McLean County utilized offensive ball control and solid defense to defeat Hancock County 21-14 during a district football game played at Calhoun Thursday. The Cougars improved their season record to 7-1 (2-1) while the Hornets slipped to 6-2 overall and 1-2 in District 2.
“This was a tough one. McLean had a good game plan and we just had trouble getting them off the field,” HCHS coach Bobby Eubanks said.
The Cougars received the opening kickoff and drove methodically down field. McLean faced a fourth down situation three times during the possession and converted each before Zach Clayton capped off the drive with a 3-yard TD run. The home team used up the entire first quarter and led 7-0.
The Hornets had their backs to the wall during their first offensive series when they faced a fourth–and–six at the McLean 47 yard line. Cole Dixon used his arm and connected with Austin Volocko for a 31 yard gain.
Hancock County faced another critical fourth down and again the Hornets leaned on their aerial attack. Dixon rolled to his right and found Kaleb Keown in stride. Keown reached for the pylon, but was ruled out of bounds. Volocko later took a handoff running left and scored on a 7-yard run. The conversion try failed and the Cougars led 7-6.
McLean allowed the ensuing kickoff to get behind them and after a great open field tackle by Wyatt Emmick the Cougars were pinned back on their own three yard line.
A 21-yard gain by Clayton on first down set the tone for the drive as the Cougars marched the length of the field. Quarterback Brodie Cline plunged over for a 1-yard TD with 17 second remaining in the first half.
The Hornets tried to go deep, but the pass was picked off by Evan Ward and the two teams went to halftime with McLean leading 14-7.
Hancock County got the ball for the second time in the game when they received the second half kickoff. Dixon went to the air immediately and completed a pass to Keown for a first down. The offense later faced a fourth–and–five from the McLean 47 and Dixon was under pressure in the back field. He scrambled and tried to reach the sticks with his legs, but he was brought down short of the line to gain.
The Cougars stayed on the ground and were driving again when suddenly there was a collision in the back field and the ball was lose. Jack Roberts recovered the fumble and the Hornets were back in business, but not for long.
Hancock County went to its aerial game and Dixon’s pass was tipped into the air. Ward was Johnny on the spot and snatched the ball just before it hit the ground for the interception. One play later Elijah Baldwin was in the end zone after a 20-yard TD run. The PAT put McLean County ahead 21-6 with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The Hornets came back onto the field with determination and worked the ball towards the goal line with some hard running. Dixon, Logan Willis and Jack Duncan all picked up first downs to reach the red zone. Two more hard runs by Willis gave the Hornets a first–and–goal and Roberts finished off the drive with a 3-yard TD plunge up the middle. Alex Basham collected the 2-point conversion and the score was 21-14 at the 8:06 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Cougars used every second available before running plays during the ensuing possession. They faced a critical fourth down near their own 35 yard line and decided to go for it. Clayton picked it up and McLean was able to control the clock the rest of the way.
The Hornets did get the ball back with 6.5 seconds and just enough time for a Hail Mary try. Dixon pitched the ball to Keown, who threw across field back to Dixon. The senior QB then let fly, but the ball fell incomplete as the final horn sounded.
Jack Duncan led the defense with 24 total tackles, and Ross Powers had 17 stops, with one TFL. Braydon Wathen had 11 tackles (one TFL), Aiden Weatherholt made 11 stops, Austin Volocko and Jack Roberts had seven tackles each, Alex Basham and Drew Lyday made four tackles and one TFL each, Hayden Shearn, Cooper Jones and Landen Garrison all had four tackles, Colin Johnson made three stops, Lawson Ward two, and Luke Pritchard, Aaron Garrett, Aiden Thrasher and Wyatt Emmick all had one each.
Cole Dixon completed 7 of 12 passes for 86 yards, with two INTs. Kaleb Keown had four catches for 38 yards, Volocko had two for 37 yards, and Garrison had one for 11 yards.
Duncan led in rushing with 19 yards, Logan Willis had 18 yards, Volocko seven, Roberts three, Garrison two and Dixon two.
Next game: The Hornets have this week off then go on the road for a district game with Todd County Central.
By Steve Wimmer