LOG MOUNTAIN — The Bell County Bobcats honored their seniors, showed off their depth, and steamrolled McCreary Central 67-0 Thursday night.
“Our biggest thing is we didn’t want to get anybody hurt in a game like this and think we did that,” said Bell coach Wayne Mills. “You can’t fool kids, McCreary has struggled and I think they’d be the first to tell you that. You always want to try and get better and I’m just real happy for our kids to get this big win.”
Ten different Bobcats carried the ball a total of 14 times for 320 yards and eight touchdowns, senior Jonathan Polly led the way with three rushes for 68 yards and two scores. Peyton Collett mixed in 3-of-5 passing for 83 yards and a 32-yard touchdown to senior Tyler Green.
Meanwhile the Bobcat defense held the Raiders to just eleven total yards and McCreary had as many turnovers as first downs in the game (two of each). McCreary’s best play of the night was on the opening kickoff as Matt Whitehead took a reverse hand-off from Noah Duncan on the return and took it 27 yards out to the 37.
From there it was a lot of three-and-outs for the Raiders and a lot of two-or-fewer-and-into-the-end-zones for the Bobcats.
After three runs netted two yards, McCreary punted and Polly had a 72-yard touchdown return called back on a holding call. Bell’s first play from scrimmage saw senior Ryan Collett find a hole off left tackle, run through an arm tackle, pick up a block from Ben Collett to get to the sideline and gallop 66 yards for a touchdown. Hayden Gilbert’s kick made it 7-0 with 9:19 on the first quarter clock. That would be Collett’s only carry of the game.
Senior end Brandon Spade ended the next Raider drive with a sack and after a punt the Bobcats took over at the McCreary 43. Polly ran for 13 yards, then Austin Caldwell scored from 30-yards out on what was just about a carbon copy of Collett’s TD, with Tyler Green providing the downfield block and Caldwell running through one final defender inside the 3-yard line. That made it 14-0 with 6:33 left in the first.
Seniors Jonathan Burnett and Jeffrey Saylor each had tackles for loss on McCreary’s next drive. Polly fielded the punt at around the Raider 46 and picked up about 18 yards before fumbling. Senior fullback D.J. Warwick scooped up the ball and rumbled another 23 yards before tripping up at the five-yard line. The Bobcats led Warwick get the score as he ran it two straight times from there, scoring from two-yards out to stretch the lead to 20-0.
Bell’s next drive started at the McCreary 44. On the first play Peyton Collett faked a hand-off to Caldwell and found nothing but grass as he scampered 44-yards to the end zone for a 26-0 lead with 1:41 still to play in the first quarter.
The Bobcat’s first possession of the second quarter took four plays to cover 55 yards. Collett passed to Green for 25 yards and after an incompletion hit Dylan Cox for 27 more down to the Raider 3. Polly punched it in from there for a 32-0 lead.
Another three plays from McCreary yielded no gain and Green took a short pass from Collett 32 yards down the left sideline for another Bobcat touchdown. Senior William Elliott ran in the two-point conversion and the score was 40-0 with 6:08 remaining in the first half.
Polly added a 54-yard touchdown run on another one-play drive and Gilbert’s kick made it 47-0 at the half.
Before halftime, McCreary did pick up their first first down of the game on a 12-yard run from Codey Stephens.
Just about all of the Bobcat starters were in street close by the start of the second half. A good reward for a team that’s met all of the regular season goals to this point in the season.
“If you take just a minute and look back at the season, beating Wayne County and beating Corbin was our two big games. All the other games are important, too, but we’ve done everything we need to do to get ourselves to this point. We’ve got homefield in the playoffs and that’s what our big goal was,” Mills said. “We can set here all the way through and what an advantage that is to our team to have our community and our fans behind us. Now we’ve just got to keep getting better, stay hungry and prepare like a champion on and off the field.”
The JV played the entire second half for the Bobcats, but the results were mostly the same. Jake Barton broke a 65-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter and Brandon Ayers added the conversion run.
With the clock continuing to roll, the Bobcats got runs of 24 yards from Kyle Lee and 14 yards from Evan Brock to set up a 3-yard TD run from Corey Swanner and it was 61-0 with 3:40 left in the third.
Hunter Hurst forced a fumble in the backfield on the next McCreary drive and big freshman Nate Murray recovered. The Bobcats weren’t able to move the ball from the Raider 22, but Aaron Jenkins intercepted a Zack Clark pass at the 22 and returned it for a touchdown with 6:40 to play to set the final at 67-0.
McCreary Central (1-8) hosts Jackson County next Friday while Bell County (8-1) travels to Harlan County.
“Harlan County is a great football team and I think it’s a great game for both of us right before the playoffs. It’s a pride game, it doesn’t mean anything as far as the standings but the fans love to cheer about it and everything. I say this game’s for the old coal miners. Bell County and Harlan County guys work together underground in these mines and they pull for their boys,”said Mills.
“It’s not going to make or break our season, but we look forward to playing those guys. Coach Larkey and his staff do an excellent job. He’s one of the best coaches in the state of Kentucky and it’s an honor for me to coach against him.”
The Black Bears have been hoping to be able to open up their new stadium for next week’s game, but Mills said he hasn’t been told yet if it will be ready to host the game.
“Hopefully we’ll find out early next week,” he said. “It don’t matter where we play, it’s going to be a great atmosphere no matter what. I wish we could play on that new field, that would be a great way to open up that stadium but it’s going to be up to their administration.”
Prior to kick-off Bell County honored all of their seniors. The players were lined up and introduced to the crowd along with their families as they stretched all the way from one ten-yard line to the other.
“It gets emotional. I believe I cried on every one of them when they read their bios and everything,” Mills said. “You just get close to kids and this night was about them and their families for me because they have committed so much to this program. We just wanted to honor them and I think this was very fitting tonight.”