Grayson County’s football team missed a golden opportunity to record a watershed victory last Friday evening in the late game of the Swope Family of Dealerships Bowl, played at Central Hardin High School.
The Cougars lost three fumbles and had one interception, to go along with several untimely penalties against the defending 4A state champion DeSales Colts, on their way to a disappointing 30-6 loss. The interception and two of the fumbles led directly to scores for the Colts. The Cougars also lost two sure-fire scoring plays on a dropped pass and another pass that missed a receiver all alone behind the Colt defense.
The Cougar defense did an admirable job in containing the Colt offense for most of the evening. Senior running back Matt Ruxer, who had run for over 100 yards in the Colts’ 31-0 win over Holy Cross in the team’s opener, was held to just 82 yards, but he did score twice for the Colts.
The Cougars had the ball at the start of the game in poor field position at their own 12-yard line, but they picked up a pair of first downs, and had a second-and-three at the Cougar 41. An illegal procedure penalty set them back to the 36, and on a third and eight, quarterback Talon Gary was picked off by cornerback Austin Craig, who returned the interception to the Cougar 29.
Four plays later Ruxer scored his first TD of the night from the one-yard line. Austin Johnson, who is the team’s quarterback, added the extra point and the Colts led 7-0.
Grayson County responded with an 80-yard, five-play drive for their only touchdown of the night. Gary hooked up with senior receiver Dylan Woodcock for a 17-yard gain, and Lane Rackley carried the ball twice for nine yards, setting up a third-and-one at the Cougar 49.
Gary kept the ball and was nearly brought down just inside Colt territory, but he kept his feet and raced 51 yards for the touchdown. Senior place-kicker Jonathon Reynolds, normally a left-footed, soccer-style kicker, was forced to try the extra point right-footed due to an injured left leg. A poor snap led his try to come up short and the score stayed 7-6.
The Cougar defense held the Colts to a three-and-out on their next possession, and took over at their own 11-yard line following a punt. But on first down, Rackley had the first of two costly fumbles and the Colts had the ball at the Cougar 11.
The defense was stout and threw the Colts back. On fourth-and-11, Johnson kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Colts up 10-6.
As the first period ended, Gary hit Nick Rager for a 24-yard gain to the 50, but the drive stalled and the Cougars were forced to punt. Grayson County’s defense stopped the Colts once more and forced them to punt.
The Cougars took over at their own 24 and a pass interference call on the Colts moved the ball to the 40. On a second-and nine play, Gary threw a perfect pass to a wide-open Woodcock for what might have been a touchdown, but the normally sure-handed Woodcock had the ball go right off his hands.
Rackley fumbled again on the next play and the Colts had the ball at the Cougar 44. The Colts then took 4:42 off the clock in a nine-play drive for another touchdown. They converted a fourth-and-two play at their own 24, down to the six for a first-and-goal. Two plays later, Johnson carried in from the one to make it 17-6 at the half.
The Colts scored once in the third quarter to make it 23-6. They moved 84 yards in five plays, with Zach Reddington hauling in a 36-yard pass from Johnson for the score.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Cougars missed a sure touchdown. Senior Trey Waltermire had come in at quarterback for Gary, who was battling leg cramps on the sidelines. On a third-and-seven at the Cougar 28, receiver Gage Akridge was uncovered on a pass play and was at least 20 yards behind the Colt defense, but Waltermire, under heavy pressure, threw a pass that cane up well short and the Cougars’ best scoring chance of the second half went unfulfilled.
Ruxer picked up his second TD of the night in the fourth quarter. The Colts had moved into Cougar territory, but faced a fourth-and-two at the 34. Ruxer took the ball and scooted nearly untouched for the final score to make it 30-6.
The Cougars (1-1) will travel this Friday to Brownsville for the annual Tobacco Bowl game against rival Edmonson County (1-1). Game time is set for 7 p.m.