Sophomore quarterback Hunter Gary ran for two scores and threw for two others as the Cougars closed out their season with a 7-3 record.
But it was the defense that did the job in this game, holding the Raiders well below both their passing and rushing averages. That is nothing new for the Cougars who came into the game as the state’s top 5A team against the rush and one in the top 10 against the pass. The Cougars finished the season allowing less than 90 yards per game rushing and less than 100 yards passing.
The Cougars intercepted three passes on the night and recovered three Raider fumbles to keep them out of the end zone.
On K-105’s “Coach’s Corner” on Saturday morning, Cougar head coach Ed Smart said he had tried a new wrinkle in the defensive backfield at the start of the game, trying to keep senior Bradley Harrison from having to play as much on defense and keeping him fresh at the fullback spot on offense.
But when the Raiders took the ball right down the field on their second possession and scored on a 14-yard pass play from quarterback Austin Green to Jordan Smith, Smart went back to his regular defense and the Raiders were held in check the rest of the way.
After that first drive which gave the Raiders a 6-0 lead with 4:04 left in the first period, the Cougars responded with a four-play, 52-yard drive to take a 7-6 lead. Harrison carried for nine yards on third down to give the Cougars a first-and-10 at the Raider 36. Gary then got loose on an option keeper and carried all the way for the touchdown.
The Cougars missed a golden opportunity to add to their lead in the second period. They had moved from their own 47 down to the Raider six, where they had a first-and-goal. The Cougars moved to the one, but on fourth down the Raiders stopped Harrison for a two-yard loss and took over on downs at the three.
The Raiders were able to move the ball into Cougar territory, but a fumble stopped the drive and the Cougars took over at their own 40 and began moving for another score.
Gary connected with Aaron Deviney on a third-down pass play that gave the Cougars a first down at the Raider 40. Two plays later Gary hit Dustin Thomas on a quick slant to take the ball to a first-and-goal just inside the 10-yard line.
On the next play, Gary threw a strike to senior tight-end Matt Thurner all alone in the end zone for another TD to make it 13-6 at the 2:16 mark.
The Cougars recovered another fumble at the Raider 38 with 2:04 left to play, but a bizarre series of penalties moved the ball back into Hart County territory and the Cougars could not capitalize and went into the half leading by seven.
The Cougars came up with interceptions on the first two Hart County possessions of the second half and they made the Raiders pay for them on the second pick.
Deviney intercepted Green near midfield and returned it to the Raider 40. Four plays later Gary carried in from nine yards out. Gary added the extra point and at the 4:26 mark of the third quarter, the Cougars led 20-6.
On the next Hart possession, Grayson County’s defense stopped the Raiders on a fourth-and-inches play at the Cougar 38. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Raiders moved the ball into Raider territory at the 47, from where the Cougars started another scoring drive.
Three straight running plays earned a first down at the 31 before Gary carried to the 24. Following an incomplete pass, Harrison took a handoff up the middle and carried all the way for the score to make it 26-6. Harrison finished the regular season with 894 yards rushing and led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.
The Cougars got their third interception of the night on the next Hart County possession as the fourth quarter began. Sophomore Jacob Pierce picked off a Green pass at the Cougar 47 and returned it to the Raider 39.
From there it took five plays to get back into the end zone with Gary hooking up with jacob Clemons on a 19-yard pass play. Gary added the extra point to make it 33-6 with 8:25 left to play.
The Cougars took over on downs after stopping the Raiders on a fourth-and-two at the Hart County 41. On first down, Deviney carried for 22 yards, down to the 19. Cody Bertram picked up five yards, then Gary carried to the nine for a first-and-goal. Deviney then took a pitch around the right side and carried in for the final touchdown of the night. Gary added the extra point to make it 40-6.
The Cougars will now move into the playoffs and will play host to the Hopkinsville Tigers (6-4), winners of their last four straight games, on Friday at Cougar Field. Game time is set for 7 p.m.