Washington County (1-7) stayed with 7-1 Bardstown throughout Friday night’s game thanks to an impressive defensive effort, but the Tigers still found a way to pull out the 22-6 win to spoil the Commanders’ homecoming game.
The Commanders held Bardstown to seven points through the first three quarters in what was the defense’s second-straight strong showing.
“I was very happy with our defensive effort on Friday night,” said Washington County Head Coach Eric Sagrecy. “My defensive coordinator, Scott Mudd, had a great gameplan and got our kids to believe in it throughout the week. We focused on stopping the run with an emphasis on limiting the big play in the passing game. Defensive backs coach, Jeff Sagrecy, moved some guys around and got the matchups we thought we could be successful with and it worked as planned. Coach Mudd did a great job of recognizing tendencies and our kids bought in and carried out the gameplan very well. Speed is hard to stop, but if you play your responsibility you can beat it with good team defense and thats what we were able to do.”
The Commander offense was held under 100 yards in both the rushing (86 yards) and passing (93 yards) game, but went without a turnover until the fourth quarter, when Bardstown came up with a pair of big interceptions. Bardstown totaled 245 yards on the ground on 37 carries, while completing just 2-of-11 passes for 18 yards.
Neither team was able to get the edge in the first quarter, with Bardstown getting the best scoring chance inside the redzone. However, Washington County sophomore Davon Moore forced a fumble at the 19-yard-line that was recovered by the Commanders, ending the Tigers’ drive and preserving a scoreless opening quarter.
The Commanders marched from their own 11-yard-line to midfield midway through the second quarter, but the Tiger defense tightened and forced a punt, setting Bardstown up for the game’s first strike.
Junior running back Deion Tonge broke free for 23 yards near midfield early in the drive, and capped the series off with a 27-yard touchdown to give his team a 7-0 lead four minutes before halftime.
The Commanders lost junior Tylyn Byas, who has emerged as a big-play threat in recent weeks, to an ankle injury in the first half and he wouldn’t return. Sagrecy was pleased with guys stepping up in his absence, however, including juniors Dustin Harmon (a key 41-yard kick return late in the game) and Evan Blake Burkhead (four catches for 73 yards).
“I felt like Dustin and Evan Blake did a good job coming in and making some plays with Tylyn going down hurt,” Sagrecy said. “Tylyn’s position is one that has been designed specifically for him, so for those guys to come and be productive is a testament to them paying attention in practice and being ready to make plays when their number was called.”
The Commander defense kept Washington County in striking distance by forcing punts on each of the Tigers’ first three possessions of the second half. Washington County moved the ball into Tiger territory midway through the quarter, but a 4th-and-2 pass from junior quarterback Morgan Churchill to Harmon from the Bardstown 37-yard-line was snuffed out by the Tiger defense inches shy of the first-down marker, preserving the lead.
With Washington County working from its own 10-yard-line, Bardstown made a move on an interception by junior defensive back Tavon Johnson at the WC 42 on a pass intended for senior Alex Marshall.
“That was just us trying to get a big play and Alex Marshall is worthy of having his number called at a time like that,” Sagrecy said. “The defense just made a nice play.”
The Tigers capitalized on the first play of the ensuing drive, when senior tailback Donshais Calbert sprinted past the Commander defense for a 42-yard score with 9:30 left in the game.
Harmon responded with a kick return to the Bardstown 30-yard-line, but sophomore defensive back Donovan Nance picked off a Washington County pass at the two-yard-line.
The WC defense took the ball right back on a fumble two plays later, however, setting up a four-yard touchdown run by Churchill. Junior linebacker Tyrone Mudd blocked the extra point attempt, leaving the Bardstown lead at eight with 6:26 remaining.
Facing a fourth-and-goal at the eight-yard-line, Bardstown got the decisive blow on a Tonge touchdown run with 37.5 seconds on the clock to seal the victory.
Despite the disparity in the teams’ records coming into the game, Bardstown Head Coach David Clark said he knew what kind of game his team was in for.
“This is a tough place to play,” he said. “They always play really well against Bardstown and a lot of credit goes to Washington County and how hard their kids played. I thought it was a very physical, hard game, but I thought both sides played with a lot of class and played really hard.”
Sagrecy said after studying the tape, there were some missed assignments in the running game that cost his offense some opportunities early, and he’ll be looking to correct that going into senior night this Friday against Shawnee at 7:30 p.m.
“Tyler Loving absolutley blocked his tail off when he was called on to do so,” he said. “I have to get some other guys to do the same for him, so he can use his ability to run the ball and be a playmaker for us.”