• By Thomas Mims, Special to The Sun

Jackets fall short in defensive struggle with Bearcats

Several weeks ago, following the Homecoming win over Nelson County, Woodford County High School head football coach Dennis Johnson talked about what he wanted to see from his squad. “The next step in our program is to win a game we aren’t supposed to win,” he said. This past Friday, Oct. 7, was another chance for the Yellow Jackets to do just that, but they came up just short in a 10-7 defensive struggle with the Anderson County Bearcats. The first drive of the game looked as if it would set a horrible tone for the rest of the night, as Anderson County went on a nine-play drive, all runs, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by R.J. Boles. On the drive, the Bearcats ran over the Jackets every way possible, mixing simple dive and power runs, a jet sweep, and a couple of quarterback scrambles. It was three minutes and 45 seconds of smash-mouth football that ended in a 7-0 Bearcat lead. After a quick Yellow Jacket three-and-out, the defense stepped up and did its job, allowing just one first down before forcing a punt. On third down, sophomore lineman John Stork got to the quarterback to get the Bearcats’ offense off the field. Coach Johnson had nothing but praise for Stork saying, “(He) is what we want the definition of a Yellow Jacket player to be. He is undersized, but plays with great effort and heart.” The offense again found itself staring at a three-and-out on the ensuing drive. Forced into a third and 11 on its own 34-yard line, Woodford called a great reverse for senior Dwayne “D” Depp, who went right to left for a 26-yard gain. The Jackets then marched all the way to the Bearcat 21-yard line before being forced into a fourth and four with 37 seconds left in the first quarter. The drive was halted there though, as sophomore quarterback Ryan Duke faked a handoff and threw right, but the ball didn’t travel far. A defender was in the passing lane and batted it down well before it found the intended target. Refusing to make things easy, the Woodford defense forced a three-and-out. Another sack played a key role. This time, it was senior ironman Domynik Johnson, who rushed off the left side of the offensive line to chase down the Bearcat quarterback. The next Woodford County offensive drive saw more great play-calling. On first down, Duke threw a bubble screen pass to Malik Richards for four yards. This passing concept has been a go-to for the Jackets, as it easily gets Richards in space with a chance to make a big play. “We moved Malik back to wide receiver so we could get him the ball multiple ways. He is a playmaker,” said Coach Johnson. The next play looked familiar, as Duke threw the same pass out to Richards, this time on the left side of the field. This time, though, the pass was technically a lateral, freeing Richards up to throw the ball. The part-time quarterback delivered, hitting Domynik Johnson in stride for 35 yards. “We worked on that play all week and they executed it well,” noted Coach Johnson. Woodford continued to drive, and on first down from the Anderson County 11, Duke threw a perfect shoulder fade to Malik Richards for the tying touchdown with 7:03 to play in the second quarter. Anderson County replied quickly, leaning on its running game to drive the field in just two minutes. The Woodford defense was able to hold them to a 22-yard field goal that ultimately was the last score of the half, and of the game. Woodford started the second half with the football, but things got derailed quickly. A first and 10 at the 47-yard line turned into a fourth and 26 quickly. Senior leadership matters and Woodford County certainly got some from Domynik Johnson when the offense came off the field. “Wake up!” he pleaded, “Do y’all wanna play?” he shouted, his voice loud enough that everybody on the sideline heard the message. The defense responded to that message in a big way. Anderson County only gained 27 yards and one first down in the entire second half. Woodford missed a crucial opportunity late in the third quarter. The Yellow Jacket offense took over at the Anderson 26-yard line after a poor Anderson County punt. The drive stalled with fourth and two at the four-yard line and the field goal unit came onto the field. Senior Zach Zeefe’s field goal attempt looked good. A large portion of the Woodford County sideline even reacted as such. However, the officials waved it no good. The kick apparently missed wide to the right of the shorter-than-usual goal posts. In the early stages of the final quarter, the Yellow Jackets went on a drive behind the strong running of senior power back Ben Bruckner. Johnson noted that “He was a monster.” With a little over eight minutes to play, the drive stalled with a fourth and goal from the Anderson County 12. The Jackets once again lined up for a game tying field goal. This time, Zeefe’s kick never had a chance to face the officials’ judgement. It was blocked. The rest of the game, the Jackets never got another chance on the Anderson County side of the field. This marked the second year in a row the Yellow Jackets managed to outgain (230 yards to 171 yards) the Bearcats without pulling out a win. The game simply came down to red zone performance: the Bearcats converted both their chances, and the Jackets went just one for three. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the W… I’ll be kicking myself for a while that this game got away from us,” Johnson remarked. As the great Vin Scully once said, “Losing feels worse than winning feels good,” and this will no doubt be a loss that feels downright horrible for a Woodford County squad that did nearly everything it needed to do to get the win. The Jackets return home for their final three games of the season, beginning with Madison Southern this Friday, Oct. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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