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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
The Washington County Commanders finished the regular season at home on Friday night with a decisive 45-7 thumping of Spencer County. WC finishes the season at 4-6 and now prepares for the second season with a first-round playoff game at Green County on Friday night.
The Commander offense was firing on all cylinders as it has all year, but if there was ever a time for the WC defense to step up and have a great game, it was now – and that’s just what they did.
“I though our defense came out a really played last night,” said WC head football coach Mark Perry the morning after the game. “There was a lot more aggression on the field, we tackled better and during the game we had three straight three-and-outs on the defensive side.”
The Commander defense made some big stops when Spencer County was inside the red zone and they managed to hold the Bears scoreless until there was 1:43 left in the third quarter.
This was the best complete effort by the Commanders this year, with all three phases of the team working as one to earn a victory on senior night and the final home game of the year.
It didn’t take the Commanders long to set the pace as they won the coin toss and elected to receive. On the second play of the game, WC senior tailback Nathan Hood ran the ball 85 yards from the Commanders’ 14-yard line to the Spencer County 1-yard line, giving WC a first and goal. On third down, senior QB Joe Joe Simms tagged his younger brother Alex for a 2-yard TD. Seth Mattingly missed the PAT and the Commanders were on the board 6-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Spencer County sophomore Erico Smith took the return to midfield but the Bears could not put together a drive, going three-and-out thanks to some strong defensive play by the Commanders. Following a punt by the Bears, WC got the ball on their own 25.
Frustration seemed to be setting in for Spencer County as they were hit with the first of what turned out to be four personal foul penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. With WC now at midfield, Joe Joe hit sophomore wideout Quan Turner, who flew into the end zone for another WC touchdown. The Commanders added a two-point conversion as Joe Joe took the ball into the end zone and WC was up 14-0 with 7:56 left in the opening quarter.
After Spencer County went three-and-out a second time, the Commander offense had a hiccup as they found themselves in a fourth and 23 situation at Spencer County’s 31-yard line following a sack of QB Simms and a penalty. An incomplete pass to senior receiver Lee Mudd gave the Bears the ball on downs.
Much to their credit, the Commander defense once again came up big to force the Bears to go three-and-out on their third straight possession.
The Commanders got into the red zone and looked ready to score again when a Simms pass was picked off and Spencer County got the ball back as the quarter came to an end.
This SC possession ended up much like the previous offensive series – another three-and-out. Following a punt, Washington County got the ball at their own 44 and put together another strong drive, aided by another unsportsmanlike penalty on the Bears defense. Once inside the red zone, the Commanders capitalized on an impatient Spencer County defense as Simms found Lee Mudd for the end zone and another six points. The point after was tacked on by Mattingly and the Commanders were ahead 21-0 with 9:47 left in the half.
Spencer County junior Cameron Smith returned the kickoff to the 42-yard line and the Bears showed some signs of life by marching into Commander territory, all the way to the 32-yard line. On fourth and six on the 32, WC junior offensive lineman Steven Sexton came up with a big hit to stop the Bears in their tracks and give the Commanders possession on downs.
After an unsuccessful WC drive and a punt, the Bears got the ball at their own 20-yard line with 3:49 remaining in the first half. Running back Erico Smith ran the ball to the 35 and the Bears looked to be gaining momentum until SC had second and one at the Commander 45-yard line. That’s when Smith went down with what appeared to be a broken ankle. After a lengthy delay while the Washington County EMS squad tended to Smith and took him to a local hospital, the game resumed, and so did the Spencer County tempers as they were penalized a fourth time for a personal foul. But the Commanders kept their heads when the Bears seemed to lose theirs.
“I thought our kids handled themselves very well last night,” said Perry. “One of the officials came up (after the game) and complimented us, saying our kids were first class, even when they were getting punched in the throat, our guys would keep playing, nothing was said in retaliation. That was big for us because if you do anything stupid at this point in the deal, you’re out for next week.”
The WC defense held strong again and the Commanders took over on downs on their own 36. Following a facemask penalty on SC, Washington County had first and 10 on the Bears’ 49-yard line. A couple plays later, on first and 10 on the Spencer County 35, Joe Joe Simms connected with Mudd again to find the end zone and another Washington County touchdown. The PAT by Mattingly gave the Commanders a 28-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, WC’s special teams unit came up with a big play as senior Stewart Jones recovered the ball in the end zone to score a safety for the Commanders.
With a 30-0 lead and 39 seconds remaining in the half, the Commanders received the ball and showed no signs of letting up as they took two plays to put six more points on the board with a 52-yard TD reception from Simms to freshman Trae Abell. After the PAT, the Commanders had a 37-0 lead and the final seconds of the half ticked off the clock.
Perry added, “That was a crucial minute and 40 seconds in the ball game, to go into halftime 37-0.”
In the first half, WC had 354 total yards, 150 by the run and 204 by the pass.
Spencer County opened the second half by putting together a strong
drive which saw them roar into the Commander red zone with a first and goal at the WC 9-yard line.
Washington County’s defense dug in deep and refused to allow the Bears any ground, putting together four strong red zone holds aided by a delay of game penalty on Spencer County to give the Commanders possession on downs on their own 17-yard line.
It was business as usual as the WC offense moved the ball down the field. Simms hit Turner for the second time of the night for a 33-yard TD reception. A good two-point conversion from Joe Joe to brother Alex gave the Commanders a 45-0 lead.
With Washington County up 45 points after halftime, the clock was allowed to continuously run.
Spencer County found some life as senior Eric Doty returned the kickoff to the WC 40-yard line. On the next play, Cameron Smith ran the ball down to the Commander 3, which set up a keeper by sophomore QB Kevin Hume to finally put the Bears on the board and ruin WC’s shutout.
Sophomore Tyler Calvert added the PAT to make the score 45-7 Washington County as the third quarter came to a close.
With a comfortable lead, junior QB Michael Gash came in to call the fourth quarter for WC. The Commanders couldn’t put anything together on offense and punted to SC with a running clock. The Bears kept the ball on the ground and the WC defense held, making the Bears use a lot of the clock.
Neither team did much for the rest of the quarter as time ran out on Spencer County and the Commanders celebrated senior night with a commanding victory over the Bears.
Joe Joe Simms completed 17 of 24 passes for a completion rate of 71 percent. He totaled 262 passing yards and tied his own school record of six TD passes. He also had one interception.
Nathan Hood had a standout night with 174 yards on 14 carries, averaging 12.4 yards per carry. Lee Mudd had five catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns, Alex Simms had six catches for 37 yards and one touchdown, Trae Abell had three catches for 55 yards and one touchdown and Quan Turner had two catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Total yardage by WC was 466 on 51 offensive plays, 199 yards on 24 rushing plays and 267 yards on 27 passing plays. The Commanders had a total of 18 first downs, 11 on the ground, three through the air and three by penalty. They were penalized three times for a total of 25 yards. Washington County finished the regular season at 4-6, 1-2 in district play.
The Commanders will travel to Green County Friday night for the first round of district playoffs. Greensburg is on Central time, so kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CST, 7:30 p.m. Eastern. If you plan on traveling to the game, make sure to schedule accordingly.
Catch all of the action live on WYSB 102.7 FM starting with the pre-game show at 7 p.m. EST and visit www.readthesun.com late Friday for the latest results. Look for game photos and highlights in next week’s copy of The Springfield Sun.