|Indians top Pirates in Rec Bowl
By Dan Manley
Advocate Sports Editor
They ran with authority and passed efficiently and won the 72nd annual Recreation Bowl nightcap Saturday night before an overflow crowd at Cunningham Field.
The Indians topped a solid Powell County Pirate squad that was coming off a 9-3 season from a year ago, finishing with a 33-14 triumph.
“I was really pleased with our overall effort,” said Coach Jamie Egli. “Plenty of things to feel good about and plenty of things to improve on and that’s good for an opening win over a very respectable football team.”
Now the Indians must get ready for a much bigger test Friday night when they play host to the Somerset Briar Jumpers in a game that gets underway at 7:30 p.m.
In Saturday evening’s opening game, South Laurel dominated play in the second half and topped Boyd County, 21-8. (See story on Page B4).
Montgomery County took the lead Saturday night when Pirate quarterback Blake Hall couldn’t retrieve a bad snap and was tackled in his end zone by a group of blue-clad Indians.
The Indians had taken the opening kickoff and marched 60 yards in 15 plays before the Pirates held on fourth and goal at their one yard line.
Three plays later from the Pirate seven came that mishandled snap that gave the Indians a 2-0 lead with 3:39 to play in the opening period.
The Tribe got the ensuing free kick at the Powell County 48 but four plays later junior Cameron Scruggs fumbled at the end of a nine-yard run at the Powell County 26.
That turned out to be the only turnover of the game for either team but it just momentarily derailed the Indians.
“With a freshman quarterback and to have that as our only turnover, well, you have to feel pretty good,” Egli noted. “After missing all of last season with a knee injury, Cameron just needs to have a chance to experience some game contact and he’s going to be a real playmaker for us.”
Finally a TD
The Tribe found the end zone on their third opportunity of the night that came after a short Powell County punt gave them the football at their own 49.
Nick Huff scampered 11 yards for a first down and then after a running play lost a yard he raced around left end and then zig-zagged through the Pirate defense on a 41-yard scoring run that moved the Indians out to an 8-0 lead and really got the huge crowd on hand into the game.
After forcing the Pirates to go three and out on their next possession the Indians went 50 yards in six plays for another score.
This time it was the running of senior fullback Josh Wheaton in tandem with a long pass completion by freshman quarterback Alex Hatton that led to the score.
Wheaton had a run of 15 yards to start the drive but then the Indians went backwards on a personal foul penalty and were looking at second and 18 from the Powell County 43 when Hatton found junior tight end Devin Johnson as he slipped behind a defender and the play ended at the Pirate eight yard line.
Wheaton scored on a five-yard run two plays later as the Indians went in front 14-0.
Defense steps up
The next Powell County possession resulted in another three and out and another case of the Montgomery County offense taking over in excellent field position.
This time Hatton went to the air on the first play and found senior wide receiver Austin Eichenberger who made an over-the-shoulder catch on a 46-yard scoring play with 3:47 remaining in the half as the lead grew to 20-0.
“Austin’s got the ability to run good routes, catch the football and to make things happen after the catch,” Egli said. “It’s obvious that he’s going to be a major weapon for us, whether he’s catching a lot of passes or not. Teams will have to respect him on the outside.”
So the Indians went into the halftime break with a 20-0 advantage.
Montgomery County’s defense had held the Pirates to less than 50 yards of offense in the first half.
Pirates strike quickly
Powell County came out of the halftime break and put a quick touchdown on the board.
Junior Tyler Charles took the kickoff into Montgomery County territory but a penalty moved the ball back to the Pirate 41.
Senior fullback Justice Harmon took the ball right up the middle on the fifth play of the drive on a 45-yard scoring jaunt and junior Brian Baker kicked the extra point to make it 20-7.
Montgomery County responded quickly to that score. Powell County was hit with a major penalty on the ensuing kickoff and that placed the football on the Pirate 46.
Wheaton had gains of 12 and 5 yards before Hatton and Eichenberger teamed up on a 10-yard completion and then Wheaton bolted up the middle for 19 yards and the touchdown with senior Zane Carter kicking the extra point for a 27-7 lead.
The Pirates had to go to their backup quarterback, left-handed sophomore Holden Townsend when Hall was sacked and left the game after getting up woozy from the hit.
He directed a six-play scoring drive that included an 11-yard run by Preston Wasson with the touchdown coming on a 19-yard pass from Townsend to senior tight end Hunter Brown as the Pirates trimmed the lead to 27-14.
Once again, though, the Tribe bounced right back with a countering score.
Wheaton had several nice pick-ups in the drive, which started with senior Jaden Akers ripping off 11 yards and ended when he scooted around left end on a three-yard scoring run.
That did it for the scoring as the Indians kept things in check form there to preserve the 33-14 advantage.
Wheaton the MVP
Justice Harmon was named Powell County’s outstanding player after gaining 97 yards on 14 carries and scoring one of their touchdowns.
Montgomery County senior fullback Josh Wheaton was the Tribe’s MVP after gaining 141 yards on 28 attempts with two touchdowns.
“He just does what he does,” Egli said. “We don’t ever want to get complacent about what he does for this team every night out.”
The standouts were many for the Indians.
McCune stands out