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The Spencer County Bears used a late-game goal-line stand to secure a thrilling 21-20 win over LaRue County on Friday night, and in doing so snapped a 19-game losing streak that spanned three seasons.
First-year head coach Mike Marksbury got a little emotional in a postgame end zone huddle as he told his squad how important it was to finally get that monkey off their back, but was quick to remind them that the hard work must continue as the Bears look to turn their program around.
But for Friday night, it was all about celebrating a win in a tight game that included lead changes, an ugly brawl and a thrilling finish.
“I felt like this win was coming eventually because of how hard the kids had worked, and felt it would be sooner rather than later,” said Marksbury.
He said LaRue County was a solid team, as were the two earlier opponents this year, but the Bears have been competitive all season long. While Marksbury said he’s made an effort not to mention the losing streak since he arrived last spring, he knows what the win means to the players and the fans.
“The seniors hadn’t won since their sophomore year,” said Marksbury, who admitted that he hopes future wins won’t have to all be this close.
Friday’s game was hard fought all the way, with Spencer County taking an early 7-0 lead after LaRue County fumbled the opening kick-off, giving the Bears a first and 10 at the Hawk 28-yard line.
Quarterback Trent Holbrook connected with Chase Smith for a pass down to the 12-yard line, and then on a third and nine, Holbrook found Matt Black for a pass to the end zone to put the Bears up 7-0 following Brandon Taylor’s extra point kick.
The two teams exchanged possessions and Larue County started a drive late in the quarter on its own 16-yard line. LaRue County was able to march down the field and scored on a 5-yard run. The Hawks chose to go for a two-point conversion and were successful, taking the lead 8-7 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
Spencer County used its next drive and made it well into LaRue County territory, but the drive stalled. Spencer County’s defense proved stingy again on LaRue’s next possession and Spencer County took over after a punt deep in Bears territory.
However, the Bears couldn’t generate any momentum and were forced to punt. A muffed snap however resulted in LaRue County getting the ball at Spencer County’s 8-yard line.
The Hawks scored quickly on another run and their attempt at another two-point conversion failed, making the lead 14-7, where it stood at the half.
The second half got off to a great start when Shawn Boykin for Spencer County took the kickoff at the 15-yard line, made his way to the sideline and then raced 85 yards for the score. Taylor’s extra point knotted the score at 14-14 just seconds into the third quarter.
After holding the Hawks on defense, Spencer County struck quickly again on the next possession when Holbrook connected with senior Corey Sealey for a quick pass and a 38-yard touchdown. Taylor’s kick made it 21-14 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Defense ruled the rest of the quarter and a brawl delayed action for several minutes midway through the quarter. Both sidelines did a good job of settling their players down and when play resumed, there didn’t seem to be any lingering ugliness, just good solid defense on both sides.
It remained that way until late in the fourth quarter when the Hawks were able to put together a drive, mostly with good running, and punched it in on a short touchdown run to close to within 21-20 with just under four minutes remaining. As they had done on previous scores, the Hawks decided to go for two, and their cause was helped because a Bears’ penalty moved the ball to just a yard and a half from the goal-line for the attempt.
The game was decided on the next play when the Bears stuffed the LaRue County attempt short of the goal-line. The Bears were able to collect a first down on their next possession, running the clock down and even though they had to punt with just about a minute remaining, the Hawks had to resort to the air on their last chance, and Holbrook sealed the game with an interception.
Marksbury said the goal-line stand was an example of his kids stepping up and making a play, something the staff had preached to them since summer, and also a product of his defense earning a reputation.
“Teams are starting to realize that you don’t want to run at Chris Dunbar and they’ve been going away from him. We were able to slant to the side we thought they’d go and took a linebacker and put him in the gap,” said Marksbury.
Dalton Goodlett was able to penetrate the line, get a peice of the runner’s leg and the defensive line was able to make the stop to preserve the lead.
While Marksbury has praised the defense most of the year, he said the offense showed more improvement this week as well.
“While we didn’t dazzle anybody, we did what we were supposed to do and we made some plays,” he said. Marksbury noted that when the offense really needed to make a play at the end of the game to pick up a first-down and run the clock, it was able to do so.
On Friday, the Bears will travel to Mount Washington for a matchup with Bullitt East. The two are long-time rivals, but this will be the first varsity football contest between the schools. Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m.