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By Zack Klemme
MAYSVILLE -- It appeared for a moment that Anderson County's scrimmage at Mason County on Friday night had turned into a repeat of the Bearcats' scrimmage with Danville.
Anderson County coach Mark Peach said "the wheels came off completely for us" in the third quarter against the Admirals. But at Mason County, after the Bearcats surrendered two quick second-quarter touchdowns to the Royals to tie the game, Anderson County scored three unanswered TDs in the final 17 minutes of the scrimmage to win comfortably, 35-14.
"I couldn't be more pleased. Mason County's a solid program," Peach said. "They were a solid opponent tonight, and I thought we got better. ... We were able to play a much better third quarter (than against Danville), so I feel like we've grown since last week."
Bearcats junior quarterback Zach Carmichael ran for three touchdowns and threw for 234 yards and one score, to senior Ross Cox. Senior Sam Laytart rushed for Anderson County's other touchdown.
Carmichael ran for touchdowns of 3 and 11 yards on the visitors' first two possessions.
Mason County struck back on back-to-back possessions in the second of the scrimmage's three 12-minute periods.
Royals senior running back Jaylin Jones broke an ankle tackle on a swing pass from junior quarterback Jake O'Mara and took it 71 yards for a score.
Mason County speedster Tee King recovered Jacob Tompkins' onside boot on the ensuing kickoff, and O'Mara hooked up with senior Carson Fearis for a 24-yard scoring toss.
"I like that we kept playing hard (after falling behind early), and I like that we can turn it around quick and do some good things," Royals coach David Buchanan said.
But that was it for Mason County, and the Bearcats scored when they got the ball back and led the rest of the way.
Carmichael ran for a 9-yard touchdown on an option keeper. Senior kicker Joe Rose booted the third of his five extra points to give Anderson County a 21-14 lead through two frames.
The Bearcats took possession first after intermission and scored again. Carmichael hooked up with Cox for a 78-yard touchdown just over a minute and a half into the third period.
Anderson County hit paydirt once more when Laytart ran right for an 18-yard score.
The scrimmage matched two teams who drew notice from coaches across the Commonwealth in preseason polls. The Bearcats were rated eighth in both the Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader's Class AAAAA coaches' polls, while the Royals were ninth in the Courier-Journal's Class AAA coaches' poll.
Anderson County, 8-3 in 2012, is striving to learn to put opponents away after getting them down.
"I told our guys we don't have to show how much we can overcome adversity every week," Peach said. "We were able to finally kind of put it away in the third quarter, but how about an opportunity to put it away in the first half? That's where we've gotta take the next step, is to execute at a high level all through the game."
The Royals, coming off an 8-5 season that included a Class AAA, District 6 title, expected scrimmaging the Bearcats would help them get better.
"We had some things exposed that have gotta improve," Buchanan said. "I think when you scrimmage good people, you find out some things about yourself that maybe you wouldn't if you didn't, and I think that happened tonight. (Anderson County does) a good job with their football team, especially their offense, and I think they exposed a lot of things we've gotta work on to get better."
Both teams begin their regular seasons Friday. Anderson County travels to George Rogers Clark, and Mason County hosts Boyd County.