RACELAND Raceland made it nine in a row, and No. 10 sealed the deal.
Greenup County gunslinger Eli Sammons unleashed a deep, desperation throw that found the hands of Raceland’s Gunnur Lewis as time expired. The Rams survived a hard-fought Iron Bowl battle, 17-14, at Rams Stadium.
Quarterbacks Jake Heighton and Sammons picked up game Most Valuable Player awards for exhibiting leadership throughout the contest. Raceland’s Heighton was 17 of 25 for 269 yards and a touchdown. He also scored a rushing TD. Sammons collected 158 passing yards and 104 rushing. He found paydirt twice on short runs.
Heighton hooked up with five different receivers at least twice apiece to help overcome running game struggles. Greenup County held Raceland rushers to 37 yards on 29 carries.
Raceland notched its ninth consecutive defeat in the series. This one was special — special teams, that is.
Lewis, Michael Meade, Landyn Newman and Conner Hughes each made notable returns on kicks and/or punts that helped pave Raceland’s path.
Like a famished cat on a descending bird, Lewis leaped and grabbed a short Musketeers punt at Raceland’s 40-yard line less than two minutes into Saturday’s game. The senior bolted to the Greenup County 19.
Two plays later, Heighton scooted in for a 16-yard score.
Greenup County then initiated a pattern of promising possessions that resulted in turnovers on downs. In the first half alone, that occurred five times — twice to the Musketeers and thrice to the Rams.
Raceland coach Michael Salmons lost count of how many red-zone chances the Rams squandered. There were three. Five fumbles were factors in those occurrences, but Greenup County recovered just one of the cough-ups.
“Bad snaps, a turnover in the red zone, those are things we’ve gotta focus on as we get better and we grow,” Salmons said. “Part of that is breaking in some new guys, trying to get them ready for the big stage. You can practice and prepare all summer all you want, but until they’re in that moment without you by their side, they don’t learn. Hopefully we can learn from tonight and take the next step throughout the process of what we hope is a 15-game season.”
Raceland (1-0) experienced quick redemption on one fizzled-out opportunity. A 10-play possession that included 44- and 31-yard pass plays halted at the 2-yard line with a turnover on downs.
However, Greenup County (0-1) botched the snap, forcing Sammons to fall on the loose ball in the end zone for a safety. Raceland had a 9-0 lead with 4:55 left in the second stanza.
Raceland took advantage of short field position midway through the third quarter. Heighton and Ethan Cox capped off a brief, three-play, 45-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown connection. Cox finished with six catches for 112 yards.
The Musketeers then marched down the field with a 10-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Sammons plunging across the goal line from a yard out. He tallied 20 totes in all.
After watching their teammate exit the field on a stretcher — Brayden Craycraft left after absorbing an illegal blindside block — in the fourth quarter, the Musketeers forced a fumble. Bryce Burgess then burst forward for a 72-yard gain, setting the tone for a six-play scoring drive. Sammons went in again. With 5:41 to go, it was 17-14 after Carson Wireman booted through an extra point.
“Just the heart of a warrior out there,” Grizzle said of Sammons, who scored both TDs. “That’s what we expect from him. We know that’s what we’re going to get every Friday night. He’s one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached. He’s a tough kid who wants to put his team on his back. Those guys rally around him.”
Craycraft showed signs of mobility. He was talking, too. Grizzle wasn’t sure immediately after the game, but he speculated he could have suffered a bad concussion.
Said Salmons: “Obviously our prayers to him. Sometimes, unfortunately, that happens in the game of football. I know for sure our guy didn’t have any malicious intent. It was two guys playing the game at full speed. Hopefully he can get back and can play.”
After a 10-play Raceland possession, Greenup County got the ball back at its own 13. After a 35-yard pass play from Sammons to Austin Evans, Lewis came up with the game-ending interception.
Hall of Famers
Raceland enshrined six men into its Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Saturday afternoon in the John P. Stephens Auditorium. John-Scott Carver, Brett Denton, Jonathan Kerns, Virgil Howard, Donnie Rowe and Darrell Barker are the 2019 inductees.
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GREENUP CO. 0 0 7 7 — 14
RACELAND 7 2 8 0 — 17
R — Jake Heighton 16 run (Caleb Rowsey kick) 10:09
R — Safety, 4:55.
R — Ethan Cox 13 pass from Heighton (Conner Hughes run) 5:16
GC — Eli Sammons 1 run (Carson Wireman kick) 1:24
GC — Sammons 1 run (Wireman kick) 5:41
First downs 12 14
Rushes-yards 36-229 29-37
Comp-att-int 8-23-1 17-25-0
Passing yards 158 269
Penalties-yards 6-65 7-56
Fumbles-lost 2-0 5-1
Punts-avg. 3-25 1-38
Greenup County rushing: Sammons 20-104, Burgess 6-75, Farrow 5-28, Evans 2-25, Purdy 1-3, Clarkson 1-(minus-2), Team 1-(minus-4).
Raceland rushing: Heighton 11-19, Rowsey 2-17, Mills 8-15, Cox 2-4, Pennington 1-1, Lewis 1-(minus-1), Meade 2-(minus-2), Team 2-(minus-16).
Greenup County passing: Sammons 8 of 23 for 158 yards, int.
Raceland passing: Heighton 17 of 25 for 269 yards
Greenup County receiving: Clarkson 4-69, Evans 3-45, Craycraft 1-44.
Raceland receiving: Cox 6-112, Lewis 3-48, Rowsey 2-38, Meade 2-37, Wallace 4-34.