COLUMN: Searching for answers

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South Oldham game turned out bigger than we thought

By John Herndon

We grope for answers. We try to figure out what happened.

We search for a clear explanation when the explanations aren't nearly as clear as the mud that made up the football fields Anderson County played on this season.

This was supposed to be the year that Anderson County made the next step. At least get to the third game of the state playoffs and hope that things take care of themselves once there. Instead, Doss will be trying to avenge an earlier 52-8 loss to John Hardin this week, not  Anderson County playing in the much-anticipated shootout at Elizabethtown

I wish there were easy answers, but they just aren't there.

What is clear is that Anderson County is not where it wants to be yet. The good programs have winning seasons and get to the playoffs. The very good set the bar a bit higher – Top 10 or win playoff games, hope to advance. The great – the Highlandses, the Bowling Greens, the Beechwoods of the world – expect to be around for a long time after the final regular season game is played.

Right now, Anderson is a very good program. It has been winning a lot of games, 33 to be exact, over the last four years. But it is not elite yet. The elite rarely give playoff games away like Anderson did against Doss.

Make no mistake, Doss had incredible athletes. Anderson coach Mark Peach referred to that in his post-game interview on Friday. “John, they are really fast,” he said. His tone was one that indicated that no single word can really describe how athletically gifted Doss actually is.

Still the tears were shed over a game that Anderson felt it should have won on Friday night.

Was there a turning point in the season?

For seven weeks, Anderson was destroying teams. No team stayed within a touchdown of the Bearcats and only one, Meade County, kept the margin of defeat in single digits. Henry County, a team that is still alive, tasted a 42-7 defeat. Garrard County, another team still alive, was down 47-3 before calling timeout before scoring in the final minute of the season openter.

Defining a turning point is difficult, but I will submit the South Oldham game on Oct. 16 as the nominee. Going in, Anderson was winning by an average of 42-14. Nothing that was thrown at the Bearcats stuck.

Until South Oldham.

Anderson won that ugly game, 29-19, but South Oldham might have shattered Anderson's budding aura of invincibility. Remember, the week before, Anderson had just routed a previously unbeaten Bullitt Central team, 42-7. It might have been worse than that.

 The following week, however, a weak South Oldham team put up a fight into the fourth quarter. It would also be the game when the Bearcats suffered two injuries they could not afford when Dustin Combs broke a bone in his wrist and Neal Wells went down for the season with a knee injury.

You cannot overstate what those injuries did to the Bearcats. While Combs played gallantly, even scoring some touchdowns in the final three games, his injury took away some of his effectiveness. He played  but was obviously not the same as before.

All Wells was becoming was someone that could be counted on for the big play and keep teams from keying on Grant Cox, which happened at Oldham County. Wells had emerged during the season, making big plays on both sides of the ball. The image of Wells catching a pass over the middle at Henry County, taking a major lick and holding on to the ball is one of those images that just stays with you. While other kids, such as Matt Sprague and Hunter Lilly, stepped up and became bigger parts of the offense after Wells went down, that injury was huge.

And that's why Anderson County isn't there yet. Good and very good programs rarely overcome setbacks. The great ones nearly always do.

Mark Peach is a great football coach who has won big everywhere he has been. He knows the enormous potential at Anderson.

It can be a great program if all involved in Bearcat football believe it can happen.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.