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Commanders had highs and lows on the gridiron

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By The Staff

By Jimmie Earls

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Sun Sports Writer

Although the season’s win/loss ratio didn’t reflect it, it was actually a very productive year for the Washington County football team. Despite their 4-7 record, the Commanders were one of the top producing offenses in Kentucky 2A football.

“I thought we did a lot of good things this year,” said head football coach Mark Perry. “You feel like your record should have been a little bit better. You look at why and you look at how, we had five losses that came from teams that are 9-2 right now. We were competitive, but we couldn’t put together that perfect game to beat one of those 9-2 teams.”

Offensively, the Commanders took some big steps forward this year, including a new style of play that put a lot of points on the scoreboard. The air attack had helped WC put some impressive numbers on the board, especially when the team lacks the size to make blocks and open lanes for the ground attack. Simply put, if the Commanders can’t go through the defense, they’ll go over them.

Perry added, ”We don’t have kids that can block Danville’s defensive line or Bardstown’s defensive line in a run-oriented setting, so the kids knew right away that we’re going to use our strengths to be as effective as we can.”

Senior quarterback Joe Joe Simms had a career year that saw him climb to the top of Kentucky 2A passers, according to www.khsaa.org.

Simms racked up a total of 2,610 passing yards and he completed 189 of 318 passes for a season completion rate of 59.4 percent. He threw a total of eight interceptions throughout the regular season, but his seven picks in the first round of the playoffs against Green County brought his total up to 15 on the year.

Senior wide receiver Lee Mudd also had a productive season, racking up 973 yards on 64 catches, averaging 15.2 yards per reception. Junior receiver Alex Simms finished the season with 611 yards on 51 catches for an average of 12 yards per catch while sophomore Quan Turner totaled 576 yards on 33 catches, averaging 17.5 yards per catch.

Despite the explosion of the passing offense, WC still had a strong running game with 1,660 total rushing yards on the year. Joe Joe had 769 rushing yards on 148 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, while senior running back Nathan Hood ended the year with 668 yards on 95 carries for an average of seven yards per carry. Senior Stewart Jones had 141 yards on 23 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

If the Commanders had one major weakness this year, it would have to be the lack of size on defense. With such a young squad, it’s going to take time for the younger players to put on some bulk and build their strength up. Perry and his coaching staff have been trying to make the most of what they have, but other teams simply have bigger players. Perry says the Commanders need to hit the weight room and work on building some size and strength.

“We need to get bigger and stronger physically,” Perry added. “We have to get bigger where when we play a big, physical game, so we don’t get pushed around, run over and man-handled.”

Coach Perry points to the Bardstown game as the turning point of the 2008 season. It was a rough game that Perry said, “If you take away five or six plays out of that game, it could have been a totally different game. That was a game that we should have won, played well enough to win, but made a few mistakes that didn’t allow us to win.”

If the Commanders would have won that game, it would have set up a different district playoff scenario and WC’s season might have been very different.

Despite some tough losses throughout the season, the players never got down on themselves and struck by their teammates all the way.

“This team just kept fighting back,” Perry said, “That showed a lot to me about their character. That impressed me, to see a group of 14 through 18-year-olds go through the low spots, to wind up the season playing their best football.”

The Commanders totaled 4,324 yards of total offense this season on 626 plays.

Overall, Perry is proud of the job his players did this season.

“This team maximized their potential,” Perry added. “They played hard and they played with class.”

Perry is optimistic about next year now that some of his younger players have some much-needed experience. He plans to continue with the high-output offense that the team started this year.

“We’ve got two good quarterbacks coming back. Michael Gash will be a senior and Trae Abell will be a sophomore. We’ll have a very similar style of offense, we’ll tweak it a little bit to the personnel we have, but we’ll look very similar to what we looked like this year.”

Perry is also thankful for the support the Washington County fans offered throughout the season.

“I appreciate all the fans this year,” said Perry. “I think the fans appreciate watching this team play. I’m excited. I think the future is bright for Washington County and I look forward to getting back after it.”