Morgantown - The Grayson County Cougars traveled to Butler County for the 1st ever Monsoon Bowl. The Bears were coming off of a tough loss where they had not played well. In their two wins, the Bears racked up almost 800 yards of offense and 92 points.
Quarter back Bryce Shanklin scored 7 touchdowns in the previous game. Five in the air and two on the ground. The Cougars were facing a 2A squad full of experienced Senior's and returning starters.
The mission was clear, stop Bryce, stop Bryce and stop Bryce. Not to mention the 5 receivers he throws too, the 2 minute slant offense and the Wildcat option. The Cougar defense knew the task at hand.
As the rains poured from the skies of Morgantown, physical factors of the game changed. The ball was wet, receivers have a tough time reeling in the ball and it's like having a greased pig in the backfield.
Both teams were well scouted. Both Defensive coordinators had planned and schemed until the sun came up. And to the credit of both, this was a defensive battle. The crowning jewel of the Bears defense is their defensive line. When you have a Defensive lineman 6'6, 303 pounds and the other linemen are over 255 pounds, it's going to be a long night.
The plan was simple on both sides, contain Talon Gary and contain Bryce Shanklin. The folks at Butler County know too well how talented an athlete Talon Gary is. Talon's Dad went to Butler County and they said the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. With Gary's elusiveness on the read option, Butler County decided to challenge the Cougars outside the box.
With the weather taking away most pass options, it was time for the wheels to move the sticks…and in the Kentucky clay it was slow going. Both defenses were able to stop the run. Both defenses did a good job in the secondary. So how does Butler County pull out a 14-0 victory.
Penalties, turnovers, miscues and poor decisions cost the Cougars this game. The intensity was there, the hits were there and there were some outstanding individual performances by Cougars all night long. If Murphy's law had an equation to lose a game, the Cougars found the variable.
With both teams running for less yardage than usual, the penalties started to be the phantom 3rd down killer. The Cougars had 7 penalties for around 70 yards and Butler County had 7 of their own for almost the same amount. It's the timing and source of the penalties that hurt the Cougars.
The unsportsmanlike conduct penalties put Butler County in scoring position. The procedural penalties yielded first downs for the Bears. Yet the Cougar defense kept bringing it. Multiple defensive stops , sacks by the Cougar D line and the shutdown of Bryce Shanklin to the extent he was replaced by Jimmy Burns to give them a new look.
With Burns running the quick-out 2 minute type offense, the Cougar secondary had to step it up. Dylan Woodcock and Colby Hack made some great plays on Bears receivers. Woodcock knocked the ball loose twice with excellent timing on the coverage. The line backing corps struggled to read the sets, but didn’t give up the big play. They kept Shanklin in the box as much as possible.
Thomas Walton and Taylor Wright had some great plays. Action away from the ball was intense all night. Dakota Payton was all over the field making plays on both sides of the ball. He is our Taco Bell Player of the Game.
Offensively the Cougars really struggled. The read-option is not effective against a team as big up front as Butler County. The Cougars made the adjustment and started to swing the ball to the outside to get guys in space. The Bears responded with penetration and pursuit as they knew Talon Gary would not have much time to make a decision.
With passing game options reduced due to Mother Nature, the Cougars had trouble finding gaps or lanes on the outside. Early contact in the routes by Bear defenders and the weather conditions took away the precision of the routes. Many balls were not even close to receivers. All that, while Gary is running to avoid the pressure.
This week the Cougars will face another tough team. Don't even think because the Trojans are 0-5 they aren't that good. They are really good and play a tough schedule. They are a young team and have a newer head coach in Brent Thompson. They too make mistakes. They too get frustrated and turn the ball over.
So this week, maybe it's more about maturity than just football. Maybe this week, when somebody trash talks, there is no response. Let your playing do the talking. I've always believed that if you have the opportunity to knock someone down after they trash talk you, just get it done. Then the talking is meaningless and stops. North Hardin will try to get into the Cougars heads. It can't happen.
North Hardin's quarterback is in the top three in the state. Rugerio is not a runner. He scrambles and dishes. He is deadly on the run and the Cougars will have visions of Shanklin dancing in your head. Andrew Rugerio has thrown 10 TD's and only 3 interceptions this year. He has thrown for over 1,250 yards. He throws to 5 receivers, many of who were on the state championship track team. North Hardin's speed is real.
I believe the Cougars defense can contain Rugerio and cover the secondary. The Cougar linebacking corps will be busy all night. They will be the X factor. Rack and the men up front are going to have to get off the blocks and let Rugerio feel their presence. He doesn’t like to be sacked…
Most of all, The Cougars need to execute on special teams. When an opposing team routinely has to travel only 45 yards to score, you change the winning equation and discount your options. The Cougar defense makes a majority of their stops with opponents in long field situations. The offense and special teams units will need to step it up against North Hardin.
This weeks game is a 7:30 kick-off. Join me on the Bel Brands Locker Room Show at 7:00pm.