quarterback Damion Bledsoe.
Empire checked all three jobs off of its to-do list, and rolled to its first playoff win since 1991, beating the visiting Tigers 46-13 in a game that was decided by halftime.
The Bulldogs limited Lacey to 44 yards on two catches. Bledsoe managed just 97 yards passing. The Bulldogs forced him into throwing three interceptions.
The Bulldogs limited Crescent to seven first downs and 243 total yards.
"Our defensive has played great the last two weeks," Empire head coach Tony Roberts said, referencing the Bulldogs victory over Velma-Alma in Week 9. “You could tell -- you could just sense the kids were ready to play tonight. We're a pretty good football team right now, and we may be peaking at the right time."
The Bulldogs lockdown coverage allowed their defensive linemen and linebackers to pressure Bledsoe, who was uncomfortable in the pocket after being hit several times by Empire linebacker Stephen Price.
The pressure forced Bledsoe into three interceptions, including one that Price ran 36 yards for a second quarter touchdown.
Crescent gained two first downs on the opening drive but moved the chains only twice more in the first half.
Meanwhile, Empire was using a steady and dominating running game to control the ball. Running back/quarterback Dillon Twigg carried 11 times for 87 yards in the first quarter alone, but it was Price and Evan Whitt who were finding the end zone.
Price, who finished with a game-leading 216 yards on 24 carries, scored two first half touchdowns, and Twigg and Whitt each added another score. Twigg capped the first half scoring with a 60-yard dash around the right end that landed him in the end zone with 1:52 left in the half.
That gave Empire a comfortable 27-0 lead at intermission.
"That's the way you play football," Roberts told his club after the game. "If you play like that, no one can beat you but yourself.
Senior linebacker Cole Bridges said the defensive gameplan fit the bill.
"It was what we needed," he said. "Everyone locked up and stayed tight, but our offense controlled the game."
The Bulldogs lived off of a counter play to Price, which had the bull of a back step right out of his stance but quickly turn back to his left before receiving the handoff.
When Price hit the line, the defenders were still slanted slightly — and defenders have a hard enough time tackling Price when they have all their weight behind them much less when they're turned the opposite direction.
Twigg finished with 168 yards on 18 carries, all in the first half.
Other Empire highlights included a fumble recovery by Tanner Ford, interceptions by Gage Pierce and Cooper Hill, and a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Whitt.
BULLDOG NOTES: Several members of Empire’s 1989 football team spoke to the players before Friday’s game. Senior Stephen Price said those team members told the Bulldogs to “play like it’s your last game, do the same things they did and put Empire on the map.”