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It may not have been a thing of beauty, but the Spencer County Bears held on to a tough-fought 13-6 victory over East Jessamine Friday night to even their record at 4-4 on the season.
With many fans out of town for fall break, the stands were only about a fourth filled.
“It would be nice to not play during fall break, but when you are putting the schedule together you just have to piece it the best you can. I’m sure it had some effect on the players with the different environment than they usually play in front of,” Coach Mike Marksbury said.
The Bears scored on their first possession on a drive that was helped by a 20-yard pass play from Jacob DeRudder to Brandon Leff that took the ball to the Jaguar 16-yard line. Two plays later, Shawn Boykin took a handoff, found a hole and sprinted nearly untouched for a 14-yard touchdown run. Derek Clemens was good on that PAT and it was 7-0 with just over seven minutes left in the first quarter.
Spencer County’s defense then forced East Jessamine into a fourth and four before jumping offsides and giving the Jaguars new life. They kept the drive alive only to lose the ball on a fumble recovered by Hunter Brown.
Spencer County’s next scoring threat was stalled by a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Bears. Clemens booted a nice 41-yard punt that pinned the Jaguars back on their own four-yard line and the defense forced a quick three and out, giving the Bears good field position following a poor punt by East Jessamine. However, Spencer County couldn’t take advantage and the teams seemed locked in a defensive struggle.
That would change late in the first half however as the Bears converted a big pass play from DeRudder to Boykin on a throw over the middle that put the ball at the Jaguar 27-yard line. Logan Holbrook then picked up 11 yards on a carry, and three plays later, Boykin would score again on a six-yard run. The PAT attempt turned into a two point conversion effort that failed, and the Bears led 13-0 with less than two minutes left in the half.
Spencer County received the ball to start the second half and was moving the ball well on the ground and some short passes, setting up a second and three at the East Jessamine 18-yard line. A run by Holbrook appeared to give the Bears the first down, but another personal foul on the Bears moved them back and the drive stalled. Clemens came out to attempt a 42-yard field goal. His kick had plenty of distance, but was wide left.
East Jessamine would then consume much of the third quarter on a drive that took them down the field and they would then score on the first play of the fourth quarter on a three-yard run. Their two point conversion attempt failed and the Bears clung to a 13-6 lead.
The two teams battled to a defensive standoff in the fourth quarter with the Bears stopping the Jaguars on a drive with just over four minutes remaining. To keep possession, Spencer County then used some power running by Holbrook who was able to pick up a couple of key first downs to keep the clock moving and preserve the victory for the Bears, who improved to 4-4 on the season. East Jessamine fell to 1-7.
“We did a lot of things wrong that could have, and probably should have, gotten us beat on Friday,” said Marksbury. He said East Jessamine is a 5A team and is a well-coached team despite their record and the Bears were fortunate to win with the way they played much of the game.
“We had a couple of untimely personal fouls that killed our drives. We came away with the win, but I really don’t think we played winning football.”
On offense, Marksbury said he was happy with the execution most of the night, but again pointed to drive-killing penalties and mistakes. They also endured an injury to freshmen running back Brandon Leff who has been getting valuable yards in the last few games.
“With our personnel being different in the backfield, we had to be a little more conservative and just pound it at them and throw the play action and quick game to keep the chains moving,” he said.
With the offense struggling, that meant the defense would have to come up big, and they did.
“We played pretty well. We gave up one big pass play, but that was due more to alignment than anything. We held them to 256 total yards so I would call that a successful night.”
Marksbury said with all the mistakes and miscues on offense, it was a perfect game to illustrate the importance of a solid defense. “It was a night that we were shooting ourselves in the foot on offense, but the defense continually stepped up and held them to six points and you can win a lot of games like that.”
In a close game, field position is of utmost importance and Clemens had a couple of big-time punts that pinned the Jaguars back. Marksbury said he’s been pleased with the kicking game this year.
“Derek has done an outstanding job. His kickoffs, punting and PATs have been solid. He has a strong leg and he’s a huge asset to our team. He has changed field position with his punting on numerous times this year.”
The Bears will be at home again this week, as they play their final district game against Waggener. Marksbury said Waggener has a big line and some athletic skill players that his Bears cannot afford to overlook. A win would secure the third seed in the playoffs that begin Nov. 8.