9 Takeaways from Week 14 in Football
9 Takeaways From Week 14 in Football
It’s NEVER Over Til It’s OVER!
Usually, when a team is up by more than a pair of touchdowns late in the game, it’s pretty safe to assume the game is over, Right? Especially deep in the playoffs where defenses are better and the offenses are more effective. Well, that theory took a beating last week when LaRue County fell behind by 20-points against Elizabethtown on the road in a Region Championship game in Class 3-A. The 40-32 come-from-behind win wasn’t nearly impossible, it was probably just as improbable as well. The comeback was as dramatic as it was unconcieved as both teams played in a classic which left as many question marks as it did spine tingling conclusions.
Panthers Started Fast!
That was never more evident when Elizabethtown’s offense went VROOM!!!! In the first quarter scoring four touchdowns and bolting out to a 25-6 lead after Joesph Becherer’s 40-yard run that closed out the first quarter with just 00:25 left. Overall, Elizabethtown ran up a staggering 211-yards offensively in the first quarter alone and took advantage of an early Hawk turnover to set up their first score. At that point the games outcome seemed to be a foregone conclusion at that point.
Missed Points Prove Costly!
When you lose a game like that, one thing that seems to jump out at you are the missed scoring opportunities and for the Panthers they can look at at least three-points (or five, if you count the two point attempts that failed) that were lost in the first quarter alone. Also, the defense came up with two more turnovers in the second quarter and Elizabethtown Quarterback Clay Games had a pass intercepted at the goaline to stop another drive. Also, the Panthers stopped several Hawk drives in the second half on an interception on an over throw by LaRue County quarterback Conner Baker and a fumble recovery also stopped another Hawk drive, but the Panthers got only seven after the pick on Becherer’s touchdown in the third quarter to make the lead 32-12.
Running To Daylight!
Trailing by 20-points going into the fourth quarter, the Hawks never really abandoned their game plan of running the football especially behind the right side of their offensive line. An offensive attack which at sometimes seems a bit one dimensional as LaRue County’s doesn’t usually panic, but with time dying there was a sense of urgency as they completed a long drive that began late in the third quarter and neded early in the fourth with a one –yard scoring run by Russell Young to cut the lead to 32-18. The running game continued to pound out big chunks of yardage as the game progressed, but they still needed a little bit of luck to complete the comeback.
That’s Why the Kicking Game Wins Championships!
In a matter of speaking, attempting an onside kick more than once or squik kicking is usually not a high percentage play, but when the Hawks junior kicker Silas Taylor tried it three times in succession, the results were mixed. After scoring a touchdown, Silas’ onside kick sled right through several Panthers and went out of bounds giving them possession, but they squandered it when Elizabethtown failed on a fourth-and-one from the 39-yardline with 9:02 remaining. Sila’s second squiber bounced off a Panther and was recovered by LaRue County as they drove to the game tying score (with a successful two-point conversion). The next kick was also recovered by the Hawks and they drove downfield eventually scoring to finally take the lead for the first time at 38-32.
Going For Two!
Ever since the Hawks have had issues with a placekicker, it has been head coach Josh Jaggers penchant to go for two after each touchdown. That worked to perfection in the Caldwell County game, but it was unsuccessful for the first four times they tried it against Elizabethtown until they scored to make it 32-30, then they ran pretty much the same play with quarterback Conner Baker running wide to the right side and scoring. After Anthony Atkins scored the game winning touchdown to make it 38-32, Baker ran it in again behind their big offensive line to put them up 40-32 with 00:31 remaining in regulation.
Senior runner Anthony Atkins was just getting started in the fourth quarter scoring three touchdowns all together, but the last two are the ones everyone will remember as his 5-yard run that came with 4:39 left in game that eventually tied the score and then the game winner on a drive that came on a fourth-and-three on a run around right end that capped the dramatic comeback. Atkins finished with 214-yards and three scores, but this one will be remembered for a long time as it climaxed an incredible comeback. Both he and Jeremiah Belton (116-yards rushing -1-TD) were the beasts of burden and a marvelous job by the Hawks O-Line which kept pounding out holes for the runners and the infrequent passing of Baker.
It had been a long time since the Hawks had beaten the Panthers (six years on 10/12/2012 33-6) and most of the scores were pretty ugly. In fact, the last time these two teams met was October 12th at LaRue County and the final score was 42-14. So what happened different this time?
-The offense never abandoned their game plan even when things looked bleak.
-The defense came up with a big interception which prevented a possible 32-6 Elizabethtown lead in the second quarter. In fact, the defense became more effective as the game wore on the second half once setting up a short field after stopping the Panthers on a fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter and getting pressure on Elizabethtown quarterback Clay Games on his last possession to force a tie.
-The Hawks were able to overcome five turnovers and still won.
– They coverted two straight onside kicks (meaning the Panthers were not on offense for a longtime) and two straight two-point conversions after shooting blanks before that. In many ways, this was a little like the pace of the Caldwell County playoff game just the previous week when they were able to outscore the Tigers, 44-41, behind Atkins 301-yards rushing and 4-TDS and pull out a fantastic finish.
Funny? After watching this same Hawk team lose to Campbellsville on the last regular season game, you would be hard pressed to imagine them coming from behind twice in consecutive playoff games after that mess. Now, they get another challenge in Louisville Central next Friday Night on the road in the Yellowjackets swan song as they move up to 4-A next season. I’m sure Jaggers and the Hawks would like to make it a sweet good-bye tune if they pull out a victory.
Second Half Collapse!
Anytime you win a game like this one, there are always questions as to what happened on the other side and Elizabethtown head coach Mark Brown will have a long time to ponder that. The offense, which looked so explosive in the first quarter only scored once after that and consistantly missed opportunities to score after second half turnovers. The defense, which looked so brillant after the teams’ slow start in the season suddenly looked like the one which was overrun by Franklin-Simpson, North Hardin and CAL in the second half against LaRue County. Much of that had to do with the inability of the offense to sustain drives (other than the one scoring drive) and the defense was forced to stop a runaway train. The Hawks piled up 417-yards on the ground all told and eventually wore down the Panthers D-Line in the fourth quarter. Also, the inablity to cover the last two onside kicks didn’t help meaning the defense didn’t have a break between the three touchdowns by the Hawks. All during the second half, I never heard any of the Panther coaching staff express confidence that the game was under control even when they were up by 20. So for the first time since 2014 (which was Brown’s first season at Elizabethtown), the Panthers will spend Thanksgiving without worrying about a Friday afternoon practice in preperation for a Final Four match, but the memory will be something from last Friday Night’s game that will unfortunately last a longtime.