By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
A combination of mistakes on special teams and a lack of size on defense resulted in the Washington County Commanders’ fourth straight defeat as they lost 58-45 to the Bardstown Tigers on Friday night in Springfield.
“If you take four or five plays out of the game, it would have been a different ball game,” said WC head football coach Mark Perry. “We’ve got to eliminate those mistakes.”
Bardstown came into the game with an 0-4 record and was looking to change its fortune against a 1-3 Washington County team that had not beaten the Tigers since 1997.
The game was evenly played for the most part, with each team taking the lead several times, much like a boxing match, as they traded punches back and forth until Bardstown delivered the knockout blows in the closing minutes.
Washington County took an early 6-0 lead in the first quarter with a touchdown pass to Alex Simms. Seth Mattingly’s point after attempt caromed off the right goalpost for no extra point. WC held the lead until they were forced to punt with 1:45 left in the quarter.
Bardstown took just two plays to take the lead, highlighted by quarterback T.J. Downs’ 77-yard touchdown run on 2nd down. At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers had a 7-6 lead.
The second quarter started as the Commanders were driving down the field and eventually scored on a Joe Joe Simms pass to Lee Mudd for a touchdown. WC could not convert the two-point attempt and took a 12-7 lead.
After each team traded possession of the ball a few times, Simms found Mudd for another Washington County touchdown to take a 19-12 lead with 3:11 remaining in the half.
The Tigers answered back with a touchdown by Sean Edelen to claw within five points. On the ensuing kickoff, WC’s Quan Turner fumbled the ball and Bardstown recovered it on the Washington County 38-yard line. A couple of plays later, the Tigers scored again to take a 21-19 lead, but the Commanders were not going to go quietly as they took the ball into the end zone again to take a 26-21 lead into halftime.
The second half started with Washington County going three-and-out and having to punt on fourth down. Bardstown failed to convert a fourth-and-long situation and WC took over on downs.
On the Commanders’ next drive, Downs picked off a Simms pass to give the Tigers possession of the ball, which resulted in a touchdown and a 28-26 Tiger lead with a little over five minutes left in the quarter.
On its next possession, WC punted on fourth and long, but Bardstown didn’t keep the ball long as it fumbled and Mudd recovered on the Tigers’ 37-yard line. The Commanders drove down field and scored on a quarterback keeper from Simms. Mattingly’s extra point was no good and the Commanders had a slim 32-28 lead at the end of the quarter.
It was Bardstown’s ball to open the fourth quarter but the Tigers went three-and-out, punting the ball to Commander receiver Mudd, who fumbled the kick and the Tigers recovered on the WC 10-yard line. Tiger quarterback Downs kept the ball and ran into the end zone for another touchdown to take a 35-32 lead with 11:02 left in the game.
Washington County got the ball back and it didn’t take long to score as quarterback Joe Joe Simms ran from his own 42-yard line for a 58-yard touchdown. The Commanders had a 39-35 lead with 9:45 remaining on the clock.
The Tigers answered right back with a scoring dive of their own as senior Jordan Hickman found the end zone for six points. Bardstown took a 42-39 lead with 8:01 on the clock.
Washington County still had some fight left in them as the Commanders put together a strong drive capped off by a touchdown reception by Alex Simms. Mattingly’s extra point attempt was blocked and with 4:52 left in the game, WC held a 45-42 lead.
It looked like whoever had the ball last was going to win the game, until Bardstown iced the match with a one-two delivery that took the momentum away from the Commanders.
The first punch came on the ensuing kickoff when Bardstown’s Ricky Harper took the ball the length of the field to give the Tigers another touchdown. The score stood at Bardstown 49, Washington County 45 with 4:39 left to play.
To add a little salt to WC’s wounds, Bardstown recovered a bad WC punt in the Commanders’ end zone, which resulted in the Tigers scoring a safety.
An onside kick by Washington County gave the Tigers the ball at mid-field. Bardstown took the ball into the Commander red zone. Despite having a first and goal on the WC 1-yard line, it took the Tigers four downs to break into the end zone on a quarterback keeper with seven seconds left to play, giving the Tigers a 58-45 lead which they would keep.
Washington County got the ball back with five seconds remaining but could not put anything together and the Tigers recorded their first win of the season.
The Commanders had a total of 540 yards on offense, 287 yards through the air and 253 yards by the run on 33 carries, averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
Commander quarterback Joe Joe Simms tossed a school-record five touchdown passes, completing 22 of 40 passing attempts for a 55 percent completion percentage. He also ran for two touchdowns.
WC receivers Lee Mudd and Alex Simms had two touchdowns each while Quan Turner also had one TD reception.
Washington County has a bye this weekend as they travels to Fort Knox on Oct. 10. The team’s record now stands at 1-4 on the season and 0-1 in district play.