(Leitchfield-KY) There was something different in the air on Friday night. Something in that cool Grayson county air. Oh yeah, I remember, it was the desire to win. Everybody in Cougar stadium could sense it. When the team took the field, they were fired up and ready to play football. So were the fans in the stands.
The stage was set. (The Cougars even have an awesome band). The only thing left to do is play 48 minutes of smart, physically and mentally tough football. So here come the Trojans.
North Hardin is big, tough and fast. Really fast! The only game plan that will work requires staying on your assignment defensively and not letting them get past you. They are Dante Johnson (state track champion) fast. So on North's first offensive possession on the very first play, North's Dante Johnson runs 65 yards for a North Hardin touchdown. 20 seconds and they are on the board. That's fast.
The Cougars were poised to answer. North Hardin brought the heat on the first series of downs and the Cougars were three and out. There was a tension in that cool Grayson County air, but have no fear… The Cougar defense is here.
It was the Cougars turn to put pressure on Rugerio. After some big hits on the first three plays, North decides that they will go for it on a 4th and three…on the 50. In every game there are transitional moments. The Pendulum starts to swing the other way. I believe this, was that moment. The Cougar defense stood up and said "this is our house" got the stop and put Talon and Crew on the 50 for a first down.
The equation to football is simple. If you can't stop them, you can't win. Defense wins championships. Now poised with a short field, the offense had to respond. And they did on a 33 yard strike from Talon Gary to Nick Rager for a Cougar TD.
Talon Gary's ability to make things happen, when there isn’t anything happening, is what makes the Cougar offense dangerous. Talon always keeps his eyes up, looking downfield for a lane or a receiver. He always knows where the first down marker is and he makes his decision on what is developing. He had time to make good decisions as the Offensive line did a great job with that monster front of North Hardin's defense.
After the Cougar score, it was that speed thing again from North Hardin as Kevin Dyer ran the kickoff back for an 89 yard North touchdown…except for the penalty which brought it back and negated the TD. Then on the second play of the drive, Graves got loose and scampered 47 yards for another North TD. Wait, there's another flag and another negated TD.
So after that sequence, it was time to test the mental toughness of the Cougars. Remember, Defense wins championships. The Cougar Defense stopped North Hardin on a 4th and goal at the 3 yard line. Lane "The Beast" Rackley, Jacob Vincent and the D line stood them up and knocked them down. The DB's stayed on their assignments and Walton and the D backfield had the back door covered. That's Grayson County Football!
Then it was time for that speed thing again... Graves broke loose for a 34 yard TD and the Cougars trailed 13-7. It was apparent to all in Cougar stadium how explosive the Trojans were with that speed. So the crowd got it going. Guys on the field need to hear their crowd. They need to feel the energy and support from the stands. They fight for community and school pride. This week the fans brought their A game.
The next offensive series from the Cougars showed the unlimited potential of this offense. Talon led the troops on a 5 play 62 yard drive capped off by Dakota Payton blowing a hole through the D line for a Cougar TD.
The Trojans opened the offense up on their next possession and moved the sticks down to the 6 yard line. The odds makers in Vegas would put good money on a North TD, "but not so fast my friends". The Defense handed the Trojans three consecutive losses from the 6 yard line and moved the Trojans out of the red zone. They settled for a (really nice) 31 yard field goal by a freshman kicker and took a 16-14 lead into halftime. We got us a football game folks.
In all 3 wins, the Cougars have lit it up in the 3rd quarter. It was time for the Cougar Offense to shine. Ball control+possession+1st downs=touchdowns. Talon Gary had the math working on an impressive 82 yard 12 play journey to pay dirt. A great sequence of plays capped off a 3 yard hammer run by Dakota Payton put the Cougars up 20-16.
The Cougar defense knew they had a job to do. No big plays, contain, contain, contain. And they did, forcing North to punt. No big plays, no touchdowns, Rackley and the D Crew were getting to Rugerio. They were getting penetration into the backfield and not allowing guys out of the box. The linebackers were all over the field covering the track team and the DB's did a great job of covering the outside.
So, how bout that ol pitch on the option? I've always maintained that a few yards of steam gets the ol engine a little further down the track. It was Payton's turn to look like a track star and he covered 63 yards shagging defenders to score. Dakota Payton had a great night on both sides of the ball.
So with a 27-16 lead and a ton of excitement a buzz, what else could possibly happen? A Lane Rackley interception of Andrew Rugerio. The "Beast" carried a few defenders along with the ball down to the 26 yard line. Talon likes a short field. Twice the fun, half the distance. Four plays later after some elusive running by Talon Gary, Thomas Walton knocked down the D line for a 1 yard TD.
So at 34-16 its time to kick back relax and enjoy the moment…not if you're the Cougar Defense. Two consecutive stops deep inside their own territory. On 4th downs, in fact they stopped the offense multiple times in this game on 4th down. Defense wins championships.
This weeks Taco Ball Player of the Game is Talon Gary. Talon was very effective on both sides of the ball. He is healthy and has his legs back. Talon told me after the game that the doctors said it would be 6 weeks for him to recover from his injury. It's been 6 weeks, Talon said" I guess they were right".
This victory is a result of mental toughness and maturity. You need to express a certain attitude when playing football. You can't fake it. The Cougars had multiple opportunities in this game where they had to make a decision, mental decisions. On this night, they made the right decisions and played like a team that wanted too and expected to win. Now package that feeling and make sure it gets on the bus to Iroquois.
Bel Brands coverage begins at 6pm with the Locker Room Show....... kickoff at 6:30.