By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
The Washington County Commanders wouldn’t trade their win on Friday for all the gold in Fort Knox. WC improved to 2-4 on the season and 1-1 in district play with a decisive 48-21 victory over the Eagles. Once again, the Commanders’ offense exploded, scoring all of its 48 points in the first half, providing proof of its status as one of the top offensive teams in Class 2A.
The Commanders racked up a total of 490 yards, 259 through the air and 231 on the ground. WC ran the ball more against Fort Knox than it passed. Out of 72 plays, 42 were by the run and 30 were passing plays.
Commander quarterback Joe Joe Simms threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns, completing 18 of 21 passes for an 86 percent completion rating. He also ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
“The offensive line blocked and gave Joe Joe plenty of time throughout the first half,” said WC head football coach Mark Perry. “He (Simms) came off to the secondary receivers, sometimes the third and fourth receivers, that’s how much time he had to pass, so hats off to those people, they played well.”
With a 48-7 lead to start the second half, junior quarterback Michael Gash got some playing time, completing six of nine passes for 49 yards while also running for 16 yards on eight carries.
On the receiving end of the ball, WC sophomore Quan Turner caught seven passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Tyler Smith caught five receptions for 23 yards and one TD. Senior Lee Mudd caught five passes for a total of 76 yards, while sophomore receiver Dalton Culver-Barnett had 44 yards on two catches.
On the ground, senior running back Nathan Hood racked up 79 yards on 14 carries while reaching the end zone twice.
It was a much-needed district win for the Commanders as they prepare to face Bethlehem in Bardstown this Friday.
The first quarter started slow as each team tried to set the pace. WC put together a strong drive, marching deep into Eagle territory when Simms hit Turner for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Seth Mattingly’s extra point put the Commanders on top 7-0.
Fort Knox answered with a scoring drive of its own as quarterback Devin Jackson ran for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7 with 7:22 left in the quarter.
It took two minutes for WC to get the lead back as they drove down the field and scored on a 11-yard touchdown reception by Smith to put the Commanders in the lead for good at 14-7.
After the Eagles went three and out on their next drive, WC’s next drive was plagued by four consecutive penalties, but a big run by Simms got the Commanders in good position, eventually getting a first and goal on the Eagle 6-yard line. Simms ran the ball in from the 1-yard line and WC took a 21-7 lead as the first quarter came to a close.
As the second quarter got underway, Fort Knox was never able to build momentum as they were forced to punt. WC drove down the field again for another Simms TD run at the 8:20 mark, taking a 28-7 lead. Fort Knox went three-and-out on their next possession giving the Commanders the ball at their own 48-yard line. Hood ran to the Eagle 41, followed by Tyler Smith and Stewart Jones advancing the ball on back-to-back plays. Turner got the ball to the 4-yard line for a first and goal and scored on a 4-yard TD from Simms. Another Mattingly extra point put the Commanders up 35-7 with 5:16 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Fort Knox fumbled the return and it was recovered by WC’s Tyler Coulter to give the Commanders the ball at the Eagles' 30-yard line. WC took 1:55 to put six more points on the board as Nathan Hood ran the ball into the end zone. Mattingly’s extra point was blocked but the Commanders had a 41-7 lead with 3:21 left in the half.
Fort Knox went three-and-out on their next possession, and following a punt, WC got the back on their own 46. The Commanders put together another strong scoring drive as Hood got his second touchdown run of the night to give WC a 48-7 lead at the end of the first half.
In the second half, with a big lead, Perry pulled a lot of his starters to let some of the JV and freshman players have some time on the field. Gash got some QB time in under his belt and Culver-Barnett and Smith each got some experience at receiver.
The third quarter saw each team trade possession back and forth without any scoring.
Fort Knox found some life in the fourth quarter against the young WC defense. The Eagles found themselves in a fourth-and-long situation when they faked a punt and made up some big yardage. Fort Knox’s Dario Shelton and Jermell Rogers each contributed to an Eagle scoring drive as Jackson ran for a 5-yard touchdown to cut the WC lead to 48-14 with 7:55 left in the game.
The Commanders, led by Gash, marched down the field into Fort Knox territory on their next possession. WC had fourth and long in the Eagle red zone when they failed to convert and Fort Knox took over on downs. The Eagles came back to put together another scoring drive capped off by a 31-yard touchdown run by Jackson, to cut the WC lead to 48-21 with 11 seconds left in the game.
The Commanders got the ball back and Gash took a knee to run out the clock and seal the victory for Washington County, improving to 1-1 in district and 2-4 overall.
This Friday, Washington County takes on the 1-5 Bethlehem Eagles at Lally Field in Bardstown. Game time is 7:30 p.m. If you can’t make it to the game, catch all the action on WYSB 102.7 FM with pre-game starting at 7 p.m., and catch game highlights and photos in next week’s issue of The Springfield Sun or online at www.thespringfieldsun.com or www.readthesun.com.