The Cougar football season came to a close last Friday evening in Elizabethtown as the John Hardin Bulldogs gnawed away at the Cougars all night on their way to a 33-3 blowout win.
Grayson County, which finishes the season with a 9-3 record, was hoping to have a different outcome this time around against the Bulldogs, after losing the regular season game at Cougar Field by a score of 36-8. They trailed at the half by just 14-8 and had missed an opportunity to take a halftime lead before collapsing in the second half.
But after turning the ball over on its first two possessions, and falling behind 14-0 in the game’s first four minutes, the Cougars were never in the game.
On the night, Grayson County turned the ball over four times, with three of those turnovers leading to Bulldog touchdowns.
The only points the Cougars were able to muster came as the buzzer sounded ending the first half. The Cougars had moved 51 yards to set up a Michael Thomas 39-yard field goal, and the senior, soccer-style kicker sent it through the uprights with plenty to spare.
Grayson County had the ball first, but on third-and-11 at their own 22, quarterback Talon Gary was intercepted at the Cougar 48, and the Bulldogs took the ball at the 39. After no-gain on first down, Wade Holtsclaw ran the ball in for the first score to make it 7-0 with just 2:06 having run off the clock.
On the next Grayson County possession, the Cougars had the ball at their own 15 with a second-and-six, when Dalton Logsdon lost the handle on the ball and the Bulldogs recovered the fumble at the Cougar 18. Four plays later, Brandon Singleton hauled in a 20-yard pass from Patrick Anderson on a fourth-and-12 play for another score to make it 14-0 with 7:42 left in the first half.
The Cougars were forced to punt on their next possession and when the ball was snapped over the head of punter Braxton Williams, the Bulldogs were in great position again, at the Cougar 17. But this time the defense stopped the Bulldogs and took over on downs at the eight.
John Hardin held the Cougars to three-and-out and forced a punt, and took over at their own 34 to begin their next scoring drive. As the second quarter began, the Bulldogs had moved to the Cougar 27 and faced a third-and-two. Four plays later, John Hardin was in the end-zone again, with Garrett Ray taking it in from the two. The kick for the extra-point failed, but it was still 20-0 with 9:48 left in the first half.
Gary was intercepted again on the next Cougar possession and the Bulldogs had the ball at the Cougar 38, but were unable to score this time and gave up the ball on downs at the 16.
Once again, the Cougars were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt. Williams’ punt was shanked out of bounds at the Cougar 33, setting up the Bulldogs with excellent field position once more.
But on first down senior Ty Davis slashed in front of an Anderson pass at about the 25 and returned it 17 yards, to the 42 with 4:29 left to play in the half.
The Cougars moved into Bulldog territory, but bogged down again and Williams came in to punt once more at the Bulldog 43. Grayson County got a huge break when the punt was muffed and Blake Sadler fell on the loose ball at the Bulldog 13.
But three straight running plays lost 13 yards, and Thomas came out to try a 44-yard field goal with about four seconds left on the clock. Before the snap, though, John Hardin was flagged for being offside, and the ball was moved five yards closer. Thomas then powered his kick through the uprights to allow the Cougars to avoid the shutout.
The Cougars were fired up at the start of the second half, when Gary recovered an on-side kick at the Bulldog 40. Williams carried for 11 yards on first down, then Logsdon gained nine, to the Bulldog 21. But on second down, the Bulldogs recovered another Cougar fumble to kill the drive at the 20.
John Hardin then moved 80-yards in three plays. Following a four-yard loss on first down, a holding call on the Bulldogs and an incomplete pass, Anderson hooked up with Dorian Collins for an 84-yard touchdown bomb. The Bulldogs were stopped on a two-point try, but with 10:01 left in the period, they led 26-3.
Grayson County then moved from their own 20, down to the Bulldog 30, converting a fourth-and-12 along the way on a fake punt deep in their own end of the field. But the drive stalled and John Hardin took over on downs at their own 35.
This time, it was the Bulldogs who fumbled, giving the Cougars the ball at the Grayson County 44 with 2:09 left in the third period.
Facing a fourth-and-six at the Bulldog 40 as the fourth quarter got under way, Williams got free down the sideline as a Bulldog cornerback bit on a run fake, and Gary hit him in stride. Williams was hit out of bounds at the nine, giving Grayson County a first-and-goal.
With their best chance to put the ball into the end zone all night, the Cougars just could not penetrate the Bulldog defense and wound up giving the ball back at the 15.
The Bulldogs then drove it 85 yards in 12 plays, with Jalen Fleming taking it in from 10 yards out to make the score 33-3 with 6:02 remaining to be played.
The Cougars would never have another scoring opportunity after that and absorbed the disappointing loss to end their season.