Grayson County - Every season there are games that define or change the course of a team's development. On Senior night, we saw the real Grayson County Cougars. They were not intimidated by a high powered offense from Louisville or a front line that was big and athletic. They really didn’t worry about both backs for J town that were averaging almost 4.3 yards per carry.
After a much needed bye week, The Cougars came out and played physical football. What is physical football, completing tackles, constant pursuit of the ball, blowing guys off the line, getting sacks and working together to cover the field. This week, the Cougars were "all in".
Even though J Town had won only one game, three of their losses were to top ten 6A schools. The other losses to schools that are at the top of their Districts. J Town thought their little stroll to the vast expanse of Grayson County was going to be a District win. The Cougars had other ideas.
With a triple threat in QB Kendrick Gardner, Tyrius Porter and Dominick Lewis, the Cougars once again needed to establish their defensive aggressiveness early. The improvement in special teams play this year has allowed the Cougars to have a little more real estate to work with. Short fields don't bode well for any defense as the Cougars took advantage of that fact, all night long.
Although Gardner can throw effectively, he is elusive and can run 20 yards laterally before he finds his gap to break one down field. The Cougar defense knew they had to contain Gardner and not let Porter or Lewis get to the corners. If they did, it was Showtime.
There were so many big plays in this game. The decision of J Town to go for it on 4th and 2 at the one yard line after a 70 yard drive. The Cougar defense came up with not only a stop, but the ball at the one yard line.
Trey Waltermire showcasing his poise and throwing ability. The toss and great catch by Colby Hack was sweet for a Cougar touchdown. Talon Gary becoming a utility specialist as a running back, slot receiver and delivering some punishing hits on Charger players.
With the absence of Dakota Payton's talents, everybody had to step up. There were real big hits in this game all night long. Lane "The Beast" Rackley wrecked havoc on the offense of J town all night long. Accompanied by Jacob Vincent and the line backing corps.
The offensive strategy to mix it up early provided multiple benefits. Sometimes necessity reveals some real opportunities. The new look and schemes offensively really threw a monkey wrench into the equation. Hold that thought, John Hardin is next!
1. The scouting report does not indicate the Cougars have a passing attack…Guess again. Waltermire and Gary can throw well and the intermediate game is wide open. Waltermire again looked like a guy who does this everyday at a high proficiency level and the Cougar receivers were sticking their routs and pulling in some tough balls.
2. The report says the Cougars are not fast…Guess again. In the open field the Cougars are as fast as anybody. Without Dakota Payton to assist Thomas Walton in the smashmouth package, guys in space give the Cougars multiple running threats.
3. The report says the defensive secondary is soft…Guess again. Colby Hack , Dylan Woodcock , Austin Alvey , Zac Johnson, Talon Gary , Kody Decker and Taylor Wright have established their shutdown coverage throughout the season. They made some terrific plays on and off the ball all night long. Any one of these guys could have been the player of the game.
4. The report says the Cougar defensive line and linebackers are quick and physical…Well at least they have one of them right. The defense was operating on a different level against J Town. Lane Rackley was focused, fired up and ready to make his presence known. Jacob Vincent refused to quit on any play and pursued multiple times to make great tackles from behind. Thomas Walton and Austin Alvey never quit on the ball..that is what makes this defense so effective.
Picking a Taco Bell "Player of the Game" this week was like trying to catch a fish at a trout pond. There were so many great performances. The entire team should be this week's winner. Although it was the toughest decision of the season to pick someone, it was the relentless attack and pursuit of Lane Rackley up front that ruined a great road trip for J Town.
The "Beast" got off his blocks and penetrated all night long. They tried to double team him, that didn’t work. They tried to go outside, but Lane would break through and sack the entire backfield. He made multiple stops after he was doubled and knocked down , he would get up and pursue to help his team stop a very high powered offense. He continues to improve as his lateral speed gets quicker. His patented, "Whatever you call that kind of kick" threw J Town for a loop, created a turnover and diffused whatever confidence they brought on the bus. Lane "The Beast" Rackley is the Taco Bell Player of the Game for the second time this season.
The margin of victory was a field goal. Jonathon Reynolds has seen limited duty this year. He was ready to make the difference on Senior night. The snap was good, the protection was solid and Jonathon split the uprights. No pressure. Great job!
This year's Senior's have contributed to a program that has grown to become one of the best in the Region. This year after losing so many talented starters last year, their roles changed. Their legacy with this year's Seniors is leadership, experience and the occasional thumping of the underclassmen to help them to become one of the best in the Region.
Thanks to Dakota Payton, Kody Decker. Will Garland, Tyler Jacobs, Todd McStoots, Tyler Payton, Ryan Puente and Logan Wiseman for their dedication to Cougar athletics.
The next two games present more opportunities then challenges for the Cougars. John Hardin is not the old John Hardin, they are new and improved. Under Chad Lewis, the Bulldogs utilize a smashmouth brand of football. Offensively they use three primary backs and a talented QB in Patrick Anderson, They rack up almost 275 yards on the ground every game. An opportunity for the Cougar defense.
The Bulldog defense is one of the best in the state. Tough going running through this line. They have one of the best D Lineman in the entire United States. Matt Elam is a 6-6, 370 pound defensive tackle. He is fast and gets off his blocks. The Cougars will need to mix it up once again, spread the field and take advantage of the "Green Space" in John Hardin's defensive secondary. That is the only chink in their armor.
But hey, why not play the role of the spoiler. You have nothing to lose. The Cougars with 2 district wins have insured a better draw and might even end up with a home game. Play loose, play hard and expect to challenge both John Hardin and Russell County.
I have covered John Hardin for 5 years. I know the guys, the coaches very well. They are not taking Grayson County lightly. They know the amount of young talent on this team. They know not many people thought this team could win 4 games in a brutal schedule. They know the Cougars when they play their "A" game are as good as anybody.
This is an opportunity for the Cougars to showcase how far they have come this season. John Hardin does not have better athletes, they're not faster or tougher. They are a seasoned team with a full roster. They are a system of development that took 10 years to achieve. They have skilled players at all positions. And they have lost two games this year.
The Cougars have an extra spark or attitude at home. They come out fired up and look like they are ready to play. They will need to harness that energy and take it to Bulldog Stadium on Friday night.
Join me on the Bel Brands "Locker Room" show at 6pm for the best in Cougar sports.