The Hornets and Aces played another game for the ages when they battled to the bitter end during a football playoff game at Hancock County’s Schafer–Glover Field Friday. This time Owensboro Catholic came out on top, winning by a final score of 27-26 to advance to the regional title game at Murray. Hancock County’s season ended with the loss. The Hornets’ overall record for 2020 was 6-2.
“I’m super proud of our football team,” HCHS coach Bobby Eubanks said. Battling back in the second half to be within a 2-point conversion to win was unbelievable!”
The Aces were rolling from the opening kickoff as they scored the game’s first 20 points. Catholic’s first touchdown came on a 3-yard TD run by Aces’ quarterback Braden Mundy.
The Hornets advanced the ball across midfield on their first possession and they nearly hit paydirt, but a long pass attempt by quarterback Cole Dixon was just outside the reach of Darian Clay. Hancock County elected to punt, and after a long drive that carried over into the second quarter, the Aces scored again. This time freshman Hunter Monroe capped off the drive with an 8-yard TD run that put the visitors ahead 13-0 on the scoreboard.
On the Hornets ensuing drive they faced a fourth–and–one on their own 36 yard line and coach Eubanks rolled the dice. Clay took the handoff and was hit by an Aces defender at the line of scrimmage, but the senior ran through the arms of the would-be tackler then bounced outside and rambled for a 36 yard gain. Two plays later Dixon went deep for Sebastian Fredell, but the ball slipped through his fingers. Dixon later tried another shot to the end zone intended for Austin Volocko but the pass was broken up by Aces’ DB Michael Sullivan and the Hornets turned the ball over on downs.
A 32-yard gain by Mundy gave the Aces good field position at the Hancock 35 yard line. A reception by Reid Clark put Catholic in the red zone, but the Hornet defense stepped up and forced the Aces offense into a fourth–and–12 at the 17 yard line.
Mundy rolled to his left as he was looking to pass, but all he saw was red jerseys. He reversed field and tossed the ball toward the back of the end zone where Clark made the catch for the TD. The Aces led 20-0 with 3:53 remaining in the first half.
The Hornets were determined to score before the half ended and Clay ran for a first down up the middle. Catholic was flagged for a face mask penalty and they made things worse for themselves by mouthing off to the referee. An upsportsmanlike penalty was added and suddenly the Hornets were in business at the Aces 15 yard line.
Dixon faked a handoff then rolled to his left and found Luke Garrison, who made the catch at the 12 yard line and headed toward the end zone. Garrison dove for the pylon but was called out-of-bounds at the two yard line. Two plays later Logan Willis muscled his way across the goal line for the TD and the score was 20-6 with 1:30 on the clock.
The Hornets went for an onside/squib kick and Kaleb Keown executed it perfectly. The ball hit an Aces player then Landen Garrison dove on the ball to make the recovery for HCHS. Dixon immediately went to the air and his pass intended for Keown was flagged for interference and Hancock County had a first down at the Aces 15 yard line. Eubanks had two timeouts in his pocket and he used them wisely. He called three running plays, the third of which resulted in a 7-yard TD run by Willis – a huge score that got the Hornets back into the game. Clay followed with a conversion run and Catholic’s advantage was trimmed to 20-14 at intermission.
The second half
The Hornets received the ball to begin the second half and Clay took the first handoff and ran through a big hole up the middle. Clay then bounced it outside and raced 50 yards to the Aces’ 26 yard line. Hancock later faced a critical fourth down and Clay converted with a hard run to the 14 yard line. Another nice play by Dixon when he delayed a pitch to Clay around the right side. Clay picked up a first down at the four and two plays later Willis jogged untouched into the end zone for the game-tying TD. The conversion attempt failed and the score was tied at 20-20 in 2020!
The Aces were looking to answer right away, but the Hancock defense had other ideas. Luke Garrison and Jack Duncan made a hard stop and Clay dropped Monroe for a big loss. The Aces faced a fourth–and–eight at their own 48 yard line and coach Jason Morris elected to go for it. Mundy threw a deep pass, but Volocko was there to break up the play, giving the ball back to the Hornets in Catholic territory.
Two big runs up the middle by Clay and the Hornets were poised to take the lead with a first down inside the Aces’ red zone. A hard run by Dixon was negated by a holding penalty, and instead of a first–and–goal inside the 10 yard line the ball was placed back at the 31. The offense was unable to overcome the infraction and on fourth down Dixon’s pass attempt was intercepted by Mundy.
A big run by the Catholic QB and suddenly the Aces were in business at the Hornets 35 yard line. Mundy later completed a pass to the end zone, but it was to the other team as Xander Early made the “pick” and returned it across midfield. The excitement from the huge defensive play was lessened somewhat when the Hornets were flagged for a block in the back on the return.
Hancock County got a couple of first downs as they advanced the ball across midfield, but a loss on a broken play put them behind the sticks. Dixon was sacked on third–and–long and the Hornets were forced to punt the ball away with 4:40 remaining on the clock.
Catholic took possession on their own 25 yard line and Mundy only needed one play to score. The junior speedster ran up the middle then veered toward the right sidelines and he was gone. A 75-yard TD run followed by a Luke Payne extra point and Catholic now led 27-20.
Hancock County took over and after three running plays by Willis the Hornets faced a fourth–and–one at their own 29 yard line. With the season on the line, the senior got the call.
Clay was suffering with a banged up leg, but it didn’t matter. The district player of the year took the handoff, ran through a nice hole up the middle and was off to the races. A dramatic 71-yard TD run with Aces clipping at his heals the whole way. As big of a touchdown run that anyone has every witnessed at Schafer–Glover… but the Hornets still trailed by one point.
After a timeout Eubanks called on Clay again, but this time Christopher Boarman ran into the Hornets’ backfield untouched and tackled Clay to the ground. The defensive play of the game saved the Aces.
The Hornets still had a chance if they could keep Catholic from getting a first down, but it was not to be. The Aces were able to move the sticks then run out the clock on another thrilling playoff game at HCHS.
“What a roller coaster of a season! We have a tough bunch of kids who love each other and that’s what I’m most proud of,” Eubanks said. “I hate it for the seniors. It’s hard knowing we are the better team – just came up short.”
Catholic coach and former Hornet quarterback Jason Morris shared his thoughts after the game.
“I’m very proud of my team and for the way we battled on the road at what I personally know is a tough place to win. Hats off to Hancock County – a place I’m proud to call home”
Clay rushed for 264 yards on 21 carries with one TD. Willis ran 21 times for 76 yards and three TDs.
Mundy finished with 228 yards rushing on 16 attempts. He completed 7 of 12 pass attempts for 86 yards, with one TD and one INT.
By Steve Wimmer