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No matter what the LaRue County Hawks tried Friday night, they couldn’t get their running game going against the Marion County Knights.
LaRue County, which entered the second round of the Class 4-A playoffs averaging 280 yards a game on the ground, was held to 104 yards in a 41-14 loss to Marion County in Lebanon.
“We couldn’t get the ball going,” LaRue County senior fullback Ryan Wafford said. “We just weren’t getting a good push, and that went over to the defense, which was on the field a lot.”
LaRue County junior running back Alex Lee was limited to 39 yards on 15 carries, while Wafford and sophomore fullback Drew Newberry combined for 19 yards on 12 attempts.
Freshman quarterback Jordan Brewer added 30 yards on eight carries as the Knights (10-2) constantly stifled LaRue County’s ground game.
“They were definitely ready,” LaRue County senior lineman Tyler Davenport said. “They came out strong and they were ready to hit and they were ready to take us down anytime. They were just quick off the ball. We weren’t hitting like we were supposed to. We just had a hard time.”
While LaRue County struggled to get anything going, Marion County had no trouble getting its ground game up and running.
Senior running back Dylan Peterson rushed for a game-high 112 yards on 10 carries and the Knights gained 322 of their 379 yards on the ground. Entering Friday night, Marion County was averaging 344 rushing yards per game.
“It’s not surprising. The bottom line is they’re big, physical, strong and fast. They are a good football team,” LaRue County coach Rodney Armes said. “You can’t take nothing away from Marion County, they are a very solid football team and I think they will win the region and do well the rest of the year.”
When the Hawks (7-5) ventured away from the run, they found success. Brewer completed 4-of-7 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, while senior quarterback Lucas Chaudoin had a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 28-0 in the second quarter, Brewer found sophomore running back Shaquille Cox streaking down the near sideline. Brewer hit Cox in stride, and Cox outran two Marion County defenders to the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown to slice the lead to 28-7 just before halftime.
“It was a relief. It gave us a chance,” Wafford said. “It felt good when we came out after halftime, but we couldn’t get it done. We’re a good team, so we thought we could pull it off.”
But LaRue County didn’t.
Marion County scored on the opening possession of the second half as senior running back Bryson Bell scored on a 1-yard run with 9:52 remaining for a 34-7 lead. The Hawks went three-and-out on consecutive drives in the third quarter before tacking on their final score with 9:24 left to play.
“I believe we just didn’t come out ready to play,” Davenport said. “They were ready and we weren’t, and we should have came out ready. There’s just nothing you can say, except we weren’t ready.
“I think it was a little bit of fear, but we shouldn’t have feared them,” he added. “We’re just as big and we could have hit them just as hard. There was just a little intimidation factor. If we came out like we were supposed to, I think that would have made the game completely different.”
On the first drive of the game, LaRue County converted one third down and was poised for another on a scramble by Brewer. But after running for 15 yards on third-and-10 from the Hawks 29, Brewer fumbled while being tackled and Marion County recovered it at the 45.
Three plays later on third-and-14, Bell caught a 49-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Peterson and senior kicker Mark Corbett tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 6:56 left in the first quarter.
“We had a real hard time moving the ball and a real hard time getting first downs,” Armes said. “I think that ended up being the difference. We couldn’t move the ball, they were just too tough.”
The Knights scored on their next three possessions to build a 28-0 lead before the Hawks finally got on the board.
Marion County converted five third-down plays during that stretch.
“I thought we got a couple of nice first downs in the first quarter on our first drive, but the fumble hurt us,” Armes said. “Then we had them third down and long and they break coverage, and that’s something we’ve got to get better at. That’s been our M.O. all season long. We’re snake-bitten on third-and-long, and we’ve got to fix that for next year.”