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Defense rules as Hornets win on Gillispie TD in overtime

Hayden Shearn intercepts a pass during the final seconds of Hancock County’s 6-0 overtime win over John Hardin Friday.

It was a defensive battle in the season opening football game and Hornets fans were treated to a thriller when Chris Gillispie scored in overtime to give Hancock County a 6-0 overtime win over John Hardin at GN Excavating Stadium Friday.

“It was a great high school football game and our kids played lights out,” HCHS coach Bobby
Eubanks said.

Hornet football fans put their hands on their hearts during the National Anthem played before the season opening football game at the new GN Excavating Stadium at HCHS. Pic- tured here in her Hornet jersey is Kami Shearn and children. Gary Nugent, of GN Excavat- ing, and members of the Hancock County Board of Education were honored before the start of Friday’s game.

Both teams advanced the ball into their opponents territory throughout the game. Hancock County was inside the Bulldogs 40 yard line in the first quarter and faced a fourth–and–13 when Hornet quarterback Dylan Morris connected with Alex Madden.

The junior tight end made the catch at the 24 yard line then carried a defender to the 16. The Hornets got inside the 10 before a penalty stalled the drive.

Alex Basham carried the Hornets on a second quarter drive when a first down run crossed mid field. A 20-yard run by Basham moved the sticks and Hancock County had a first–and–10 at the John Hardin 16 yard line. Morris later carried to the seven yard line but the Bulldogs stopped the Hornets and took over on downs.

Numerous big hits by Hornet defenders kept the Bulldogs’ offence at bay and the teams went to the locker rooms at halftime with the score tied at zero.

Both squads traded punts early in the second half. A nice return by Landen Garrison preceded a first down run by Gillispie and a first down catch by Jaxson Morris. The Hornets were later forced to punt the ball away as the game advanced into the fourth quarter.

Hancock County later got the ball back and Basham picked up two first downs on hard runs. The second of which resulted in an injury to the big running back and the senior was forced to the bench. It was later learned that Basham suffered a broken ankle.

Dylan Morris then tried to run for a first down but the ball was stripped and John Hardin recovered the loose ball at their own 36 yard line with the clock ticking away.

The Bulldogs faced a third–and–five when they threw down field. Nate Gayfield made the catch but a hard hit by Cooper Jones dislodged the ball and the referee’s call was “incomplete”.

John Hardin had another chance when they had possession inside Hornet territory as time was winding down. Aiden Embry burst through the line and dropped a ball carrier in the backfield for a big loss.

The Bulldogs then tried for a long pass play with 14 second on the clock, but Hayden Shearn leaped up high and intercepted the pass. The junior returned the ball up the visitor’s sideline and was looking to win the game when he was tackled out of bounds as time expired.

The Hornets got the ball first at the 10 yard line to begin overtime. On the first play Gillispie took the handoff and raced up the middle to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. The conversion try failed but Hancock County led 6-0.

“We decided to go right at them. We have a big set with Luke (Pritchard) and Aiden (Thrasher) blocking and they cleared a hole,” the coach said.

The Bulldogs worked the ball to the three yard line then they ran a pitch play to Laysen Anderson to the right side. Anderson crossed the goal line untouched but the play was flagged for holding.

The Bulldogs were pushed back to the 13 and Austin Richardson was looking to pass on third down when Aiden Weatherholt sliced through the line and sacked the quarterback. The visitors had one last chance and a pass was caught near the goal line. Shearn was on the stop and the referees marked the ball down short of the end zone. Hornets win!

“Our defense kept us in the game. Without their no bend, no break tenacious play we wouldn’t have had the chance to win in overtime,” coach Eubanks said.

Weatherholt led the Hornet defense in tackles with 11 and added one sack. Shearn made nine stops, including two tackles for loss and one INT. Brady Eubanks had nine tackles and Ross Powers had eight and two TFLs. Carson Clark made six stops, Garrison,

Aiden Thrasher and Embry (TFL) all had three stops each, Lawson Ward had two tackles, including one TFL and Jones make two tackles and one INT. Trevan Coiles, Jack Roberts, Wyatt Emmick and Luke Pritchard all had one tackle each.

Basham led in rushing with 76 yards on 20 carries. Gillispie had 44 yards on seven runs, Morris gained 35 yards on five runs, Garrison ran for two yards and Shearn gained one.

Dylan Morris completed 4 of 9 pass attempts for 37 yards. Madden had one reception for 15 yards, Garrison had two catches for 11 yards, Jaxson Morris had one catch for five yards and Bradyn Morris had one reception for four yards.

By Steve Wimmer

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