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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Sports Writer
It was a hard-fought and emotional loss for the Washington County Commanders Friday night as they lost 24-14 to Bardstown in a district showdown. The Tigers are poised to win the district outright if they can win against Fort Knox this Friday while the Commanders can still secure an opening-round playoff game at home with a defeat of Danville.
The action got started Friday night as a light drizzle fell onto the field, making for slippery conditions that would play a key factor in the game.
Both teams looked evenly matched throughout the first quarter as each marched up and down the field, trading possessions and failing to put any points on the board.
The second quarter got under way with the Commanders continually struggling to hold on to the slippery football. Bardstown was able to recover a fumble, but they went three-and-out and punted the ball to the Commander 1-yard line. WC had first and 10 with 9:04 to go in the half, but a fumbled snap recovered by the Tigers gave Bardstown a first and goal at the WC 1-yard line. Senior Ricky Harper took the ball into the end zone and the extra point by Victor Kremser put the Tigers on top 7-0.
Penalties plagued the Commanders throughout the game. Instead of finding themselves working from a first-and-10 situation, calls by the officials constantly put WC in first and 20 or first and 25 situations.
“There were times when we got into first and 20, first and 25 situations and I can’t absolutely say that they shut us down, but on top of the flags, we got into a hole,” said Commander head coach Mark Perry.
The Commander defense was strong during the game, holding back the Tiger attack on critical drives.
The Commanders were able to put together a productive drive late in the quarter and got on the scoreboard when sophomore back Tyler Coulter took the ball from senior quarterback Michael Gash and ran two yards into the end zone at the 1:21 mark. An extra point by Seth Mattingly knotted the score at 7-7.
With just over a minute to go in the half, the Tigers were able to go the distance as Bardstown receiver Quentez Cissell scored the second Tiger TD with 30 seconds remaining. The PAT gave Bardstown a 14-7 lead at the half.
The Tigers still had their momentum rolling at the start of the third quarter. Sophomore Jack Whitfield got the ball on a reverse play by sophomore QB Bobby Butler and went 45 yards for the third Tiger touchdown with just 51 seconds taken off the clock.
As Bardstown was preparing to kick off, the Commanders were called for a penalty that moved them even further back. After WC punted on fourth and 11 at their own 19, the Commanders recovered a Tiger fumble to gain possession. Both teams went three-and-out on their next series, but Washington County put together another drive highlighted and capped off by a 79-yard touchdown run by junior back Qwan Turner with 3:41 left in the quarter. Mattingly’s PAT brought the score to 21-14 in favor of Bardstown. Both teams traded possession for the rest of the third quarter.
The Tigers added a field goal late in the fourth quarter to make it a two-possession game for the Commanders. WC made a late charge, but it grinded to a halt as a pass from Gash intended for senior receiver John Morrison was intercepted and Bardstown was able to run out the clock for the 24-14 win.
“It was a tough loss,” Perry said. “The kids prepared hard for it and they came out as a team and were as ready as they have been all year. You could see it in their eyes. They battled for four quarters and came up short, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort or anything like that.”
Gash completed 50 percent of his passes, going 12-for-24 for 127 yards with two interceptions.
On the receiving end, Kyle Curtsinger led the Commanders with 66 yards on five catches, while Ben Simms had 38 yards on three catches. Tyler Smith had 11 yards on two receptions, while Turner had one catch for seven yards and Trae Abell had one catch for five yards.
On the ground, Turner totaled 152 yards on 17 carries with Tyler Coulter gaining 24 yards on seven carries. Gash kept the ball seven times and totaled four yards.
The Commaders totaled 299 offensive yards on 56 plays, 127 through the air and 172 on the ground. They totaled 12 first downs but had four turnovers and were penalized nine times for 85 yards.
This Friday, the Commanders face the Danville Admirals in Danville in the final regular season district contest that will determine WC’s playoff fate.
Catch the action live on WLBN-AM 1590 and streaming audio online at www.1590wlbn.com. The pre-game show starts at 7:15 p.m. followed by the kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
See next week’s print edition of The Springfield Sun for game highlights and photos.