For The Independent
Garrard County overcame a slow start this season thanks to its opportunistic defense.
It is moving on in the Class 3A playoffs because it had many opportunities on Friday night at Lewis County's expense.
The Golden Lions took advantage of seven Lewis County turnovers, turning them into 29 points, as they cruised to a 43-13 victory at Dyehouse Stadium. The win was Garrard County's sixth in its last seven games. Only once during that stretch has an opponent scored more than Lewis County's 13.
“Our defense played well and I'm really proud of them,” said Garrard County coach Mark Scenters. “Some of the turnovers were forced and some weren’t. The game got a little bit sloppy at times but any playoff win is a good win. Lewis County had us scouted really well and took away a lot of the things we were really wanting to do. But our kids executed and went out and made plays when they needed to.”
For Lewis County (7-4) the night was one of frustration. The Lions actually led 6-0 after the first play. Lined up with three running backs in the Power-I, junior quarterback Isaac Weddington instead executed a play action pass to a wide-open Tyler Mustard, who raced 61 yards for the score.
Garrard County (7-4) recovered quickly, however, behind sophomore quarterback Slade Crutchfield, who passed for 250 yards and five touchdowns, including three in the first half. His 9-yard toss to J.T. Lyon late in the first quarter gave the Golden Lions the lead for good.
“We were mostly unsuccessful with our pass rush and because of that we had to call a lot of blitzes,” said Lewis County coach Josh Hughes. “We were blitzing on just about every play in the second half and still weren't getting to him. We were successful stopping the run and if you had asked me that tonight at 7:29 I would have said we had a pretty good chance to win the ballgame. But some of their big receivers were mismatches for us.”
Garrard County took a 21-6 lead to the half but it easily could have been more, a fact that gave Lewis County hope. The Golden Lions extinguished that hope on the opening drive of the third quarter, capped off by Noah Williams’ 7-yard touchdown off a sweep. Lewis County fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Golden Lions recovered. Three plays later Crutchfield found Mike Redmon from 22 yards out. Haigin Penman's conversion run put Lewis County in an insurmountable 36-6 hole.
“That (fumble recovery) was huge. That was a big turnaround. At halftime we talked about how we needed to make a statement because the third quarter is the most pivotal of the game,” Scenters said.
Lewis County scored for the final time after the running clock kicked in, thanks to a 43-yard run by Mustard on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Even in defeat Lewis County wrapped up its second winning season in three years, the first time that has happened since the late 1970s. With the team losing only four seniors Hughes is excited about the program's future.
“It's a great thing to build on. Our juniors have been to the playoffs every year they have played and no other class here can say that. Now they expect to be there,” Hughes said. “They really want to win a playoff game and hopefully they can do that. This year’s senior class was small but we really got a lot of mileage from them.”