Turning things around from a disastrous scrimmage game against Warren East, the Cougar football team made its season-opener at Hancock County a successful one as it defeated the Hornets 24-7 in Hawesville.
The Cougars gained all their yardage on the ground and did not attempt a pass in the game. Grayson County ran the ball 43 times and gained 240 yards, an average of 5.6 yards per carry.
Junior quarterback Dayton Blair led the team with 74 yards, the bulk of which came on a 63-yard touchdown run in the third period. Sophomore running back Jordan Stallings carried seven times for 58 yards and a touchdown, while junior Dustin Woosley had 56 yards on seven carries.
Head coach Ed Smart was rightly pleased with his defense which allowed the Hornets just 78 yards on the ground and 30 through the air. Senior Carter Goff led the team in tackles with 13, 10 of which were solo tackles. Sophomore Connor Mann had seven tackles, while Blair, Woosley, and Charlie Rafferty all had five.
The Cougars played nearly flawlessly in their first game of the season and had just two penalties in the game. The only blip on the radar was two lost fumbles in the first quarter. They both came in a bizarre sequence in which both teams fumbled the ball away on four consecutive possessions.
Neither of the fumbles cost the Cougars. Following the last fumble, the Hornets were forced to punt from near mid-field, setting up the first Cougar score of the season.
Tristan Willis took the punt at his own 28, broke a tackle near the 30, and found an open field in front of him. Nearing the 50, Willis momentarily lost the handle on the ball, but was able to grab it again and take it the rest of the way for a 72 yard touchdown return. Sophomore Walker Bailey added the extra point, and with 5:23 left in the period, Grayson County led 7-0.
The Hornets then tied the score at 7-7 following a 62-yard march in nine plays. Junior Jacob Smith carried in from three yards out and Tyler Johnson kicked the PAT to make it 7-7 with 4:06 remaining in the first period.
As the second period began, the two teams traded punts, with the Cougars taking over at their own 37-yard line with 3:56 left in the first half. Blair carried on first down, skirting the right side.
Just past the line of scrimmage he broke into the clear and carried down the sideline in front of the Cougar bench and took it all the way, 63 yards for another touchdown. Bailey again added the extra point to give the Cougars a 14-7 lead, which they carried into the halftime intermission.
The Cougars forced another punt on the Hornets’ first possession of the second half and took over at the 50. Six plays later they had a second-and-goal at the Hornet one yard line, but two more runs lost a yard and the Hornets took over at their own two. The Cougar defense forced a punt and Grayson County had good field position at the Hornet 29.
But this time the Hornet defense defense stood up to stop the Cougars at the 14. Walker trotted out to attempt a 30-yard field goal and the sophomore transfer from Central Hardin put it through the uprights to make it 17-7 just before the start of the fourth quarter.
Each team had punts on their next two possessions, with the Hornets taking over at their own 18-yard line with just 2:54 left in the game. Two passes moved the ball out to the Hornet 41, but the Cougars got pressure on the quarterback on the next play and a wobbly pass was intercepted at the 34 on a diving grab by senior lineman Jacob Vincent to set up the Cougars’ final score of the night.
Woosley carried for 22 yards on second down to give the Cougars a first down at the 13, and the Hornets called a timeout with 1:17 remaining. Hoping to run a little more time off the clock before taking a knee to end the game, the Cougars handed the ball to Stallings. But the sophomore running back went around the right side and carried it into the end zone with 1:11 left.
The Cougars will travel to Shelbyville this Friday to take on the Shelby County Rockets, 31-30 winners over Garrard County in their opener. Game time there will be 6:30 p.m. central time.
Reach Don Brown at 270-259-9622, ext. 2016.