News-Gazette Sports Reporter
The Grayson County Cougars came oh, so close last Friday evening to pulling off what would have been a signature win for the program, but ultimately came up a bit short as they fell 28-21 at Warren Central High School.
The Cougars can probably look at this loss as “The one that got away!” as three of their four turnovers on the night led directly to Warren Central touchdowns.
The Cougars, who came into this game ranked fourth in 5A football in rushing at better than 276 yards per game, moved up and down the field on the Dragon defense, unofficially racking up 258 yards on the ground. However, they missed a couple of golden opportunities to score more touchdowns which would have given them the game.
After giving up all 28 Dragon points in the first half, the Cougar defense held Central to just 39 total yards and only two first downs in the second half.
Grayson County made a mistake on its first possession, fumbling the ball away on the second play from scrimmage and setting up the Dragons at the Cougars' own 33. Central got on the board with just one pass play as quarterback Quentin Smith found Albert Thompson along the sideline for the touchdown. The Dragons kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 with less than a minute played in the first period.
Grayson County answered with one of the best drives any Cougar team has put together in years. They moved 75 yards in 15 plays, taking nearly 10 minutes off the clock to get the tying score. The Cougars converted twice on third-and-two and also converted a fourth and one play at the Dragon 22 to keep the drive alive.
Brian Grant rambled 11 yards for the touchdown and Rick Hussell kicked the extra point to tie the game with 1:34 left in the first quarter.
Grayson County then forced the Dragons to punt on their next possession and took over at their own 16-yard line. A holding call on a first-down run moved the ball back to the 10, and on the next play the Cougars fumbled again and the Dragons were in great shape as they recovered the ball at the 11. Two plays later, Tabarus Mitchell took it in from the one and the Dragons took 13-7 lead at the 9:42 mark of the second period.
The Cougars hurt themselves one last time on their next possession when quarterback Jacob Clemons was intercepted, giving the Dragons the ball at their own 46.
It took the Dragons just five plays to get into the end zone once more, though this time there was some controversy. Smith connected with receiver Shane Adamson on a 15-yard touchdown pass. Adamson juggled the ball while in the air, then seemed to pull it in again as he hit the ground, though many on the sideline said the ball hit the ground before he possessed it. Regardless, the officials called it a touchdown and when the Dragons connected on a two-point pass play it was 21-7 at the 5:21 mark.
The Cougars then quickly went to work and put together another long drive to get back into the game. Bradley Harrison took the ensuing kick at the 10 and returned it to the Cougar 31.
Two running plays gained a first down at the Cougar 46 before Johnathan Higdon moved the ball into Dragon territory with a 17-yard run.
The Cougars moved the ball to the Dragon 28, but a holding call moved it back to the 44, where they faced second-and-17.
Aaron Deviney gained four yards with a run, then Clemons hit Dustin Thomas with a pass to the 29 where the Cougars were faced with a fourth-and-three. The Dragons helped out by being flagged for being offside and Grayson County had a first down at the 24.
On the next play, Deviney got loose and romped into the end zone for another Cougar score. Hussell added the point-after and with 1:29 left in the half the score stood at 21-14.
But the Dragons weren't done and used the remaining time to drive for what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Starting at their own 49, the Dragons marched 51 yards in seven plays to take a 28-14 lead. Smith hit Adamson again on the touchdown from 26 yards out. The kick made it 28-14.
At that point the Cougars had just 22.5 seconds left in the half, but they almost made it pay off. Harrison came up with a big kick-off return, taking it from the Cougar 20 into Dragon territory at the 36.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Deviney carried to the 30 and the Cougars called timeout with just over three second remaining. Clemons tried unsuccessfully to throw on third-and-four as time ran out, but the Dragons were flagged for roughing the passer, and the Cougars had one last shot from the 15.
Clemons rolled to his right, looking into the end zone for a receiver, but finding no one open, he tucked it and ran. The sophomore quarterback nearly made it the distance, but a Dragon defender made a sure tackle at the three and both teams went into the intermission with the score remaining 28-14.
The Dragons had the ball first at the start of the second half, but Deviney came up with a huge defensive play to give the Cougars a big boost. Facing a third-and-eight at the Dragon 25, Smith went to the air, but Deviney picked the ball off at the 46 and found no one but teammates around him and he carried all the way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the evening. Hussell's kick made it 28-21 at the 10:23 mark of the third quarter.
That turned out to be the final score of the night. The Cougar defense kept the Dragons bottled up the entire second half and Grayson County got close a couple of times but could not punch it in for the tying or winning score.
Following Devinney's touchdown, the Dragons inserted backup quarterback Troy Halcomb into the game, but on third-and-14 from the Dragon 45, Halcomb was intercepted by junior cornerback GaRhett Carmine and the Cougars took over at their own 37.
Grayson County quickly started moving again, gaining three more first downs and taking the ball to the Dragon 20, but on third down, a Clemons pass was picked off by Khiry Hibbett at the 15 and he returned it to the 34 to kill that drive.
The Cougars had a final opportunity after forcing a Dragon punt and taking possession at their own 20 with 8:37 left to play. Staying on the ground, the Cougars took 13 plays to move to the Dragon 15, where they called a time out with 1:54 left, facing a third-and-four play.
Back on the field, Thomas was thrown for a two-yard loss, and on fourth down, a Clemons pass fell incomplete and the Dragons were able to take over and run out the clock.
Grayson County is now 5-3 on the season and will travel to Greenville on Friday to take on the Suns of Muhlenberg South, who are 2-6 on the year. That game will begin at 7 p.m.