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There wasn't much messy about Anderson County's win over Woodford County last Friday night.
Except, of course, the football field.
And the Bearcats' and Yellow Jackets' uniforms.
And the shoes of just about anyone who had to be on the rain-soaked field at Warford Stadium.
But the game? The reason a near-capacity crowd filed in despite the wet weather? Anderson rolled to a 21-7 win that didn't even cause any malfunctioning of a brand new scoreboard that had just replaced a model that had been a royal pain for over five years.
Messy? It just looked that way after a wet week turned the field into a bit of a mud pit.
It is just part of football.
“We are going to have to learn to play in these conditions,” Anderson coach Mark Peach said. “In the playoffs we are going to have to play in this kind of weather. Last year, when we played Southwestern (in the state semi-finals), it was a mess.”
The Bearcats learned they cannot turn the ball over, wet ground or dry, as two first-half turnovers denied the Bearcats when they were driving for a score.
Peach, however, was philosophical.
“It is about experience,” he said. “It is understanding when things are not there. This was a great learning experience for our kids.”
After taking the opening kickoff, the Bearcats methodically marched from their own 25 to the Woodford 26 before Woodford's Jarrien Holds picked off a Zach Carmichael pass at the Yellow Jacket 2.
Then, midway through the second quarter, Woodford's Conrad Smart swiped another Carmichael pass at the Woodford 15.
Yet, even with the two big turnovers limiting Anderson to a 7-0 halftime lead, the Bearcats seemed in firm control. “We didn't take advantage of all our opportunities,” Peach said.
Anderson had scored when Carmichael hit Dusty Puckett for a 24-yard pass with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
And by halftime, it was apparent that Anderson was the better team.
Woodford managed just 39 yards offense in the first half as the Anderson line just dominated. Inside linebacker Tristan Ashburn was repeatedly bringing Woodford ball carriers down and ended up being credited with 8.5 stops.
“He is playing at such a high level now. He was just super tonight,” Peach said.
Ross Cox had also smelled out a swing pass from Woodford quarterback Kainan Hudson to Kaine Buchanan-Maxberry, sending it to an 11-yard loss early in the second quarter.
“Coach (Duane) Hammons (Anderson's defensive coordinator) and the coaching staff and the kids have done a great job,” Peach said. “This is the third straight game we have held our opponent to a touchdown or less.”
But at the break, the lead was only one touchdown, despite averaging nearly 6 yards a play on first down in the first half. “Coach told us to take a deep breath and translate what we were doing on first down to second and third down,” said Anderson running back Granville Hayes.
It was a second-and-four situation when Hayes got loose for what might have been Anderson's biggest play of the night. Two plays after Houston Page recovered a fumble at the Anderson 31, Hayes broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, then followed a block and raced to the Woodford 2.
On the next snap, Ross Cox scampered to the end zone to make it 14-0.
Hayes ran for 131 yards, the second consecutive week he had set a career best.
Just over three minutes later, after Puckett recovered another Woodford fumble at the Jacket 39, the sophomore sped across the middle, hauled in a perfectly thrown pass from Carmichael and raced untouched to the end zone for his second score of the night and sixth of the season.
Joe Rose's extra point made it 21-0 and effectively put things out of reach.
Woodford finally found the end zone when Smart ran the ball in from four yards out to cap a 72-yard drive. It was Woodford's only sustained march of the night.
Anderson won its fifth straight after a season-opening loss to Bryan Station and improved to 2-0 in Class 5A, District 6 play. Woodford is going in the opposite direction, dropping its third straight and falling to 3-3 on the year. Woodford is now 0-2 in district play.
**The contest was delayed for 30 minutes after a pre-game lightning storm hit the area. “Steve (Stonebraker, the Woodford coach) and I were talking and all of a sudden we saw and heard lightning. We had to wait 30 minutes, but we decided to start at 8.
“I am very proud of how the kids played in this mess.”
**Woodford now leads the all-time series between the schools 21-17-2.
**Anderson capped a spirited Homecoming week with the win. While the annual parade was canceled due to inclement weather on Thursday, Peach said the school had many other activities for the students.
“I love Homecoming week,” Peach said.
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