Russell freshman Nick Conley said “something snapped” in the Red Devils on Friday night.
Greenup County was hoping to do all the snapping. The Musketeers had every intention of giving a long, ugly streak a proper burial.
Conley and the Red Devils landed the punctuating punch, though, as the Backyard Brawl went to Russell, 14-8. Greenup County’s losing skid extended to 24 straight games.
Greenup County’s Jeffery Williams plowed his way into the end zone as fans and teammates erupted on the sidelines. Matt Lawson followed it up with a two-point conversion run to put the Musketeers ahead, 8-6, with 11:27 to go.
Less than two minutes later, Luke Meenach intercepted a pass by quarterback Jacob McKee, seemingly seizing all the momentum.
That’s when, according to Conley, the Red Devils awoke.
“We had our heads down at one point, and we can’t do that,” he said. “Something just snapped in us. We started running well, making our cuts ...”
Bronson Korzep broke away for a 28-yard sprint that quickly put a 15-yard penalty in the rear-view mirror.
Later in the drive, Conley converted a third-and-10 with a 15-yard surge up the gut.
Time ticked down to 3:30 as Russell faced a 4th-and-1 from the Greenup County 11-yard line.
Patrick Soucy, who had drilled two field goals already, could have been called upon for a possible go-ahead three-pointer.
Instead, Russell coach Ivan McGlone elected to try to force the Musketeers to jump offsides. If that didn’t work, well, he didn’t have to think that far. A Greenup County defensive lineman crossed into Russell territory, accounting for one of just three Musketeer penalties a week after they committed 17 in a 26-20 loss to Lewis County.
“If they had not jumped, we’d probably call a timeout and make a decision,” McGlone said. “I debated (kicking), but to me, it’s easier to get two feet — I don’t care how good your field goal kicker is — than to get a field goal. He kicked well tonight, but you’re never sure about a field goal.”
Conley eventually went in for a 1-yard score. In his varsity debut, he rushed 15 times for 70 yards.
“The fire lit inside of me and I just went after it,” Conley said. “I was just going completely off adrenaline. It was like, OK, we’re Russell, we’re going to put it in the end zone right now.”
“There’s a little something special about him,” McGlone said of Conley.
Korzep chipped in 66 yards on the ground.
Greenup County sophomore Ryan Byrd led all rushers with 114 yards on 15 carries, including a highlight-reel 42-yarder to help set up the Williams score. He had 155 last week.
Musketeers coach Chris Mullins felt for his players, but sported a genuine smile after the game. He said better days lie on the horizon.
“This was a very positive thing,” Mullins said. “We’ve had back-to-back great defensive efforts, back-to-back games where we were in it in the fourth quarter. There are so many things you can look at and see it’s obvious our program is coming over the hump.”
Greenup County (0-2) managed just 17 total yards until the final drive of the first half. It traveled 79 yards to come up one yard shy of putting points on the board by halftime. Russell (1-0) led 6-0 at the break.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.