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Friday's rains did not dampen Anderson County's district title hopes nearly as much as Dylan Underwood and dropped passes.
A senior running back, Underwood punished the Bearcats with 173 yards on 22 carries and scored the clinching touchdown as Oldham County defeated Anderson 35-21 at Hollie Warford Stadium. Coupled with Jeffersontown's loss to Grant County, the win gave Oldham the Class 5A, District 4 championship.
Both teams are now 6-2 on the year. Oldham is 3-0 in district play, Anderson 3-1.
Anderson is assured of second place in the district race and will host Louisville Iroquois in the first round of the state playoffs on Nov. 14. Oldham will play Waggener in the first round and will be at home all the way through the regional playoffs.
While Underwood had Oldham's final touchdown, it was a non-scoring run that changed the direction of Friday's showdown.
Trailing 14-6 with 2:44 to go in the first half and backed up to its own 15 following Sam Williams' pooch punt, Oldham called Underwood's number on a simple draw play through the middle of the Anderson line. By the time Jacob Russell pulled him down, Underwood had rambled 46 yards to the Anderson 39. Six plays later, the Colonels pulled off a perfectly executed double reverse with Chase Hamby going the final 19 yards for the touchdown.
Quarterback Chad Dennis faked brilliantly, then darted to the left side for the 2-point conversion that tied things with 50 seconds to go in the first half.
"We normally run that play five or six times a game," Oldham coach Matt Brown said of the draw play. "Tonight we ran it twice."
Just before Hamby scooted around the left side of the Anderson defense, the Bearcats had smelled out a screen pass, but Dennis' throw went through the hands of defensive back Dustin Combs, who appeared to have open spaces in front of him.
"Had we stopped them there, the worse case would have been we run out the clock," Peach sighed.
"If we had been down 14-6 at halftime, things could have been a lot different," Brown said.
Anderson had taken the first half lead on scoring runs from B.J. Robinson and Kendrick Harvey. Robinson set up his score with a 36-yard kickoff return and Russell hooked up with Grant Cox for a 25-yard pickup to highlight the 48-yard march late in the first quarter.
Harvey scored on a 4-yard run with 7:29 left in the first half. On the previous play, Jordan Alves made a spectacular diving catch of Russell's throw for a 37-yard pickup.
Even after Oldham had gotten a reprieve and tied things, Anderson still had a chance to take control after Robinson pounced on Tyler Oldham's fumble of the second half kickoff. Starting at the Oldham 18, Anderson moved to the five, but came up empty. Robinson was twice stopped behind the line of scrimmage then Russell's sideline pass slipped through Kendrick Harvey's pass on third down.
Williams, who had hit on 6-of-8 field goal attempts on the year, was wide left from 28 yards.
Instead of being up 21-6 or perhaps even 28-6, the Bearcats were tied. They never fully recovered.
Oldham County needed less than three minutes to go 80 yards following the squandered opportunity.
Tyler Oldham did the scoring honors from 31 yards out. A sophomore who had burned the Bearcats with a 53-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, Oldham cut back into a seam after Anderson closed his original point of attack.
Oldham County took total control inside the final seven minutes as Hamby raced 53 yards for a score and Underwood followed a wall of blockers around left end for the clincher.
Anderson picked up 82 of its 114 second half offensive yards on a final scoring drive with Russell finding paydirt from eight yards out inside the final minute.
A veteran team with 18 seniors, Oldham made the plays it had to. The Colonels converted five times out of nine third down calls while Anderson was just 2-of-11 in that same category.
"They are a fantastic football team," Peach said. "The Courier-Journal (Litkenhous Ratings) had them ninth in the state. That's overall. Out of over 200 football teams playing in Kentucky, they had them ranked ninth."
Curiously, the Associated Press poll, which has had Anderson as high as seventh in Class 5A this year, had Oldham ranked 10th last week.
"At halftime, our older guys were calm," Brown said. The Colonels outgained the Bearcats 231-114 over the final 24 minutes.
But Peach said his team gave Oldham plenty of help. "We did not execute offensively and you cannot play like that against a team as good as Oldham County. We just did not execute and it comes down to execution. We played hard but didn't execute."
While the stat line showed Russell completing just 13 of 24 passes, well below his 62.7 percentage coming in, several passes hit his receivers in the hands only to fall to the ground. "It was about 10," a frustrated Peach sighed.
"We did not execute at all offensively, but Oldham County is an outstanding football team. You have to tip your hat to them."
Anderson played with a bit of a makeshift defensive lineup. Defensive back Thomas Fint had already been declared out for the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered against Bullitt Central on Oct. 3. Middle linebacker Clayton Carney sat out the Oldham game with a shoulder injury. His status for the rest of the season is unknown.
Sophomore Josh Brown moved into the starting lineup in Carney's absence. Brown played outside linebacker, while Adam Baxter moved to the middle.
Linebacker Cody Dixon led the Bearcats with 11 solo tackles.
Friday's rains and cold temperatures undoubtedly had an adverse affect on the crowd. While the matchup might have been the most meaningful regular-season game at Anderson in over 20 years, the home stands, which have been packed for every game in the last three years, were estimated to be only slightly over half full.
The result was that one huge advantage for the Bearcats was negated by nature.
The teams could play again in the state playoffs, but a change in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's playoff format means that a possible rematch would come in the regional finals, unlike the semifinals last year when Oldham avenged Anderson's regular season victory with a 22-21 decision.