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Lackluster Bears trampled by Mustangs

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By John Shindlebower

Spencer County’s recipe for gridiron success this season has included a strong running game and keeping the game close until the final moments. While it’s not always produced a win, the Bears have made a habit out of having games come down to the final moments of the fourth quarter.

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That was until Friday night, when the Bears cooked up something much less appealing in a 28-0 loss on the road at North Oldham.

Looking back at the ingredients and it’s no wonder Coach Wes Napper said it “was by far our worst performance of the year.”

When you start out with a cold, damp evening and watch as your opening kickoff is returned for a touchdown, you know trouble might be ahead. Toss in a young quarterback and what looks to be like a new offense and sprinkle in six turnovers for the contest, it’s no wonder the game left a bad taste in the mouths of Bears’ fans.

“The entire team is disappointed in our lack of execution,” said Napper.

After falling behind 6-0 after North Oldham took the kickoff to the end zone, the Bears took the field with sophomore quarterback Morgan Brown, just promoted from the JV squad, behind center. After picking up one first down, Erico Smith took a handoff but fumbled at midfield. Spencer County’s defense held but on the Bears’ next possession, they were forced to punt, but a fumbled snap led to another turnover and the Mustangs took over on the Bear’s 20 yard line. They scored quickly and were on top 12-0 halfway into the first quarter.

After completing a pass to Logan Dunbar for a first down, Brown’s next pass was deflected off a receiver and then hauled in by a Mustang defender for an interception. That led to another North Oldham drive that was capped off by a 25-yard field goal to give the hosts a 15-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the half.

Another three-and-out series for the Bears gave the Mustangs another opportunity to drive and they took advantage. With just under four minutes in the half, North Oldham scored its third touchdown of the half on a quarterback keeper to build their lead to 21-0.

Spencer County was able to march down into North Oldham territory before the end of the half and faced a 1st and 10 at the Mustang 17 yard-line with 36 ticks left on the clock. However, an interception killed the drive and sent the Bears to the locker room facing a three-touchdown deficit.

“We told our guys at halftime that we played the worst half of football that we could and that they played their best,” said Napper.

The Bears came out in the second half and appeared ready to crawl back into the game with their opening drive. However, Cameron Smith’s nice run to the Mustang 12-yard line ended when he coughed up the ball ending the Bears’ scoring threat.

“The game was well within reach at that point with us getting the ball, but the fumble in the red zone on the first possession was a deflator without a doubt,” said Napper. “We felt like we were making a surge at that point only to lose the ball again on a turnover.”

The two teams played a defensive stalemate the rest of the quarter that included an interception by Spencer County’s Stephen Ashley to halt a North Oldham drive, but which was quickly followed by another Bears’ turnover on an interception on the next play.

Defense dominated the fourth quarter as well until, with just under three minutes remaining, North Oldham was able to tack on another touchdown after a short drive to go up 28-0.

Napper defended the new offensive approach and said earlier in the season that the team needed to do something to provide a more effective passing game.

“We moved the ball well, but couldn’t overcome the turnovers,” said Napper. “We put Morgan in some tough positions and asked him to do maybe too much for his first outing. The key for us is to have positive yards on first and second down to make third down a better situation for our quarterback,” he said.

On the positive side, Napper said he was pleased overall with his defense.

“I was proud of the way our guys played defense Friday. They were put in difficult situations several times and did a great job. I felt that our linebackers had the best game as a unit. They really stepped up.”

Napper said that on a normal night without so many offensive turnovers, his defense played well enough to secure a victory.

On offense for the Bears, Cameron Smith led the way with 84 yards rushing on 15 carries while Erico Smith picked up 55 yards on 11 carries. On defense, leading tackles included David Cross with 12, Kevin Hume with 11, Austin Cook and Michael Wessels with 10 each, Bryan Harris with nine, Trey Wyatt with eight and Logan Dunbar with six.

The Bears still have two tough games remaining, including the home finale this Friday against district leader Henry County, and the final regular season game at 5A power Anderson County.

However, Napper said his squad doesn’t have time to get down about their last performance.

“Our guys understand that senior night is this Friday and we want to send these guys out with a win,” said the coach, who said he really hopes the community will come out and support the team in their final home game on a night where they will honor the senior Bears.

By virtue of their earlier district games, Henry County has won the district but Napper said his squad could get the satisfaction of knocking them off. As for the postseason, the early slate is already set. Spencer County will travel to two-time defending State Champion Louisville Central on November 6.