After winning their first seven games of the season, the Cougar football team has now lost two in a row following last Friday’s 36-8 loss at home to the John Hardin Bulldogs on the Cougars’ Senior Night.
The Cougars stayed with the eighth-rated Bulldogs in the first half, trailing just 14-8 at the half after missing a golden opportunity to take the lead when they were stopped inside the one with just two seconds left in the half.
But it was all John Hardin in the second half as the Bulldogs shut down the Cougar running game on defense, then racked up three second-half touchdowns to win going away.
This was the Cougars’ last chance to secure a home game in the opening round of the playoffs, but wherever they wind up going in the first round, the Cougars will be a force to be reckoned with.
Grayson County got a huge break on the opening kickoff when the Bulldogs muffed the kick and Taylor Wright recovered the ball for the Cougars at the Bulldog 33-yard line.
But Grayson County was flagged for a holding call on a first-down pass play, and never recovered. They were forced to punt the ball away, squandering their first break of the game.
The Cougar defense held, though, and forced a John Hardin punt. The Cougars took over at their own 34 and started a drive that looked as though might lead to a Cougar score.
On second down, senior Dustin Crain took a pitchout and rambled 26 yards, down to the Bulldog 31. On third-and-two, Dalton Logsdon picked up a first down at the 18.
Crain carried down to the 12 on third down, but on fourth-and-two there, the Cougars were guilty of illegal procedure and were backed up to the 17. Talon Gary carried on fourth down, but gained only a yard and the Bulldogs took over on downs at their own 16.
From there, it took the Bulldogs just six plays to go 84 yards for the first score of the game. The Bulldogs had a 15-yard run, and pass plays of 23 and 38 yards during the drive. Wade Holtsclaw carried in from the two with 3:09 left in the first quarter and the Bulldogs led 7-0.
Grayson County gained a couple of first downs and took the ball into John Hardin territory on their next possession but were forced to punt as the first period was winding down.
The Bulldogs took over at their own eight-yard line with 22 seconds left in the period and started their second scoring drive of the night.
Facing a third-and-eight at their own 10-yard line as the second period began, the Bulldogs connected on a 38-yard pass play, picking up a first down at the Bulldog 48. Three plays gained no yardage, but on fourth-and-10, the Bulldog passing game clicked again as Holtsclaw threw a halfback pass to receiver Dorian Collins for a 52-yard touchdown.
The two teams exchanged punts before the Cougars took over at their own 47 with 7:00 remaining in the first half. On a fourth-and-two at the Bulldog 45, Gary found senior receiver Ty Davis for a first down at the 28. On third down at the 21, Gary scrambled for 17 yards and a first-and-goal at the four.
Logsdon had two straight carries, scoring on the second from a yard out. Lining up for the extra point, the Bulldogs were flagged for being offside, and Cougar coach Ed Smart pulled his kicker and went for the two-pointer. Logsdon carried over again and the Cougars trailed just six, 14-8 with 3:14 left in the half.
The fired-up Cougars came out and threw the mighty Bulldogs for two straight losses and a near interception, forcing a punt. When the snap was bad, the ball rolled back into the Bulldog end zone. The Bulldog punter was able to get to the ball and get a hurried kick off, but the Cougars covered the ball at the 10 and were sitting pretty with 1:29 left.
Gary gained nine yards on first down, taking the ball to the one, but on second down, the Cougars were flagged for illegal procedure. Logsdon carried twice, down to the one again, but on fourth down, was stopped by the Bulldogs with two seconds left.
That was the last gasp for the Cougars as the Bulldogs dominated play in the second half. Khalid Frazier scored from seven yards out at the 6:36 mark of the third quarter and the Bulldogs converted a two-point try to go up 22-8.
Garrett Ray scored with 2:03 left in the third quarter, then added another score at the 7:15 mark of the fourth to make the final score 36-8.
The Cougars (7-2) will wrap up the regular season this coming Friday when they travel to Calhoun to take on the McLean County Cougars, who are winless (0-9) on the season. Game time is set for 7 p.m.