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Bears earning respect of Central Louisville

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By John Shindlebower

The Spencer County Bears began the season by building a reputation as a team that could compete against anybody. While they ended their regular season on a down note with some lopsided defeats, they closed out their 2009 campaign by gaining back some of that respect in a hard-fought 56-36 loss to two-time defending State Champion Louisville Central Friday night.

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“I am very proud of the way our men battled against a very good Central team,” said first year Head Coach Wes Napper. “I think we gave them more of a game than what they had initially thought.”

Actually, the Bears sent a message early on that they didn’t travel to Louisville solely to be a first-round rollover for the Yellowjackets.

Central fumbled the opening kickoff and Spencer County’s Cameron Smith took a handoff on the first snap and rambled down to the 10-yard line. Quarterback Erico Smith then took the snap, ran around the right side of the line and into the end-zone. Tyler Calvert’s kick made it 7-0 less than one minute into the game.

Central would answer quickly however, marching down the field on their opening drive and scoring on a 7-yard run to knot the score at 7-7 less than four minutes into the game.

A Spencer County interception gave the Yellowjackets the ball back on their own 39, and again they marched downfield and scored on a short run to go up 14-7.

Another Bear turnover, this time on a fumble, gave the home team another short field to work with, and they converted quickly on a 30-yard run to go up 21-7, with still more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

They would tack on another touchdown early in the second quarter to take a commanding 28-7 lead. While it may have been tempting for the Bears to hang their head and just let the clock tick away their season, they instead managed to climb back into the game.

Spencer County drove down the field, with Cameron Smith and Kevin Hume picking up crucial first downs on the ground and then Hume took it over from about two yards out to close the gap to 28-14 after Calvert’s PAT.

Central responded like lightening, which also is a good way to describe the speed in which they scored on a 58-yard run, which they capped off with a two-point conversion to go up 36-14 with 2:57 left in the quarter.

Again Spencer County could have folded, but Cameron Smith took the following kickoff and turned it into a spectacular runback that included two cutbacks that left Central players tackling air and Smith made it to the end zone and the Bears trailed 36-22 after they converted a two-point conversion of their own.

A late drive by the Bears in the half included a big pass and catch from QB Morgan Brown to Logan Dunbar, but the clock was the big enemy and the half ended with the Bears still two touchdowns behind.

In the third quarter, Spencer County had to punt away their first possession and Central then put together another scoring drive, but had to survive a couple of fumbles to continue their march. However, they scored on a short TD run to take a 43-22 lead with just over five minutes left in the quarter.

Erico Smith then returned to quarterback in the next series. On the first play, he took the snap, took a step back, and then darted through a hole his line created, which was enough for him to find open field and his speed rivaled that of any Central player as he raced to the end zone to draw the bears back to within 43-29.

A Central fumble gave the Bears new hope that they converted into another score when their next drive resulted in a six-yard TD run by Hume to get to within just one score of the defending champs at 43-36 with just over three minutes left in the quarter.

An interception by Steven Ashley then seemed to set the stage for the unthinkable if Spencer County could convert and send the Bears into the fourth quarter with a tie. However, the Bears’ drive stalled and Central was able to score on a quick 35-yard touchdown run to go back up 50-36 in the final quarter.

They would later add one more meaningless touchdown in the final minute to claim the final 56-36 margin as they improved to 6-5 on the year while the Bears season ended with a mark of 3-8.

Spencer County, which changed offenses in the middle of the season in hopes of gaining a bit of a passing threat, was able to offer up a mixed look with Brown and Erico Smith sharing QB duties. Napper said it’s a look they’ll work on for next year.

“I was extremely pleased with how effective our offense was Friday. We were able to mix things up a bit with Erico and Morgan doing different things for the QB spot,” said the coach.

On defense, the Bears had trouble containing Central’s speed and their deception with the Yellowjacket quarterback proving very good at faking handoffs to the first guy through the line.

“Our linebackers had to make near perfect reads to protect the open field from their speed. Our men did a great job at times Friday. At other times, we would miss an assignment and a Cetnral player with 4.4 speed was racing down the sideline. The best equalizer to speed is technique and playing your assignments against the option,” said Napper.

Napper said he was very proud of the fight his team showed, especially at a stretch late in the third quarter when Central delivered some clean but very hard hits on the Bears on a special teams play. Napper said his guys got inspired from that sequence.

“After that play our team played inspired football. They got pumped up and wanted to prove that they weren’t going to be treated like that by anyone.” For Napper, he was also proud that they responded without being out-of-control.

“The most impressive and proud thing for me as a coach is that our men played within themselves and didn’t react with a personal foul or anything of that nature.”

Check next week’s Magnet for a season wrap up story and year-end stats.