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The Spencer County Bears played perhaps their best game of the season Friday night, clinching second place in the district and a first-round home playoff game with a 21-7 victory over North Oldham in Taylorsville Friday night.
The Bears used their signature dominant defense and their punishing running game while improving to 6-3 on the season in a game pitting two strong teams that would determine postseason seeding. The game was also a chance to bid farewell to 17 senior players in their last regular season home game.
“It was probably our best overall game of the year,” said Head Coach Mike Marksbury. “It was great to see our team perform to that level in a game of that magnitude.”
However, he wasn’t surprised. Following an off week last Friday and a week when many of their classmates left town for fall break, Marksbury said his Bears had a great week of practice.
“Our guys were focused and they practiced like champs. They practiced fast, our practices were physical and every player contributed. Our young guys did great last week giving the varsity a look on the scout team.”
That practice paid off early for the Bears on Friday.
North Oldham is a team that came into the game averaging over 35 points a game, yet Spencer County forced them quickly into a first possession punt. Once Spencer County took the ball, they used three big runs by Will Eldridge, Chase Smith and Cody Chesser to march into North Oldham territory.
Facing a 4th and 5 from the 20, quarterback Trent Holbrook hit Smith for a 13-yard pass setting up a first and goal. Chesser would then punch it in from three yards out and after the successful PAT, the Bears were up 7-0 with just under four minutes left in the quarter.
The next defensive stand by the Bears ended with Michael Fowler recovering a Mustang fumble, giving the Bears the ball back on the North Oldham 35 yard line. Facing a 3rd and 18, Holbrook again went to the air and found Smith for a 21-yard gain and a first down. A few plays into the second quarter, Holbrook tossed a pass over the middle to Chesser in the end zone. After the PAT, the Bears were up 14-0.
North Oldham then hit the end zone on a fluke play when a pass down the sideline was actually tipped by Holbrook, playing defensive back, but the ball found its way into the arms of the receiver who then ran the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown, making it 14-7 with just over nine minutes left in the half.
The Bears took over at their own 33-yard-line and proceeded to march down the field and appeared ready to score again. However, the drive stalled and North Oldham took over.
Once again, the Bears defense came up big. Facing a 2nd and 10 at their own 43-yard-line, the Mustangs fumbled the ball and Chase Smith scooped up the loose ball and took it 40-plus yards for the score. The extra point made it 21-7 and that score stood at the half.
While the Bears didn’t add any more scoring in the second half, their running game was no less dominating. Perhaps just as good as a score was their first drive in the third quarter that consumed nearly nine minutes of the third quarter and ended with a 32-yard field goal attempt blocked.
Just as dominating as the offensive drive, was the Bears defense who forced another punt on North Oldham’s next possession.
The Bears then took another six minutes off the clock with their running game before having to punt themselves, and the defense was able to muff out the Mustangs final possession without relenting another score.
Offensively, the Bears showed more balance with some successful passing plays early.
“We had a few passing plays that we incorporated knowing that the action we gave would allow the receivers to get open,” Marksbury said. “It was just executing and we did that. We have taken the offense every week and added a little wrinkle here and there just to give teams different looks. We are a really balanced offense and that makes you extremely difficult to defend.”
Of course, running is what the Bears do best, and it helped control the clock in the second half. It seems like any Friday night, a different star from the backfield could emerge, and this week it was Eldridge who did the most damage with 118 yards on 20 carries.
On defense, it was another solid performance.
“I think people understand that we have one of the best defenses in the state,” said Marksbury. “I know I have sung their praises all year, but our defense just continues to do the job and to hold North Oldham to 182 yards, with 67 yards coming on that tipped ball, was something special.”
This Friday night, the Bears will close their regular season schedule on the road at 3-6 Henry County. Marksbury said the Wildcats are solid defensively but he doesn’t expect his players to overlook them in the final week, saying they want to end on a positive note.
Two weeks from now, the Bears will start their playoff run by hosting Nelson County on Nov. 2.
Prior to Friday’s game, a ceremony was held to honor all 17 seniors. They are: Jordan Baker, Cody Buckman, Cody Chesser, William Currie, Keith Curry, Gage Daniels, Chris Dunbar, Will Eldridge, Tyler Fleig, Brett Goodlett, Bubba Goodlett, Alex Hagman, Trent Holbrook, Deryck Jones, Jacob Lashley, Chase Smith and Dalton Smith.