(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Charleston running back Maurice Moore would rather run through you than around you. And most of the time, he wins.
The 5-7, 233-pounder rumbled through the Malden defense seemingly looking for someone to hit.
"I love contact," Moore said with a huge grin. "That's why I love this game so much. That's my game. It's not my running style to run from contact."
Moore's bowling ball antics led to 154 yards on the ground and two touchdowns as his Bluejays trounced the visiting Malden Green Wave 43-7.
This win guarantees Charleston a spot in the state playoffs as well as a chance at a Class 2, District 1 championship next week against Caruthersville.
It's the first time in what has been a dismal four years of Charleston football they have accomplished that feat.
"A lot of people doubted us this year but we showed them we could do it," Charleston running back Jamaul Gray said. "We stuck to our quote 'yes we can,' and we did."
Adding to Moore's dynamic, straight-forward running game was the quick and nimble feet of Gray.
The 'smash and dash' tandem complimented each other so well against the Green Wave defense that they themselves out performed Malden's entire offensive output.
Moore and Gray ran for 270 yards combined while Malden totaled 240.
Just as they compliment each other on the field, they are quick to do the same off of it.
"He's a great back," Moore said about Gray. "He opens up the inside for us and I open up the outside for him. That's what makes us tough to tackle."
"Ain't nobody going to stop him," Gray said about Moore. "He just runs through people. No matter who you are, he's going to run through you."
The speedy Gray, who had most of his yards on runs to the outside, had 18 touches for 116 yards.
"We hit the holes like we do in practice. Practice makes perfect like everybody says," Gray said about their running game. "I played laid back just like coach told me to. I'm usually all hyped up and I forget what I'm doing sometimes, but I had to calm down and be laid back."
Charleston (5-4) capitalized on two crucial Green Wave mistakes in the first quarter after taking an early 7-0 lead on the first series of the game. Charleston quarterback Mike Hull hit Sumner Foster from 14 yards out for the Bluejays' first score.
"That's something we've had a hard time doing this year," Blackman said. "When our opponents would shoot themselves in the foot, we would come back and do the same thing. Tonight (Friday), we took advantage of those mistakes."
A fumbled handoff and a snap over the head of punter Tanner Murphy put Malden in a funk and gave the Bluejays all the momentum they needed.
"Embarrassing," Malden coach Joel Wyatt said. "We can't tackle. We can't snap. We can't cover a kick. You name it. It looked like a June practice."
During Malden's very first offensive play, they fumbled a handoff which was recovered by Charleston's Krushon Scott. Gray later scooted in from two yards out to put the Bluejays up 13-0.
As the first quarter winded down, Malden botched their second long snap while trying to punt which landed on the 9-yard line. On the very next play, Moore stormed across the goal line for a 9-yard touchdown run to put Charleston up 21-0.
Charleston's double wing offense proved too much for the Green Wave to handle.
"It was just foot to foot Double Wing and they motion into an into some I (formation)," Wyatt said. "Nothing that we hadn't seen. They run about four plays and they just run them well. No surprises. It didn't matter. We didn't get our pads down and got run over."
Moore kept running over the Malden defense in the second quarter -- literally.
With 6:59 left in the second, Moore broke and fought away from four tackles and tiptoed down the sideline to dive into the pylon for a 23-yard touchdown run.
That run gave the Bluejays a comfortable 29-0 lead which they continued to hold at halftime.
"Everybody wants to finish with four touchdowns or all the yardage but these guys are playing unselfishly and they know their roles," Blackman said about their multiple running back scheme. "It was a good night for our kids and they are worried about everything that involves the team."
Malden scored their first and only touchdown of the game during the first series of the second half.
Murphy, who finished with 129 yards on 6 of 11 passing, hit Malik Perkins for a 23-yard passing score.
Gray answered right back, however, during Charleston's next possession. The Bluejays chewed up over six minutes of clock and capped the drive on a 24-yard touchdown scamper by Gray to go up 36-7.
Charleston added another score during a running clock and junior varsity time when Darren Howard scored on a 3-yard run.
Known for a somewhat explosive offense, headed by Murphy, Malden shot themselves in the foot for most of the night losing four fumbles, throwing two interceptions and losing one onside kick.
"We don't bring any aspect of physicality to the game," Wyatt said. "Offense, defense. Not a bit of physical play. We worried about their speed and then the fact that we just get run over in the A and B gaps. It was just so disappointing.
"I think first quarter we ran five or six plays. We couldn't get in a groove and they are going chew up the clock. Just a nightmare."
Malden (5-4) was knocked out of playoff contention with this loss to Charleston being their second defeat in district play.
Charleston will have a shot to topple one of the area's most explosive teams in the Caruthersville Tigers on Thursday night for a district title.
"This is a lot for our team, coaches and seniors from going 0-10 to getting a chance to at least play one more game in the state playoffs," Charleston coach Brett Blackman said. "We talk about opportunities a lot and we've given ourselves an opportunity to play for a district championship."
"We believe in those three words that we always say, 'yes we can'." said Moore. "We've got to work hard next week and get the job done."
C -- Sumner Foster 14 pass from Mike Hull, 8:33. (Krushon Scott kick good)
C -- Jamaul Gray 2 run, 5:35. (kick failed)
C -- Maurice Moore 9 run, 0:11 (Hull run)
C -- Maurice Moore 23 run, 6:59 (Scott pass from Hull)
M -- Malik Perkins 23 pass from Tanner Murphy, 10:23 (Mitchell Coleman kick good)
C -- Jamaul Gray 24 run, 3:24 (Scott kick good)
C -- Darren Howard 3 run, 9:13 (Scott kick good)
Malden -- Tanner Murphy 4-10, Romello McCoy 11-84, Mitchell Coleman 2-5. Charleston -- Maurice Moore 23-154, Jamaul Gray 18-116, Rontavious Clark 7-20, Mike Hull 4-(-2), Mike Kellum 5-37, Darren Howard 1-3, Darrion Henderson 1-(-3).
Malden -- Tanner Murphy 6-11-1 129, Darren Green 1-3-1 12. Charleston -- Mike Hull 4-7-0 74.
Malden -- Shariff Jones 1-4, Romello McCoy 1-51, Jonsha Robinson 2-18, Malik Perkins 1-23, Mitchell Coleman 1-33. Charleston -- Sumner Foster 3-51, Krushon Scott 1-13.