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MOUNT STERLING – Granville Hayes had the perfect analysis of Anderson County's 27-8 win at Montgomery County Friday night.
“Have a feeling imma be taking an ice bath in the morning,” he said on his Twitter account not long after the Bearcats had won their first district match-up of the season.
Anyone who was in attendance at Cunningham Field knows why. Hayes ran for 126 yards, a career-high, and scored a touchdown. He caught 10 passes, also a career-best, for 104 yards and a score.
For good measure, Hayes pounced on a fumble that stopped Montgomery's game-opening drive inside the Bearcat 10. We are not sure if he drove the team bus up Interstate 64 for a game that many had circled as perhaps the most crucial on the schedule.
Instead, it was no contest.
Big game? Only on Anderson's stat sheet. The Bearcats put up 472 yards of offense, registered 23 first downs and did not even punt until midway through the third quarter.
“We knew it was a big game, but we play every game like it is a big game,” Hayes said as the Bearcats improved to 4-1. Most importantly, they are 1-0 in district. Montgomery fell to 4-1, 0-1.
Anderson's domination was so complete, the final score might actually be closer than the game actually was. The Bearcats moved the ball on the ground, piling up 229 yards. They moved the ball through the air as quarterback Zachary Carmichael completed 17 of 25 passes for 243 yards.
Meanwhile the Anderson defense was just as dominating, holding a team that had been averaging better than 26 points and almost 400 yards a game to a lone touchdown and 185 yards. Montgomery senior Matt Tuttle, considered by some as one of the better quarterbacks in the state, ran for his life most of the night, running for just 11 yards but throwing for 154.
That he was able to put up even those numbers was a testament to his considerable ability.
Running back Blake Preston, who had been averaging 111 yards per game, managed just 20.
“Pretty much, everybody was just doing their job,” said junior linebacker Nathan Cox, who led a balanced Anderson defense with 3 tackles and 3 assists.
“For the most part, I was proud of our defense,” Anderson coach Mark Peach said. “They were disciplined in their lanes. When (Tuttle) would cut back, there was somebody waiting for him. When you slow somebody like that down, you have to be playing together.”
Eleven Anderson penalties, ranging from illegal procedures to a crucial roughing the passer, aided the Indians.
“Some of the mistakes were huge,” Peach said. “We had the roughing the passer call and in the first half we had some issues snapping the ball.” Anderson was flagged for four false starts in the first half.
The roughing the passer, coming when it appeared Anderson had stopped Montgomery on downs early in the fourth quarter, led to Montgomery's only score. Three plays after the penalty, Tuttle connected with Chas Newkirk for Montgomery's only touchdown. On the ensuing point after attempt, Tuttle scrambled wildly after not being able to cleanly set the hold, then found a receiver for the two-point conversion.
The problem for Montgomery was that the touchdown only made it 20-8.
Anderson had taken control early in the second quarter when the Bearcats marched 84 yards in 9 plays. Hayes did the honors on a 5-yard pass from Carmichael with 9:23 left in the first half. When Hayes leaped into the end zone and Joe Rose drilled the extra point, Anderson led 10-0.
It would never get closer. It could have been worse.
Anderson had stopped Montgomery's first drive when Hayes pounced on Joe Chism's fumble at the Bearcat 6. Tuttle had connected with Chism for a 30-yard gainer on the final play of what was easily the Indians' most productive drive of the night. Chism bobbled the ball momentarily before fumbling away.
There was no indecision on the official's part in ruling the ball had been caught before the fumble.
Anderson finally stalled at the Montgomery 11 before Rose split the uprights for a field goal from 28 yards.
After holding the hosts to a three-and-out, Anderson put together its first touchdown march.
The Bearcats got on the board again midway through the second quarter, forcing a Montgomery punt – the Indians had just two first downs in the first half – then seeing Rose just barely clear the cross bar on a 39-yard field goal to make it 13-0. Two false starts, including one after the Bearcats had a first-and-10 at the Montgomery 25, stalled the drive.
The Bearcats effectively put things out of reach when Carmichael hit Dusty Puckett for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Puckett ran a sharp pattern, cutting just inside the defender at the goal line.
Carmichael at times did not look as sharp as he had in earlier games, but Peach said Montgomery had a lot to do with that.
“They did a nice job,” he said. “They tried to get physical with us and disrupt our timing a little bit. Montgomery County ran a legion of blitzes. I am not talking about the usual package of six or 10 or a dozen. They have a legion of blitzes. We tried to work on that all week and on our pass protection.
“Zachary did a nice job getting out of trouble.”
Montgomery drew within 20-8 and looked like it might be on the verge of the miracle it needed when Rose boomed a 41-yard punt to give the Bearcats breathing room.
“Joe was a weapon for us,” Peach said. “He had a great night kicking off and had two field goals that were huge, then he had that big punt.”
Anderson had faced a fourth-and-30 situation from its own 28 when Rose delivered his beaut. The Bearcats had gotten in that situation when the snap from center got away from Carmichael in the shotgun. The sophomore fell on the ball after a 26-yard loss.
It had been billed as a battle for second place in Class 5A, District 6. If all goes as expected, Friday's winner should be in good shape for at least a first round home game in the state playoffs. But with East Jessamine pulling a mild upset at Woodford County Friday, Peach was just happy for the victory.
“We made so many mistakes,” he said. “I am so proud of the guys. I told them that sometimes in life, things will not always go your way, but you have got to find a way to make it happen at the end of the day. That is the way life works.
“Our guys found a way to make it happen tonight against a quality opponent.”
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