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It was heartbreak in Hodgenville on Friday night for the Spencer County Bears as a potentially game-winning 35-yard field goal attempt sailed a little wide to the left with just seconds left on the clock, sending the Bears to a 14-12 loss to LaRue County.
A hard-fought battle from the very beginning, Spencer County took the ball at its own 22-yard-line with just under four minutes remaining to attempt a game winning drive. Behind the tough running of Shawn Boykin, the Bears were able to march down the field and into LaRue County territory.
With under a minute remaining, they faced a first-and-ten at the Hawk 14-yard line, but were unable to get to the end zone, forcing a fourth-down field goal attempt by Tyler Fleig. The kick was solid but barely missed the mark and the dejected Bears could do little to stop the Hawks from running out the remaining few seconds to secure the win.
“It was a very tough loss, but one we will have to bounce back from,” said Bears Coach Mike Marksbury.
“We continually hurt ourselves with penalties, turnovers and blown assignments. The small things are really hurting us and we have to find some answers to our offensive issues.”
The Bears did mount a pretty effective running game, especially considering that two of Spencer County’s best backfield performers are out with injuries. Boykin gained 110 yards on the night and freshman Logan Holbrook picked up 95. However, untimely turnovers stalled a couple of promising drives and there are still struggles with the passing game.
On defense, the Bears once again looked dominating at times. For the second straight game, they held their opponent to less than 100 total yards, but it was a big play on special teams that put LaRue County ahead.
Trailing 7-6 early in the second half, the Bears were forced to punt. Chase Smith booted a nice kick deep into LaRue County territory, but the punt coverage collapsed and the Hawk returner was able to weave out of tackles and found open room all the way for a touchdown to make it 14-6.
The Bears were able to answer early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Trent Holbrook scored on a four-yard keeper. A two-point conversion attempt to tie the game failed, making it 14-12. Spencer County’s first touchdown came in the first half when the younger Holbrook brother The Bears defense again got praise from Marksbury, but that made the final outcome that much more frustrating.
“You should never lose a game when you hold an opponent to 23 yards rushing and 43 yards passing. Our defense was rock solid and I believe only gave up one first down in the second half,” he said.
The game left both LaRue County and Spencer County with identical 1-2 records and Marksbury said it appeared at times as though the Hawks played with more fire.
“We knew we would get LaRue County’s best game. It was their home opener and they felt they owed us one and we failed to match their intensity,” he said. Last season, the Bears won a 21-20 thriller at home over the Hawks.
In addition to adjusting their offense, Marksbury said the other key parts of the Bears game that need fine tuning are special teams and eliminating turnovers.
“You can’t give up points in the special teams and win,” he said. “It was disappointing and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I have confidence in our special teams and we will continue to improve.”
He said it was special teams that also gave up the go-ahead punt return touchdown, and said that’s another area that will get attention this week.
On Friday, the Bears return home to face rival Bullitt East. Last year, the Bears suffered one of their most disappointing losses of the season in Mount Washington with a 7-6 loss to the Chargers, and this is an opportunity to rebound.
“I love my team and I know they will be ready Friday to get us back on track,” Marksbury said. “It’s a big rivalry team, Bullitt East is a solid team and I know we’ll have a big crowd and our team will be ready.”