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The Spencer County Bears fell for the eighth consecutive game Friday night, losing to district foe North Oldham 42-32 in a game that saw plenty of bright spots for the Bears, but once again, too many mistakes.
Three turnovers gave the visiting Mustangs too many extra scoring opportunities and the Bears are now looking at just two games remaining on their schedule to avoid a winless season.
The game began in familiar fashion as the Bears allowed an early score when the Mustangs took their opening drive 85 yards in six rushing plays and scored on a 7-yard run to go up 7-0.
However, the Bears seemed determined to answer back, and behind the running of seniors Kevin Hume and Bryan Harris, marched down the field. Hume apparently scored on a run, but the play was called back on a holding penalty and the drive ended with Tyler Calvert kicking a 27-yard-field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Spencer County has seen luck bounce the wrong way all year and it happened again on North Oldham’s next possession. A Mustang running back was stripped of the ball as he broke into the open, only to have the ball bounce perfectly off the ground and back into his hands as he raced toward the end zone to give his team a 14-10 lead near the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with Spencer County again mounting another impressive drive behind the running of Hume and Harris, this time scoring on a short goal line run by Harris to make it 14-10 with 9:45 left in the half.
Spencer County’s defense, a spotty unit most of the year, then surrendered another scoring drive to the Mustangs as they quickly answered to go up 21-10 with just under five minutes remaining in the half.
Then the mistakes hit and Spencer County really dug themselves into a hole. Facing a first and ten at their own 26-yard-line, the Bears abandoned their running game for a play, but sophomore quarterback Trent Holbrook’s pass was picked off and taken to the end zone for a quick North Oldham score, putting them up 28-10.
Another Spencer County interception led to a North Oldham field goal attempt that was wide left, but the Bears were unable to score before the end of the half, leaving them with a 28-10 deficit at intermission.
Spencer County came out in the second half determined to make a game of it and did. Behind an offensive line that played up to its preseason hype, the Bears dominated the line of scrimmage and ran the ball effectively down the field, with Harris scoring from three yards out to cut the lead to 28-17.
However, North Oldham answered with an impressive drive of their own and scored on an 11-yard run to go up 35-17, which is where the score stood going into the final quarter.
The Bears again controlled the line of scrimmage and marched down the field with Harris scoring his fourth TD of the night from 10 yards out. A successful two point conversion attempt made it a 10-point game at 35-25 with just over ten minutes remaining.
Unfortunately, the Bears’ defense proved unable to stop the Mustangs when they needed to, surrendering another touchdown drive that put the visitors up 42-25 with just under seven minutes left.
The Bears did have time to score one last time. The final score was set up by a pass from Holbrook to Morgan Brown that put the ball inside the five-yard line of North Oldham, and sophomore Cody Chesser ran up the middle and across the goal line to make it 42-32 with just over a minute remaining for the final score of the night.
Bears’ Coach Wes Napper said turnovers proved costly for the Bears and has killed their chances in district play.
“Our 0-2 district record is mostly contributed to one factor, turnover margin,” he said. Prior to the district play, the Bears were plus five in turnover margin, but in their two district games, they’re minus four.
“That means we have given the opponent four more opportunities to score. The way to correct that is to protect the ball on offense and create some takeaways on defense,” he said.
The big bright spot for Spencer County however was their running game, which starts up front with a line that Friday night dominated their opponent.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage as we expected them to,” said Napper of his line’s performance.
With senior Erico Smith out indefinitely with an ankle injury, the bulk of the ball carrying duty fell to Hume and Harris, who both produced.
“Bryan (Harris) has done a great job for us all season and especially these last two weeks. He has picked up a tremendous load with Erico being out and has been successful,” said Napper. Harris has rushed for 442 yards the last two games, with five touchdowns.
Hume, lining up at fullback, is counted on to pick up some tough yards and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this year and has scored three touchdowns.
Napper also noted that Chesser, who just returned from an injury, will be counted on to help the rushing attack as the season winds down.
Friday’s contest was a very physical game that had coaches on the Bears’ sideline upset. Players are taught to play to the whistle blows and several plays seemed to go on before a whistle signaled a stop in action, and even then, there was a lot of contact after the play ended. There was one ejection for North Oldham and numerous personal fouls on both teams.
Spencer County will now travel to Henry County Friday for the final district matchup, and then return on October 29 to host Anderson in the regular season finale. It looks as though Spencer will travel to Louisville Central in the opening round of the playoffs that begin in November.