The Commander (1-6) offense broke loose in a big way in a 41-6 win at Fort Knox (1-6) on Friday -- their first of the season -- with junior Tylyn Byas providing much of the spark with four touchdowns (three rushing and one receiving).
Washington County’s rushing game came to life for 301 yards on 36 carries, while junior quarterback Morgan Churchill completed 8-of-17 passes for 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“These kids have continued to work hard and they deserved this win,” said Washington County Head Coach Eric Sagrecy. “I have seen teams that pack it in when things get tough, but through negativity and bad luck they have continued to battle. I’m proud of them and this win was a product of their hard work. Seniors like (lineman) Alex Mann are just starting to hit their stride. He has worked his tail off in practice and kept the right kind of attitude even when his minutes were limited. His work paid off Friday night. There are other guys who have done the same and I think our best football is ahead of us.”
The Commanders’ defensive effort shouldn’t be overlooked, as the Eagles were stifled in the passing game -- 3-of-14 for 46 yards -- while managing 119 yards rushing on 40 carries.
Both teams entered the game struggling on offense, but it was Washington County who sent an early message and never trailed on their way to a lopsided victory.
It didn’t take long for Byas to make an impact, breaking free for an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play of Washington County’s second drive.
The next scoring drive wasn’t nearly as easy, getting three touchdowns called back on penalties, but the Commanders still found a way to punch the ball in. An 84-yard run by Byas, a 10-yard run by senior running back Tyler Loving and a 13-yard run by Churchill were each called back on the drive, but Churchill still found junior wide receiver Micah Devine for a 14-yard pass to the one-yard line, setting up a Churchill touchdown run to give WC a 14-0 lead with 2:16 to play in the first quarter.
“It did seem almost laughable at times,” Sagrecy said of the flurry of penalty flags. “We would break a long play and I would look back immediatley for the flag. One play was no doubt the result of a poor decision by one of our players, but the rest is what it is. I told our kids that some of those flags were the result of great effort and I will take that everytime.”
Fort Knox’s only score of the day was a quick strike following the Commander’s second touchdown, when sophomore Fort Knox running back Ishamael Price found running room for a 67-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. The two-point conversion failed, and the eight-point deficit was the closest the Eagles would get the rest of the way.
It was Byas making big plays for the Commanders again in the second quarter, returning a Fort Knox punt all the way to the Eagles’ 17-yard line, setting himself up for a 17-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 15.
Later in the first half, Washington County put together a 66-yard scoring drive that included a 25-yard scamper by Churchill. Churchill then connected with Byas for a 51-yard touchdown pass down the sideline after a penalty backed WC up to midfield.
Trailing 27-6 following a missed extra point, Fort Knox got a taste of the called-back big play. A pass was deflected by WC junior Dillon Milburn, but was still hauled in by Fort Knox’s Antonio Copeland, who sprinted 68 yards for a score, only to see the play wiped out by an illegal shift on the offense.
Staying with the trend, Churchill found senior wide receiver Alex Marshall with under a minute to play in the half for a 69-yard touchdown that was, sure enough, called back after Marshall was deemed an ineligible receiver on the play, leaving the score at 27-6 at the half. Despite having his big play wiped out, Sagrecy praised the senior’s effort.
“I challenged Alex Marshall to have his best game and he did. His blocking on the edge was awesome all night,” Sagrecy said. “Normally athletes like him and Loving are only recognized for touchdowns, but their blocking and unselfish play Friday was what team sports are all about. Bradlee Lawson and Marquise Stateman also played very well. Those guys have been consistent in both practice and games.”
While the offense was making big plays, the defense also stepped up big for the Commanders, allowing zero yards of offense from Fort Knox over the second and third quarters. A third-down sack by sophomore defensive tackle Davon Moore stopped an Eagles’ drive near midfield following an interception thrown by WC in the third quarter, and sophomore defensive lineman Adan Garza got the WC defense off the field on the next Fort Knox drive by jumping on a loose ball following a fumbled snap.
The Commander offense capitalized on the turnover, with Churchill breaking off a 33-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, before being knocked out of bounds at the two-yard-line. Loving then punched the ball into the endzone for a 34-6 lead.
The final scoring drive was back to Byas, who picked up 30 yards on third-and-24 from midfield. He added another 10-yard run before capping the drive with a six-yard touchdown carry.
Byas finished the game with nine carries for 144 yards and three scores, adding four receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown -- a total of 222 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns. Churchill ran the ball 17 times for 110 yards and a score, while Loving added eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought Tylyn gave us the homerun hitter that we have been missing out of the backfield. I felt like against Knox he would be the fastest kid on the field and he proved that on Friday,” Sagrecy said. “His success was a credit to the offensive line and Tyler (Loving). Tyler blocked incredibly well and also ran the ball equally well. His team-first attitude will take him to the next level after this year. Sean Lewis, Davon Moore, Brent Young, Jarrett Mattingly and Miquail Railey opened holes all night and were the reason we were able to run for over 300 yards.”
The Commanders return home on Friday to take on the Bardstown Tigers (6-1) at 7:30 p.m.