The Bluejays opened the 2006 season with a 21-7 victory over the Indians at Marshall Field on Friday night.
Charleston jumped to a 14-0 lead with starting quarterback Justin Clark at the controls.
Clark tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jamarcus Williams at the 9:53 mark of the first quarter, then sneaked in from 2 yards out with 6:27 left in the period.
Then the injury bug hit the Bluejays.
"We fought through a tremendous amount of adversity tonight," said Charleston coach Al Marshall, "but we didn't succumb to it and give up. I'm proud of them."
With about four minutes left in the first quarter, Clark went down with an ankle injury which sidelined him for the remainder of the contest.
Backup Matt Medlock entered, then he was shaken by a hit to the ribs in the second quarter, forcing untested third-string sophomore Bryan Caldwell into the game.
Caldwell, looking poised and confident in his varsity debut, led the Bluejays on an 83-yard scoring drive with time ticking down in the first half. Caldwell hit wideout Jerrell Quinn on a perfectly executed 6-yard fade route in the left corner of the end zone with 12.7 seconds remaining.
"That was huge," said Kennett coach Kirk Welch. "We had a guy right there on the play, but they made the play and we didn't."
That score loomed particularly large as Kennett had closed to within seven points at 14-7 earlier in the second quarter on fullback Johnny McNabb's 1-
yard plunge, capping a 61-yard march. The key play was a 40-yard pass from quarterback Wesley Jackson to receiver Zack Starnes with a facemask penalty tacked on, setting the Indians up at Charleston's 22.
Caldwell remained under center in the third quarter until struck down by an arm or elbow injury, serious enough to warrant an emergency ambulance pickup. The extent of the injury was not immediately known.
Caldwell's injury occurred on an unflagged late hit.
Medlock returned to finish the game, which went scoreless in the second half.
"He was still hurting bad," said Marshall, "but he knew we didn't have anybody else and he stepped up."
The Bluejays held a huge edge statistically, outgaining the Indians 235-31 on the ground, a testament to a swarming, pursuing defensive effort.
Senior linemen Markale Kent and Quinn were impressive on the defensive end, consistently in the Kennett backfield harassing the quarterback or patrolling sideline to sideline to stifle the ground game. Each recorded a sack and a pass knockdown and Kent also recovered a Kennett fumble.
"They did a nice job for us," said Marshall.
Charleston's defense limited the Indians to less than one yard per rush -- 32 carries for 31 yards. Lead back Ben Howard was bottled up for -2 yards in 18 trips.
"Our defense played good considering the circumstances," Marshall said. "At times, we were down to four and five subs in the game, many of them freshmen."
Senior running back Joseph Watts, with three plus-1,000 yard seasons in the books, led the Bluejays' running game with 108 yards on 14 carries. Bruising fullback Jerquawn Sherrell chipped in with 70 yards on 12 carries.
"We knew coming in that Watts was their big gun and Sherrell is a good back as well," said Welch.
Charleston coughed up the ball three times, losing all three, while giving Kennett opportunities with great field position. However, the Indians were unable to capitalize.
"We weren't prepared, mentally or physically," said Welch, of his relatively inexperienced squad. "Kennett hasn't had much success lately and I think our kids are thinking how can we play to not get beat, not about how to play to win. The effort was there, just not the confidence and experience." Charleston hosts rival Sikeston on Friday.