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Football is a game of inches, but in Friday night’s contest against West Jessamine, it was a couple of feet that proved the difference maker in the Bears’ 28-14 loss in Nicholasville.
One of those feet belonged to Spencer County’s Cameron Smith, who has cut and juked his way past defenders all season, turning nothing into something more often than not. With the Bears trailing 21-14 and facing a fourth down and short from their own 33-yard line and just over two minutes remaining, the best bet would be to get the ball into Smith’s hands. They did just that, but as Smith went to cut upfield for what would most likely have been a first down if not much more, he lost his footing and slipped, ending the Bears’ chance for another thrilling come-from-behind victory.
West Jessamine would tack on another touchdown a few seconds later to put the game out of reach as the Bears fell to 2-2 on the year and the 4A Colts improved to 4-0.
“I was extremely pleased with the way our men competed Friday night. We got off to a rocky start with a turnover and then had some missed assignments on defense which allowed West to jump out on us early.”
West Jessamine scored first on a 20-yard run to go up 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Spencer County’s next offensive series looked promising, as they marched their way downfield despite some big plays being nullified by penalties. However, when Cameron Smith’s touchdown run was called back after a flag, the drive stalled and the scoring chance was missed.
The second quarter began with a stalled Spencer County drive but Cameron Smith booted a 56-yard punt to pin the Colts deep in their own territory. However, the Bears couldn’t hold them there, as they would score on a 89-yard TD run on their next play, taking a 14-0 lead.
Spencer County would answer, driving the ball down to the one-yard line where Erico Smith would then take the ball over on a quarterback keeper. Tyler Calvert’s successful PAT was good, making it 14-7.
West Jessamine answered quickly, helped by a face-mask penalty to set them up in excellent field position. The Colts scored from 10 yards out to take a 21-7 lead with just 37 seconds left in the half.
The Bears took the kickoff and began a drive near midfield. That’s when Erico Smith
turned a scramble into a break-away run that ended with an apparent dive into the end zone. However, one of the officials blew the ball dead at the two-yard line, saying that’s where Smith’s foot touched the sideline, thus erasing the six points off the scoreboard.
“The play at the end of the half looked good from our vantage point,” said Napper, who while not disputing the call, said the official who made the call seemed to be 25 yards away at the time.
“The only thing that we can take from that is to work away from the sideline to leave no room for error. Erico made a tremendous play, but missed out on putting some points on the board for us.”
In the second half, Spencer County’s defense stepped up and kept the Colts from adding any additional points. On offense, the Bears were facing a stout defense themselves, but toward the end of the third quarter, mounted a drive that was capped by Cameron Smith’s 35-yard touchdown run that drew the Bears to within one touchdown at 21-14 with just two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Spencer County’s defense continued to play well, forcing a quick punt and giving Spencer County the ball again as the fourth quarter began, but the drive stalled just beyond midfield.
Protecting a 7-point lead, West Jessamine would have been content to eat some clock, but the Bears’ defense forced them into a punt, giving Spencer County one last shot for a late-game rally.
Taking over at their own 25-yard line, the Bears moved it out to the 33, but then facing a fourth and two, Cameron Smith’s slip spelled an end to their chance.
Napper wasn’t happy with his defense early in the game, but praised their effort later in the game.
“The yardage and points allowed in the first half is unacceptable for our defense,” he said, noting that the staff felt confident in their game plan had they executed.
“Our problem Friday night during the first half is that we found ourselves out of position and not playing our assignments, resulting in a few big plays for West.”
“The second half was a completely different defense. We were attacking our assignments and rallying to the football. That was the best half of defense we have played this year. In the second half our defense played up to it’s expectation.”
On offense, Napper admitted the Bears struggled, but was quick to credit the opponent’s defense.
“Their defense is very sound. They understand good pursuit to the football puts them in position to make plays. Our offensive line had their hands full all night. We could not sustain blocks as we normally do and this affected our running game.”
Erico Smith led the way with 162 yards on 18 carries. Napper said there was a deliberate attempt to get him more carries as the Bears experimented with a offensive set that put Steven Ashley at quarterback, allowing Cameron Smith and Erico Smith more rushing attempts. Cameron Smith added 89 yards on 21 carries.
Erico was five for seven through the air for 47 yards, with Ashley catching two passes, Cameron Smith catching two and Trey Wyatt catching one. Ashley’s single pass attempt was a successful one to Erico Smith for six yards.
On defense, the stat sheet showed balance with sixteen Bears recording tackles, led by Austin Cook’s seven stops. Brian Harris had four solo stops. Drew Rose was credited with a solo tackle and a fumble recovery.
Despite the loss, Napper is pleased with how his team has played against a really tough schedule so far this year.
“We have competed very well against every opponent thus far and could easily be sitting at 4-0. These solid teams, in good battles week in and week out, will help us down the road with our always strong district opponents and in the playoffs,” said Napper.
This week, the Bears return home to square off with Bethlehem. Napper said they’ve got a good passing attack and they average about 30 points a game.
“This is a very important game for us heading into the bye week. We will need our hometown crowd supporting us.”