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Commanders fall in playoffs, 42-7

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By Nick Schrager

In playoff football, it all comes down to a win-or-go-home situation. The Washington County Commanders (3-7) traveled to Tompkinsville Friday night to take on the Monroe County Falcons (6-4) in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs, and coach Mark Perry’s team ran into a good, athletic squad.

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Washington County came in having won two of its last four games, including the regular-season finale over Campbellsville. On the other side of the field, Monroe County had dropped three of its last four, despite a 6-0 start to the season.

After kicking off, the Commanders were able to stop the Falcons early and took over possession, but couldn’t get their own offense rolling. Monroe took over, marching down field and going in for an early 5-yard touchdown run by Dillon Vickery. The point-after kick was good by Scott Harrison, and Monroe was quickly up 7-0 just over four minutes into the game.

Washington County’s next possession found the team facing a third down and 13 yards to go, and it looked like a three-and-out until punter Seth Mattingly faked the punt and picked up 21 yards on the run, giving the Commanders the ball, first and 10 at their own 44-yard line. An offsides penalty against the Falcons made it first and five for WC at the 49.

Later in the drive, facing third and nine to go, Gash hooked up with Tyler Loving for five yards, making it fourth and four. The Commanders went for it, but came up short when Gash’s pass to Ben Simms fell incomplete, and Monroe took over on downs.

Monroe’s potent offense again moved the ball deep into Commander territory, and Vickery again found the end zone from the 11-yard line with 2:56 to play. The PAT was good for a 14-0 Monroe lead.

Trailing early, Washington County looked to make something happen offensively, and they picked up a big gain as Michael Gash completed a first down pass from the Commanders’ 31-yard line to Tyler Smith for a gain of 29 yards down to the 40. Qwan Turner carried for 11 yards, then Gash and Smith connected again, this time for 13 yards, putting WC at the 16. Trampus Montgomery handled the ball, rushing to the 11-yard line, and the Commanders were threatening.

Gash tried once again to hit Smith, but the ball was short, and Smith was whistled for a penalty as he made contact with the defensive back in the end zone, pushing Washington County back to the 25-yard line as the first quarter expired.

On the first play of the second period, Gash passed, but was intercepted by Monroe County’s Trent Lyon.

After producing 99 yards on offense in the opening quarter, the Commanders struggled on the ground and through the air in the second period, with just 11 rushing yards and 12 passing yards. Gash was again intercepted by J.W. Vickery, which set up a drive where the Falcons scored another rushing TD for a 21-0 lead.

One more passing touchdown for Monroe gave the Falcons a 28-0 edge, but they were not done, as Trent Lyon came up with his second interception of the quarter, this one coming from quarterback Trae Abell with 11 seconds left in the half.

The third period started much as did the first, with the Commanders’ offense not finding its way. WC went three and out at the 10:39 mark, and Monroe scored just over two minutes later, making the PAT and extending the lead to 35-0.

After another three and out, the Commander defense was able to hold the Falcons to a field goal attempt, but kicker Scott Harrison just missed to the left, and Washington County took over at its own 20-yard line.

After going to third down and six to go from the 31-yard line, Abell had another pass picked off, this one for a Monroe touchdown, and the PAT made it 42-0 with 10:07 to play in the third, which would be the score at the end of the quarter.

They were down, but as usual, there was no quit in Mark Perry’s team. With the sizable deficit, the Commanders moved the ball out to the Monroe County 42-yard line with just over nine minutes to go in the game where they faced a second down and seven yards to go. That’s when Trae Abell hooked up with receiver Ben Simms on a pass to the Commander sideline. Simms put on a tight-rope walking act and managed to stay in bounds and make his way into the end zone for Washington County’s only touchdown of the game. Seth Mattingly came in and connected on the PAT, making it 42-7, which would be the final score.

Monroe County brought a balanced rushing and passing attack, and Perry said his team didn’t play great football.

“They were a really good team, and they played very well. We didn’t play great, but we battled, and the kids never quit,” Perry said. “Even throughout the year, the year did not go the way we wanted it to go, the way we expected it to go, and they kept fighting back.”

Perry said his team didn’t make some plays on both sides of the ball that could have made a difference in the game.

“They clicked tonight, and we didn’t play our best football,” he said. “They caught well, they ran the ball well and took care of the football. We were a little bit outmanned tonight.”

The Commanders had a balanced offensive attack with 34 running plays and 35 passing attempts. They rushed the ball for 117 yards, led by Qwan Turner with 46 yards on 16 carries. Through the air, senior Michael Gash completed 12 of 20 passes for 128 yards, while sophomore Trae Abell was 8 for 15 for 105 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown pass. Ben Simms led the Commander receivers with 62 yards on three catches, including the 42-yard score from Abell. Senior Tyler Smith was close behind with 61 yards on five catches.