LOG MOUNTAIN — Bell County’s defense held Clay County to just 90 total yards — 33 of which came in the final minute of the game — and the Bobcats pulled away for a 39-0 win on homecoming Friday night.
“We pride ourselves on defense. Our whole philosophy is that anybody can play defense, but it takes heart and dedication and I feel like our kids buy in to that,” Bobcat coach Wayne Mills said. “Those eleven kids on defense play for each other, they play hard and they just want to do their job. That’s the reason we’re playing good defense.
“Our kids aren’t big, but when they run onto the field, they can wait to get out there. I’m really excited about them because defense late in the year is going to be big for us and win ballgames down the stretch.”
Senior running back Jonathan Polly led the Bell ground game with 22 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Collett added 72 yards and two TDs on six carries and Chase Woolum chipped in late with three carries for 29 yards and a score.
The Bobcats also opened up the passing game as freshman quarterback Peyton Collett completed 8-of-16 passes for 103 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown to Dylan Cox.
It was the passing game taking center stage early on as Collett hooked up with Ben Collett for gains of 14 and 9 yards. Polly broke a 38-yard run and Ryan Collett capped the opening drive with a 3-yard TD plunge for a 6-0 lead with 8:44 to play in the first quarter.
“You know Peyton is a fierce competitor and he can make all the throws. He can make every throw on the football field if we just give him time,” Mills said. “That’s what we did tonight. We play-actioned, the line gave him time, and he put it in there.”
Ryan Collett added a 63-yard touchdown run midway through the quarter and Peyton Collett ran in the conversion to make it 14-0.
The Bobcats got the ball back late in the period and went 65-yards on just three plays. Polly came wide open on an underneath sideline route, got a block down field from Tyler Green and went for a 35-yard gain. A horse collar penalty advanced the ball to the Clay nine. From there Green picked up six yards on a quick receiver screen and Polly capped the drive with a 3-yard run. Hayden Gilbert’s kick made it 21-0 with 11:09 to play in the first half.
The score remained 21-0 at the half and the third quarter saw both defenses continue to play well. Clay went three and out to open the quarter and the Bobcats lost a fumble on their opening drive of the second half.
“Clay is a much-improved team and Evan Napier is doing a great job with them and they’re headed in the right direction,” Mills added. “This was a good win right here for us against a pretty good football team.
Gilbert came up with an interception on a deep ball and later booted a 53-yard punt to pin the Tigers back at their own 21.
After another three and out, the Bobcats took over at their own 44 and marched 66 yards on 11 plays. Polly ran it seven times for 19 tough yards on the drive, including four big yards on a 4th & 2. The big plays were a 15-yard hook-up from Peyton Collett to Green on a slant and a pass interference penalty that Green drew on a 4th down play that gave the Bobcats a 1st down at the 12. From there, Collett faked a hand-off and found Cox open near the goal line. The sophomore tight end hauled in the pass and ran through a tackle for the touchdown. Bell County’s lead was 27-0 with 9:24 to play in the game.
“We want to run the ball, but we’re not going to beat our heads against the wall. We knew their corners were playing off soft and we were going to throw some underneath hitches and set up some play-action,” Mills said. “We’re going to keep doing what we do and try to keep getting better at it.”
The Bell defense sacked Clay County quarterback Ryan Holland four times in the game — two from William Elliott and one each from Joe Jackson and Jeffrey Saylor. Elliott and D.J. Warwick provided the pressure as Holland threw three incompletions on the next Tiger drive.
Later Jackson recovered a fumble at the Clay 18 and three Polly runs led to a touchdown and it was 33-0 with 5:56 to play.
Freshman Chase Woolum added a 10-yard touchdown run late to set the final at 39-0.
Big Clay offensive lineman Jacob Hyde, a UK signee, made a few nice blocks as the lead man on sweeps but was never able to help the Tigers sustain a ground game against Bell.
“When he wants to play he can dominate, he just has to get someone to drive him. I think against the competition level here he just feels like he can go slow motion. He’s got all the tools to be great when he gets up there against SEC linemen,” Mills said. “I hope he does well up there at UK, that would be great for a Mountain kid to go up there and do well. I wish him the best of luck, he’s a great young man.”
Sam Carr led Clay County with 52 runs on 15 carries. Arnold Arnett added 33 yards on three carries over the final minute. Holland was 3-of-14 passing for 12 yards.
The Tigers (3-4) host Russell County next Friday while Bell County (6-1) travel to Corbin.
“This next game is for a district championship for us, that’s what it comes down to. Corbin is a team that has nothing to lose, we’re their big targets and I’m sure they’ll go all-out to beat us,” said Mills. “You’ll see every formation, they’ll try every trick play and we’ve just got to be prepared and go in there with the right frame of mind.”