Football Full Circle

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By John Herndon

Football went from the days of the Fearsome Foursome to Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison and back Friday.

On a night when Anderson County honored the 1968 Central Kentucky Conference champions - "We gave up just 70 points in 11 games," those Bearcats like to say - in a pre-game ceremony, the current Bearcats and Grant County put on a can-you-top-this first half of offensive pyrotechnics but it was an old-fashioned, control-the-line defense that turned a video game look-alike into a 58-21 Anderson rout.

Consider that in the first 24 minutes, the teams combined to put up 51 points, nearly 400 yards of offense and had torched each other for four scores from 15 yards or more. It was a half that saw scoring drives total 9, 17 and 34 seconds.

Bearcat quarterback Jacob Russell and tight end Grant Cox teamed up on scoring passes of 37, 16 and 9 yards during the first 24 minutes

It took some halftime adjustments to bring things back to a sense of normalcy.

Grant, which had picked up 159 yards in the first half, finished with 200. Braves' quarterback Joe Soden, who lit up an Anderson pass defense that came into the game ranked second in the state with repeated big plays in the first 24 minutes, managed just 19 yards through the air after the break.

"Our line had been going too deep in the first half," said Anderson coach Mark Peach. "We wanted them to go three yards and stop."

It was a simple containment move that virtually shut down Grant's talented signal caller, who finished with 135 yards passing and 18 on the ground, one less than he had at halftime.

"Coach had told us coming into the game that he was just as dangerous with his feet as his arm," said Anderson defensive end Grant Cox.

But that move, coupled with some personnel changes to better match up with Grant's receiving corps, completely changed the nature of things.

"When it was 30-21, I thought it might end up being a 48-45 game or something like that," Anderson coach Mark Peach said. "Coach (Duane) Hammons did a fantastic job. He is a defensive genius."

Hammons, the Bearcats' defensive coordinator, said Grant's only wrinkle had not been on film was a play in which Soden went in motion with the ball snapped directly to a deep back.

But Peach said the big difference was the emotion and execution of a Grant team that some expected to contend for the district championship. "They came in and played much better. It wasn't even close," Peach said. "Grant County is a quality football team."

Anderson threatened to send Grant back to Dry Ridge quickly, needing just 2:29 to go in front 14-0 as Russell found Cox, first on the left side, then to the right for quick scoring passes. Cox was all alone on the Bearcats' first offensive play, taking a soft arc from Russell at the 20, then waltzing the rest of the way for the score.

"That play has always been open," Cox said.

After B.J. Robinson dislodged the ball from Grant County's Dillon Pelfrey, defensive tackle Justin Gregory scooped it up, returning it 12 yards to just inside the Grant 5. A six-yard loss and a penalty later, Russell found Cox again for the score.

Gregory, a senior who had never played before, hesitated when given the lineman's universal dream of running the ball.

"It was like, 'There is a fumble!'" said Gregory, who admitted to taking some ribbing from his teammates about not being able to score.

Grant, however, responded by needing just five plays to go 75 yards for the score. Fullback Rex Benson rumbled 10 yards for the touchdown, but Soden stunned the Bearcats on the first play with a 41-yard strike to Justin Mertz. Anderson did not help its own cause with a pass interference penalty at its own 20.

Grant tied it on Pelfrey's 29-yard run, then after Anderson's Sam Williams drilled a 31-yard field goal, the Braves responded with Terrell Spray making a diving grab of Soden's 44-yard bomb in the end zone. The Anderson rout had turned into a 21-17 deficit.

"I think we thought it was done," Cox said.

It was fool's gold.

"I knew Grant County was going to score," he said. "They have some weapons. I tould have been surprised if they didn't. They made some incredible plays. They played a great game. Soden is a fantastic player."

Anderson regained the lead when Cox took a Russell pass, then barely made it inside the right flag for their third score of the night. Russell added a 1-yard sneak with 1:44 to go before halftime.

The Bearcats put things out of reach in the first six minutes of the second half, driving 65 yards in just three plays following the second half kickoff. Russell picked up his fourth scoring pass of the night, firing 23 yards to Dustin Combs.

"Jake had told us that he thought the post route would be there," Peach said.

"We had talked (Thursday) that they played only one safety and we thought it would be there," Russell said.

Four minutes later, Combs found the goal line again, this time from 20 yards after teammate Thomas Fint blocked Justin Loomis' punt.

"That blocked punt was it," Peach said.

Anderson finished with 399 yards of offense with Russell completing 14 of 18 passes for 247 yards and being in on five touchdowns. "I felt pretty good tonight," Russell said.

Putting up some big numbers will do that.

But to the Bearcats, the big number was 1-0, Anderson's district record.

"That was the big thing," Peach said. "You will win some games 7-6 and have others like the first half tonight. You just have to find a way to get it done."

And, in keeping with what seems to have become the Bearcats' season theme, Cox acknowledged that they are 1-0 in district play but have bigger things in mind. "We are happy," he said, "but we aren't satisfied."

Game notes

Anderson got a big game out of senior B.J. Robinson. In addition to causing the early fumble, Robinson rushed for 78 yards on 12 carries, scoring two touchdowns.

He caught two passes for 36 yards and picked off a Soden pass. A defensive back, Robinson was second on the Bearcats with seven tackles.

Cox, who had scored two touchdowns last year at Western Hills, had a personal varsity best with his three scores. "I might have had three one time in little league," he said.