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By David Sharp
Knox County executed their offensive game plan well during their District 16 opener with Paris. The Eagles ran nearly eight minutes off the first quarter clock and scored on their first Senior Night possession.
The Coyotes took advantage of a defensive mistake and tied the game with a 71 yard touchdown pass on their first offensive play. The Eagles could not ground the potent Paris offense and went down to a 42-20 defeat.
Knox County (4-4, 0-1 in the district) gained 282 yards on the ground, but Paris answered with 260 passing yards and four scores. Zach Parrish led all rushers with 44 carries for 235 yards and two Knox County touchdowns.
KCHS football seniors Zach Parrish, Daniel McMahon, Kane Simmons, Ethan Hustead, John Greenley, and Jeremy Hudson were honored along with Class of 2008 members involved in extra-curricular activities.
The Eagles showed a determined running game, designed in part to keep the powerful Paris offense off the field. Knox County converted at least two fourth down gambles during a 68 yard drive to their first 2007 district touchdown.
Zach Parrish scored from two yards out with 4:46 showing on the opening period clock. Cameron Kirmse’s kick gave the Eagles a 7-0 edge. It did not take Paris (7-1) long to respond.
The ninth ranked Coyotes average 35 points per game. Senior quarterback Joe Gilliam has 27 touchdown passes and over 2000 yards in the air on the season. Joe Gilliam is being recruited by the Mizzou Tigers. Paris operates out of the same spread offensive set as MU.
Paris receiver Derek Vanlandingham found an open area in the Knox County defensive secondary. Joe Gilliam delivered a 71 yard touchdown pass with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter. Jon Gilliam tied the game with his extra point kick.
The Eagles took another five minutes off the game clock and drove the football to the Coyote 19 yard line. A fourth down pass sailed incomplete, turning the ball over on downs. Paris raced down the field for another touchdown. Joe Gilliam connected with William Ransdell on a six yard strike at the 8:26 mark of the second quarter.
Paris led by a 14-7 margin. The Coyotes made a break when they stripped the football from Knox County’s return man on the ensuing kickoff. Paris recovered the fumble on the Eagle 29 yard line.
Joe Gilliam cashed in the opportunity with a six yard touchdown run at the 7:11 mark of the second period. Jon Gilliam converted all six Paris touchdowns. The Coyotes held a 21-7 lead.
Knox County took the football on their 26 yard line with 7:08 showing on the second quarter clock. The Eagles made play, keeping the football for five and a half minutes.
The Eagles faced a fourth down and 13 yards to go situation on the Paris 38 yard line. Paris sees one of the best passing attacks in the state in practice every day. The Coyotes put a hard pass rush on sophomore quarterback Keenan Gillaspy.
Wide receiver Cody Morgenstern sprinted down the field and got good position on a Paris defender. Keenan Gillaspy stepped up and delivered a strike for a 38 yard touchdown pass at the 1:42 mark of the second quarter. Cameron Kirmse pulled the Eagles within a 21-14 deficit.
Paris came right back with a 72 yard touchdown drive. Joe Gilliam passed to William Ransdell for a six yard touchdown pass with only 26 seconds remaining until halftime. The Coyotes took a 28-14 lead into the halftime dressing room.
Knox County gained 154 unofficial yards rushing with a touchdown at the half. Paris responded with 189 first half passing yards and three aerial touchdowns. Both sides had 12 first downs at intermission.
Paris took the second half kickoff and scored again. Joe Gilliam capped a 59 yard drive with a 13 yard dash at the 7:51 mark of the third quarter. Knox County battled the entire 48 minutes. Cameron Kirmse assumed the wingback position after junior Lucus Hudson suffered a season ending shoulder injury against Milan.
Kirmse returned the kickoff 30 yards to the Eagle 47 yard line. Knox County drove the football to the Paris 19 yard line. The Coyote defense stiffened, forcing two losses and a fourth down situation. Cameron Kirmse narrowly missed a 38 yard field goal attempt.
Derek Vanlandingham hauled in a 13 yard touchdown pass, capping an 80 yard drive at the 10:32 mark of the fourth quarter. Paris stopped the subsequent KCHS drive on downs on their 41 yard line. The Coyotes went out of their spread offense leading by a 42-14 margin.
Knox County made Paris punt for the first and only time with 4:46 showing on the fourth quarter clock. The Eagles showed their character and powered 78 yards for a touchdown. Zach Parrish lowered his shoulder and plowed into the end zone at the 41 second mark of the fourth quarter. The two point conversion failed closing the scoring for a 42-20 Paris victory.
"You have to give Knox County and Coach (Steve) Ramer credit for game planning against our defense," said Paris coach Ryan Watson. "(The first touchdown pass) was a big play for us. They ate up over half the clock in the first quarter. Joe (Gilliam) read the play and helped put the momentum back on our side."
"I knew Knox (County) was going to come out and run the ball trying to keep our offense off the field," said Watson. "I knew our offense was going to have to take advantage of possessions. We bent too much on defense, but we didn’t break enough to get the win."
Paris held a slim 20-19 first down edge at the final buzzer. Knox County had two turnovers, one lost fumble and an interception on their official stat sheet. The Eagles recovered two of their own fumbles. Knox County played well from a penalty standpoint. The Eagles were flagged twice for 10 yards lost. Paris had six penalties for 60 yards.
Knox County rushed 53 times for 282 yards on the night. Jacob Moots had two rushing attempts for 22 yards, including a 20 yard dash on a fourth down gamble for a KCHS first down. Kane Simmons rushed two times for nine yards. Keenan Gillaspy had three rushes for ten yards. Cameron Kirmse gained six yards on two carries.
Paris gained 184 rushing yards on 19 tries. Brent Dye gained 91 yards on ten carries pacing the Coyote ground game. Paris passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, all by quarterback Joe Gilliam. Derek Vanlandingham had five receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. William Ransdell caught seven balls for 89 yards and two Paris touchdowns.
Paris held a 444 to 315 advantage in total yards from scrimmage. Knox County passed four times for 33 net yards and a touchdown. The Eagles travel to North Shelby for their next district and final Tri-Rivers Conference football game on October 26.
Defending state champion South Shelby handed their cross county district rival a 56-0 loss, setting up a possible district deciding game at Paris this week. The loser of the Knox County at North Shelby game will be officially eliminated from district consideration.
Knox County can secure a .500 season with a win at North Shelby and have a good shot at an upper division conference finish. "We had no answer for them defensively," said KCHS coach Steve Ramer. "We went out and scored 20 points for the second straight week. We just don’t play mistake free football. If you are going to beat the (ninth) ranked team in the state, you have to play mistake free football."
"We owned the time of possession," said Coach Ramer. "Eventually we have to get good enough on defense where when we score 20 points or more we have a chance to win. Paris has a lot of skilled kids. Their line did a good job. We could not put pressure on the quarterback. They have great team speed. Good teams play mistake free football and take advantage of other team’s mistakes."
"We have to take care of business this week at North Shelby," said Ramer. "They are a good ball club. They only lost to Putnam County by two points earlier in the year."
"Our seniors really wanted to help turn this around and make this a winning season," said Coach Ramer of the Knox County Senior Night. "If we win next week, we make some big steps. Our seniors have had good leadership skills. I wish I had them one more year. We will miss them."