BY TATE RUSSELL
SUN SPORTS WRITER
The West Greene Buffaloes did all they could to claw their way back in the second half Friday night, but they had dug too big of a hole and fell 32-21 at Claiborne.
Claiborne (3-2, 2-1) quarterback Dalton Lee put on show as he amassed 348 all-purpose yards and five scores to carry the Bulldogs to the District 2-AA victory.
"We just got started way too late, but I have to give a lot credit to them," West Greene coach Joe Case said. "(Lee) is a heck of a football player and he did a real good job. We were able to make some plays in the second half and do some good things, but ultimately we have to come out more motivated and that comes down me."
The Buffs (4-3, 1-2) got down 20-0 before they could find any spark on offense. That spark came from Johnathan Padgett with 1:38 left in the first half when he took a jet sweep from the slot.
By the time he reached the corner, he was up to full steam and from there no one was going to catch him as he darted 71 yards for a touchdown.
Padgett led West Greene with 95 yards rushing but he was never really able to get going on offense as he only had six carries in the game. He added 53 yards on two kickoff returns to help give the Buffs good starting field position.
The two teams came out of half time and West Greene was not able to maximize on the momentum they gained at the end first half. The teams exchanged punts and turnovers for the majority of the third quarter until Lee, who gained 152 yards in the first half, came back to life.
He marched Claiborne down the field and on third down he went up the middle and drug a couple of Buffs defenders into the end zone with him, giving the Bulldogs a 26-7 lead.
"We just didn't have an answer for number seven (Lee)," Case said. " He played a great game. It's just one of those things where you have to prepare better for a player like him and that comes back to me."
Fortunately for West Greene, there was no quit in Dylan Kirk. The sophomore fielded a kick at the 22 yard line and bursted up field. After weaving through traffic, he found his way to the right boundary where he separated from the coverage team and went on to score.
West Greene then recovered an onside kick to keep possession and marched right down field behind the running of Padgett and Nathan Morgan, as well as some timely penalty yardage.
Kirk would get his second touchdown of the evening when quarterback Austin Greenlee found him on a boot leg to the left for an eight-yard score that made it 26-21 with ten minutes remaining in the game.
Lee would carry the ball seven times on the Bulldogs' next series and finished the drive with a 25-yard sprint around the left end for a score that took the wind out of West Greene's sails.
Things won't get any easier for the Buffs going forward as they take on a very good Madison, N.C. team next week and follow that up with county rivals Greeneville and Chuckey-Doak. None of those games will be easy wins and the Buffs will likely need at least one win to get in the playoffs.
"We have the toughest part of our schedule coming up and we knew that coming in to this game," Case said. "Now we have Madison County, who was a state semifinalist last year in North Carolina and they have some studs. After that we have Greeneville and Chuckey-Doak. We have to prepare going forward and get the guys ready for the meat of our schedule."
Lee picked up the game's first score just four minutes in when he stumbled his way across the goal line while deflecting West Greene tacklers
He followed that up with a 13-yard pass to Paul Estep and an 11-yard rush to give Claiborne its early 20-0 lead.