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Bears football: an evening well spent

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By John Shindlebower

Spencer County football fans are finding it necessary to arrive early and stay late when it comes to keeping up with this year’s team, following a come-from-behind 31-27 victory over highly-ranked Frankfort Friday night, the third straight game where the outcome was determined on the final series.

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After Senior Cameron Smith capped off a late fourth-quarter drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give the Bears the lead, the defense was able to close it out, forcing the Panthers into a 4th and 7 and a desperation pass, which was intercepted by Erico Smith to preserve the Bears’ second win in three games.

“SCHS varsity football is the best $5 you can spend in Spencer County,” said Head Coach Wes Napper following the game, which came on the heels of a previous 42-39 heartbreaking loss at Elizabethtown and a thrilling 35-34 victory over East Jessamine in the home opener.

The close games not only entertain the fans, but they can also benefit a team hoping to achieve bigger things this year.

“Close games build team trust and unity,” said Napper. “When the game is on the line, our men know that they can trust each other to do their job and execute. This will help us tremendously as the season moves forward. We will be in some dog fights within district play towards the end of the season.”

Friday’s game got off to a good start as the Bears struck quickly on a 45-yard touchdown run by Cameron Smith. Tyler Calvert’s kick made it 7-0 as the Bears drew first blood against Frankfort, which came in ranked number 2 in the 1A.

Spencer County’s defense showed it would continue its week by week improvement on their first series, which ended when Erico Smith intercepted an errant pass. However, the Bears couldn’t take advantage of the turnover on their next series, but later in the quarter positioned themselves for a Calvert 37-yard field goal that made it 10-0 with just over three minutes remaining in the quarter.

The second period began with Spencer County again moving the ball into Frankfort territory, but they lost the ball on downs. Frankfort was again forced to punt but Spencer County’s next series was halted by an interception giving the Panthers a first and 10 at the Bears 40-yard line.

The Panthers were able to drive the short field and scored on a run around the end. The point-after attempt was no good and the Bears held a 10-6 lead with just under six minutes left in the half.

Frankfort got the ball back with just over three minutes remaining inside Spencer County territory and punched it in from 8 yards out a few plays later. An unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Panthers had managed to wrestle the lead away from the Bears 12-10 at the half.

The third quarter began with another good defensive stand by the Bears, forcing Frankfort to punt away their first possession. Bryan Harris took a handoff and found a hole for a 35-yard gain down to the Frankfort 10-yard line. Cameron Smith found the end zone from two yards out a couple of plays later and Calvert’s kick gave Spencer County a 17-10 lead halfway through the third quarter.

However, Frankfort struck back quickly when their speedy back raced 64 yards down to the one-yard line, where they would score on the next play. A successful two-point conversion then gave the Panthers a 20-17 lead.

Spencer County was forced to punt on their next possession and Frankfort again took advantage, taking over at midfield and then later scoring on a 32-yard run. The extra point kick made it 27-17.

In the waning moments of the third quarter, Cameron Smith made a couple of nifty runs to keep the Bears on the move, gaining 14 yards on one carry, and a dozen yards on another to move the Bears into a 1st and 10 at the Frankfort 20-yard line to begin the final quarter.

Smith then turned a near tragedy into a big gain when he fumbled a pitch five yards behind the line of scrimmage, but picked it up and wove his way through the defenders down to the 7-yard line. After several attempts up the middle, the Bears were facing a fourth and goal and Frankfort was no doubt expecting another big push up the middle with Erico Smith probably trying to plow his way through. However, the call was a quick pitch to Cameron Smith who raced around the end untouched and into the end zone to bring the Bears back to within 27-24 after Calvert’s kick.

The Bears defense held again and with just over five minutes remaining, the Bears took possession for a chance to complete another thrilling finish, which they capped off with Cameron Smith’s touchdown run.

Smith had another superb game, gaining 193 yards on 29 carries and four touchdowns. Harris added 33 yards on 11 attempts, Hume had 23 yards on 10 carries and Erico Smith had 23 yards on 10 carries.

Napper had praise for his backs, starting with Cameron Smith.

“He is a special athlete. His field vision and determination when he has the ball is undeniable. Despite his small frame, he can pound the ball inside when needed, out run to the corner, or elude tacklers in the open field,” said the Coach.

However, he was quick to spread the kind words to the rest of the backfield as well.

“Fullback Kevin Hume is carrying the hard yards for us and blocking well for Cameron and Erico Smith is a different monster of his own. Opposing defense are picking their poison and often opting to control Erico and not let him on the edge.”

When the defense tries to contain Erico Smith, that opens things up for Cameron Smith, and Napper said if it had been the other way around, Erico Smith would no doubt have had the big night.

Napper has other backs filling in nicely also, including Michael Wessels and Harris.

“Wessels is a solid runner for us who has been banged up for the past few weeks but is coming back nice from injury. Bryan Harris is a surprise to the average fan, but a player that as he comes along will add a fifth prong to our rushing attack.”

Of course, the key to a running guy is the big guys up front who often don’t get the stats or the fame, but Napper is quick with a word for them as well.

He said they played really well for three quarters Friday, but had one quarter where they were a bit off. “Once that group puts four quarters together on the same night, it will be very exciting to see,” he said.

The group is minus senior Jacob Snider, a three-year starter who hurt his knee in the opening week, but Napper said the staff has been pleased with sophomore Daniel Bell who moved over to play his spot.

On defense, Napper again noted the week-to-week improvement.

Steven Ashley, Andy Christian and David Cross led the way with four solo tackles and Cross was in on seven more. Erico Smith had two interceptions and the defensive line was able to get some pressure on the Frankfort quarterback at times Friday night.

Friday, the Bears will travel to Nicholasville to take on West Jessamine, a 4A school that is currently sporting a perfect 3-0 record. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

“This will be a huge test for us Friday. A road trip to the Lexington area, visiting a 4A team that is 3-0. It should be a good atmosphere for high school football,” said Napper.