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It wasn’t their best game of the year, but the Spencer County Bears played well enough to score a 30-14 win over the visiting Bethlehem Eagles Friday night.
Sure, they racked up some impressive numbers, such as gaining almost 400 yards rushing for the evening, but it was the 12 penalties for well over 100 yards that has the coaching staff planning how to utilize the much-needed off week coming up.
“You are always happy with a win, but we’re definitely not happy with the performance of our offensive unit,” said Head Coach Wes Napper after the game.
“We feel we left several points on the field.”
In the first quarter, it looked like Spencer County might be putting up a lot of points as they took their opening possession and drove down the field, with Cameron Smith scoring on a 9-yard run. Tyler Calvert’s extra point kick made it 7-0 with 7:43 remaining.
After an impressive defensive stand that forced a punt, Spencer County’s next drive appeared to end with an interception of a Erico Smith pass, but the Bethlehem defender who picked off the pass fumbled after rumbling about 30 yards and Cameron Smith fell on the loose ball.
Cameron Smith then busted loose for a 59-yard touchdown run that included several nifty cuts that has opposing defenses on edge every time he touches the ball. A rare missed extra point resulted in Spencer County holding a 13-0 lead with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the teams traded possessions but Spencer County managed to drive deep into Bethlehem territory before their drive stalled. Calvert was able to connect on a 32-yard field goal to put the Bears up 16-0 with just over four minutes left in the half.
The Bears would strike again quickly. Cameron Smith picked up 31 yards on a carry taking the ball to past midfield and then Erico Smith scored on a 47-yard run. Calvert’s kick made it 23-0 with just over two minutes remaining.
Bethlehem however gave themselves some momentum heading into halftime when they were able to put together a drive in the final two minutes and scored on a quarterback keeper to cut the lead to 23-7 with five seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter, the Eagles came out strong, moving the ball again on big runs and screen passes. Just when the Bears’ defense made a big stop to force a third and 14, the Eagles connected on a touchdown pass and Spencer County’s once big lead had been shrunk to 23-14 with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.
Penalties then stymied the Spencer County offensive game, forcing a punt on their next possession. However, the Bears’ defense stiffened on the other side of the ball and Spencer County was on the move again to start the final period.
Big runs by Cameron Smith again led the Spencer County attack and the Bears were well inside the red zone again. However, the drive stalled and Calvert came on for a 22-yard field goal attempt.
The kick was blocked and holder Kevin Hume alertly picked up the loose ball and was able to power his way through several defenders into the end zone for the final touchdown of the evening and the Bears were up 30-14 and the defense held Bethlehem at bay the rest of the way.
Napper was happy with the win, but not pleased with the overall performance of his team.
Much of that discontent stems from the penalties flagged against the Bears on Friday.
“I would be unhappy with only one penalty, much less 12. Several were lazy penalties on our part offensively by not moving our feet with a block,” said Napper, who said that even though the offense managed a lot of yards, the penalties kept them out of rhythm much of the night.
“On numerous occasions, one of our backs would have a nice run, only to be nullified by a penalty.”
While the flags were cause for concern, the fact that the Bears proved they could run the ball effectively was not lost on the coach. Cameron Smith gained 217 yards on just 7 carries and Erico Smith had a 100 yards rushing on the night as well. Bryan Harris and Kevin Hume chipped in with good nights as well.
While Napper knows he has some skilled runners, he’s quick to spread the praise.
“The strength of our running game begins with the offensive line,” he said. “Our men up front understand their job and do it very effectively. They take pride in our rushing yards each game. Once the crease has been opened, we have a nice group of backs that have an attitude that each time they touch the ball, they can score.”
Napper said his backs vary in style. Some are elusive and quick, while others run with power and can run over defenders. He said Offensive Coordinator Clark Teague “does a good job of using the diversity of backs along with the diversity of how we attack a defense.”
On defense, Napper said his unit played a very solid game with the exception of surrendering a few big plays.
The Bears are off this Friday which will allow time to work on some weaknesses that have been exposed during the first five games and it will be a chance for some of the guys to rest and get healed up before the 3-2 Bears begin the second half of the season when they host the Montgomery County Indians on Homecoming, October 2.
“One thing our guys are just now starting to realize is that we are far from our potential as a team this year,” said Napper.
“They have shown glimpses of how good they can be and we will use this week to get us closer to what it’s going to take to win a district championship.”
Napper also wanted to express the team’s sympathies to the family of Chaz Goodlett, a freshman student at SCHS who passed away last Friday after suffering a head injury during a fall. A moment of silence before the game was observed in Goodlett’s memory.