NORTON — For J.I. Burton’s football team, a potent offense proved to be the best defense against John Battle on Friday night.
Malik Miles, Riley Maggard and Colby Dean each rushed for over 100 yards and the Raiders eventually overpowered the Trojans 59-36 to prevail in a battle of unbeaten teams.
Miles led the way with 209 yards on 13 carries and four rushing touchdowns. Burton gained 458 of its 491 yards on the ground and scored on every possession before taking a knee on the final play of the game to preserve a wild victory.
Burton coach Jimbo Adams saw plenty of room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball after his team gave up 426 yards, but added that he’s confident the flaws can be fixed.
“We’ve got to get better on defense. There’s no sugarcoating that,” Adams said. “We’ve got to keep working on tackling and taking good angles.
“It’s just going to take some time, but it will come with experience. We’re a work in progress.”
As for his three main runners, Adams said each one brings something different to the table.
“Maggard brings speed, Dean brings balance and Malik is a stud,” he said.
Maggard and Dean each came up with big runs around the edges early in the game to spread out Battle’s defense. Once the Trojans started keying on the sweep, Miles started taking handoffs from quarterback Tanner Crowder and hitting the middle with bad intentions.
But Miles was quick to deflect the praise to an offensive line that opened up running room all game long.
“That was real fun, but if it wasn’t for the line, none of us would have scored,” he said.
Indeed, Miles, Maggard and Dean found gaping holes in front of them more times than not.
Dean ended up with 134 rushing yards on seven carries with two TDs while Maggard ran for 104 yards on 10 carries with one rushing TD and another on a 72-yard kick return.
“We need to be talking about the offensive line,” Adams said. “I could have run through some of those holes tonight.”
As it turned out, the Raiders needed nearly every point they put on the scoreboard because a rejuvenated Battle team came to Norton ready to play.
After starting 3-0 for the first time since 1989, the Trojans nearly kept up with Burton’s frantic scoring pace.
Josh Blackburn and Ty King split the snaps at quarterback for Battle and combined to go 13-for-24 for 226 yards. Blackburn and King each threw a pair of TD passes and neither was intercepted. King also accounted for 79 of the Trojans’ 200 rushing yards.
Battle coach Steve Wright said the loss was disappointing, but just a few games into a massive rebuilding project, he hopes his team learns from Friday’s game and moves on.
“Give credit to J.I. Burton,” Wright said. “They outplayed us, out-blocked us and out-tackled us. This is still a building process and we have some adversity to face now.
“I expect us to come back Monday and get back to work.”