Senior Brian Grant ran for three touchdowns and freshman Hunter Gary caught two touchdown passes from senior Jacob Hicks as the Cougars made Homecoming a happy occasion with a 34-16 pounding of McLean County last Friday evening.
Amidst all the celebrations was a sad note, though, as Hicks has probably been lost for the season after breaking his collarbone on a third-quarter incompletion.
Sophomore Jacob Clemons took over at quarterback after Hicks went out, and though he threw and interception which was returned for a touchdown, he later engineered two scoring drives, including runs of 27 and 31 yards.
McLean County came in ranked among the state's best 2A teams with a 4-0 record and figured to give the Cougars a tough test, and that's just what they got through the first quarter and a half of action.
After a 31-yard return on the opening kickoff set up McLean's Cougars at the Grayson County 49, they moved methodically downfield, picking up a first down at the 13, then moving as close as the six.
On a fourth down play there, quarterback Miles Puckett ran the ball across the goal line, but an illegal procedure penalty nullified the play. When Puckett threw incomplete on the next play, Grayson County took over at their own 11.
That was the first in a long line of McLean County penalties and turnovers which kept them from competing in this game. McLean lost three fumbles on the night, one of which led directly to a Grayson County score. They also lost the ball on a muffed punt.
As the second quarter began, the Cougars had moved to the the McLean 21, but a third down pass from Hicks to Aaron Deviney, who was wide open in the end zone, was dropped and when Hicks was sacked on fourth down, McLean took over on downs.
The Cougars then forced McLean to punt, took over at their own 32 and put together the first scoring drive of the night. Junior Bradley Harrison had four runs in the drive, good for for 31 yards, which ended when Hicks hit Gary on a third-and-11 play at the 35 and Gary took it into the end zone for the score. McLean County blocked Gary's extra-point attempt, but with 5:21 left in the first period, Grayson County led 6-0.
McLean hurt themselves again on their next possession. Three penalties put them in a third-and-29 situation at their own 11. Puckett then completed a pass to Troy Woodburn, who carried out near the first-down marker, but Woodburn fumbled and junior Deron Rudnick recovered for Grayson County at the 37.
An unsportsmanlike conduct call on McLean County moved the ball to the 22, then Grant carried twice, the first time for four yards and the last time for 18 and the touchdown. Grayson County tried a run for two points but failed to convert, but it was 12-0 with 3:19 left in the first half.
A Rudnick sack on a third-and-nine play forced McLean to punt and the Cougars got the ball back at their own 33 with 1:51 left. Hicks carried for nine yards, then connected with junior Johnathan Higdon with a pass that took the ball to the McLean 23.
Following a penalty, the Cougars were faced with a fourth-and-10, but Hicks hit Higdon again at the 13, good enough for a first down with 38 seconds left to play. Hicks then found Gary alone in the back corner of the end zone for another score with 28.8 seconds remaining. Hicks then ran in a two-point conversion and the Cougars led 20-0 at the half.
The Cougars had the ball first in the second half and that's when they lost Hicks. Grayson County had moved from their own 43 to the McLean 28, but on fourth and seven, Hicks was hit as he was throwing. The ball sailed out of bounds and Hicks was injured when he hit the ground. It was originally thought he had dislocated the shoulder, but X-rays later showed the broken bone.
McLean took over and moved the ball into Cougar territory, but the drive was halted when Higdon recovered McLean's third fumble of the night.
The Cougars were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt, but Spencer Phillips muffed the catch and Harrison recovered the ball at the McLean 39.
But on first down, a Clemons pass sailed over the head of the intended receiver into the arms of Raymond Humphries at the 20. The lanky cornerback then took the ball eighty yards down the sideline for McLean's first score of the night. Puckett ran in a two-pointer to make it 20-8 with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
Responding to adversity, Clemons uncorked runs of 27 and 31 yards, taking the ball from the Cougar 30 to the McLean 12. Grant then carried the rest of the way for his second touchdown. Clemons passed to sophomore Dustin Thomas for two points and with 1:48 left in the third, it was 28-8.
McLean then moved the ball to midfield, but back-to-back sacks by Tyler Aubrey and Harrison forced a fourth-and-27 punting situation.
Taking over at their own 40, the Cougars faced a fourth-and-one at the 49. After trying unsuccessfully to draw McLean offside, the Cougars called a timeout. Back on the field, Clemons handed the ball to Grant, who carried into McLean territory at the 43 and Grayson County was on their way to another score.
Grant carried again on first down for seven yards, then broke through the line on second down and carried all the way, 36 yards to paydirt. Gary's kick was blocked, but with 8:18 left in the game, the Cougars led 34-8.
With mostly JV and freshman players in on defense for Grayson County, McLean was able to sustain its only scoring drive of the night. They moved 80 yards in six plays with Humphrey scoring on a 31-yard pass from Puckett with 1:44 left on the clock. Puckett then ran for two to make the final score 34-16.
Grayson County will face its sternest test of the season this Friday when they travel to take on the Bowling Green Purples on Friday. The 5-A Purples are currently ranked third in the state, behind 6-A powers Saint X and Trinity. They come into Friday's game with a 5-1 record, their only loss coming at Trinity, 39-28 in Louisville. That game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.