Speed kills Bearcats' dream

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Big plays doom Bearcats in playoff opener

By John Herndon

Speed kills.

It always has. Always will.

Friday, an underdog but lightning-fast Doss football team killed Anderson County's dream of playing for a regional or state championship with a 40-37 upset in the first round of the state Class 5A playoffs. It was the second consecutive season that the Louisville team had ended Anderson's season.

This time, it was supposed to be Anderson's turn. The Bearcats came in anywhere from a 14- to 21-point favorite in the computer rankings and actually appeared just that when they marched 93 yards to score on their first possession.

But speed really can, and does, kill.

And, as Anderson coach Mark Peach feared could be the case, Doss turned one of those uncoachable traits into a second round date with highly regarded John Hardin this week. “Coming in, I thought we were the better football team,” Peach said after he addressed his team. “But tonight, we did not execute well enough to win the football game.”

Doss had loads of what is often called “The Great Equalizer.” It transforms a missed tackle into a touchdown instead of a first down. It is able to shoot through a small hole for a five-yard gainer when it looks like it should have been  a loss. It gets pressure on the quarterback – three sacks Friday – and wreaks havoc in the kicking game.

On the gridiron, speed overcomes a multitude of wrongs and makes the opponent pay dearly for his own mistakes.

That was how Doss upset Anderson County in a nutshell.

Anderson dominated at times, but saw a stellar season end at 9-2. The Bearcats outgained Doss 388-254. They had 18 first downs to 10 for Doss. They held the ball nearly six minutes longer, and ran 24 more plays. Doss could not convert on a single third down in seven opportunities.

But the Dragons, now 5-6, came out on the left side of the scoring ledger by turning missed tackles into six points. A missed block opened the door for Kiayer Muir's blocked punt and return for a touchdown that put Doss up 33-30 with 4:13 to play and stunned the Bearcats and their fans.

“We were worried about their athleticism,” Peach said. “We had trouble with J-town (a 35-20 Anderson win on Oct. 2 that was much closer than the score indicated) and Doss had the same kind of athletes.”

Doss reached the end zone six times. Four were on offensive plays of better than 20 yards and another was on Muir's 40-yard return of the blocked punt.

However, the key play might have been one that did not go for six points. After Dustin Combs had capped the game-opening 93-yard drive with a 31-yard scoring burst, Doss running back Donald Bethel raced 24 yards on the Dragons' first play from scrimmage. If anything, Bethel's run and the Dragons' quick score – five plays and less than two minutes off the clock – underscored that no matter what Anderson did, the Dragons would be in striking distance.

“That was huge,” Peach said.

Still Anderson recovered to go in front 14-7 on its second possession when Ben Walker motored 72 yards and Jacob Russell finished the quick drive with a 3-yard plunge. The Bearcats added a safety when Doss punter Deontae Gardner ran out of the end zone after tracking down a bad snap.

But Anderson went three-and-out following the free kick and Doss answered with a 69-yard drive that ended with Tyrone Mack taking a 22-yard scoring pass. A pass interference call against Anderson on third-and-12 at the Doss 45 kept the drive going.

The Bearcats  were again unable to get a first down after a pair of penalties. Doss' Rasian Snardon made them pay dearly, taking Russell's punt just inside midfield, then making his way to paydirt and putting Doss in front 19-16 just nine seconds before halftime.

“We must have had at least five missed tackles on the punt return,” Peach said. “There is no excuse for that. We did not execute.

“We gave up two touchdowns in the kicking game. You are not going to beat a good team doing that.”

Snardon appeared wrapped up at the 45 but somehow wriggled free. He appeared bottled up again but would not go down.

Still, Anderson appeared to be in good shape when Walker, who finisheed with 159 yards on the ground to go over 900 on the year, raced 29 yards for a score then Russell capped a 63-yard march with another sneak that made it 30-19.

Russell hit Grant Cox and Walker with big passes in the drive, which again appeared to put Anderson in control. Russell finished hitting 16 of 24 passes for 160 yards.

“We lost our focus when it got to 16-7 and again at 30-19,” Peach said. “I thought we played hard and we were trying but we did not execute.

“We have them on fourth-and-12 and they get a touchdown out of it!”

Peach was referring to a 60-yard pass from Deontae Yarnell to Snardon less than three minutes after Russell's last score. “That was huge,” Peach said.

The Dragons knocked the Bearcats down when Muir raced untouched to block Russell's punt. “We didn't even block him,” an exasperated Peach said. “They didn't even have the block on.”

After the Bearcats could not move in four plays, Doss put the dagger in Anderson's playoff heart when Bethel broke free for a 36-yard score with 2:11 to play.

Anderson got a last-gasp score when Russell and Cox connected from 28 yards with just 27 seconds to play.

The Bearcats appeared to momentarily cover the onside kick, but the ball squirted away, allowing Doss to kill the clock.

Peach said there was not much he could say after seeing a season that begain with dreams of playing in Bowling Green for the state championship end so suddenly in the first round of the playoffs.

“I told the kids I was proud of them and they had accomplished a lot,” Peach said. “I also told them we needed to lose with class. It is easy to win with class, but you find out what kind of person you are when you lose. We want to lose with class too.

“This is one of the most disappointing losses I have ever had in coaching. Give Doss some credit. They did a nice job and made the plays when they had to.”

That's because speed still kills.

Game notes

**The loss ended the celebrated football career of Jacob Russell. Touted by many as the state's top quarterback, Russell threw for 2,244 yards and 20 touchdowns this year, bringing his four year total to 6,743 and 65. Russell shattered the Anderson career yardage total as a junior and his finish is good for 39th all-time in Kentucky, 10 yards behind Paducah Tilghman's Billy Jack Haskins.

**Doss linebacker Joseph Segvich was everywhere for the Dragons, being credited with 14 unassisted tackles.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.