KC Eagles Put Homecoming Game Into Win Column
By David Sharp
Defense took over in the second half after both offenses put points on the board nearly ever time they touched the football in first two quarters of a thrilling 2008 Knox County R-I Homecoming football game.
The Eagles made plays on both sides of the ball and hung on for a 23-20 Tri-Rivers Conference victory.
Mitchell Pegg recovered a Putnam County fumble on the Midget 20 yard line early in the game. A tough Putnam County defense kept the Eagles from moving the ball closer to pay dirt.
Cameron Kirmse lofted a 30 yard field goal with nine minutes showing on the first quarter clock for a 3-0 Eagle lead. Putnam County (1-5, 1-4) responded with a 53 yard scoring drive, capped by Jacob Shiplay’s one yard run. The two point run failed and Putnam County led by a 6-3 margin with 3:25 to play in the first period.
Knox County took over on their 37 yard line after the kickoff. Keenan Gillaspy hit Lucas Hudson in stride with a 35 yard touchdown pass at the 10:33 mark of the second quarter the two point pass failed and the Eagles were back on top by a 9-3 score.
Jacob Shipley capped a 54 yard touchdown drive with a one yard run at the 7:11 juncture of he second quarter. The kick was no good and the Midgets were back ahead by a 12-9 margin.
Knox County drove the football 75 yards for another touchdown. Lucas Hudson had a nice run on a wingback counter. Keenan Gillaspy ran the ball in from three yards out for a 15-12 KC lead with 3:26 showing on the first half clock.
A good kickoff pinned Putnam County back on their nine yard line. The Midgets were plagued with penalties all game. Levi Miles ran the Midgets out of the hole, setting up Putnam County around their 30 yard line with a first down.
Levi Miles found Taylor Alexander streaking down the right side of his offense for a 33 yard touchdown pass with 56 seconds remaining in the first half. Jacob Shipley ran in the two point conversion for a 20-15 Midget lead.
Knox County moved the football but could not score. The half ended with Putnam County leading 20-15. The Midgets had 13 first downs to nine for the home team in the opening two quarter.
Putnam County (1-5, 1-4) rushed 23 times for 169 yards in the first half compared to 19 attempts for 118 unofficial KCHS yards on the ground. The Midgets held a 20-164 halftime edge in total yards from scrimmage.
Hayden Hunziker and Courtney Cahalan were named 2008 Homecoming King and Queen during halftime ceremonies. Hunziker and his comrades along the offensive and defensive lines were a big part of the KCHS win.
Both coaching staffs made adjustments at halftime. Putnam County came out in a double tight end split back formation with a twist. The Midgets set a pronounced gap between their guards and tackles. Putnam County ball carriers traveled through that space several times during the first two periods.
Defense ruled the second half. Both sides saw their first offensive series of the third quarter stopped on downs. Knox County took over on their nine yard line after a good Putnam County punt.
The Eagles moved the ball well on the ground. Knox County converted several short yardage plays with naked power football. The Eagle line moved the pile better as the game progressed.
Knox County moved the football near the midfield stripe. Steve Ramer and the KCHS coaching staff pulled a rabbit out of their collective hats. Tailback Tristan Lonberger followed a convoy of blockers on a sweep to his right.
Lonberger stopped and fired a strike to wide receiver Cameron Kirmse. Defensive back Levi Miles had good coverage. The well thrown ball dropped perfectly for the home team. Kirmse outran the defense for what proved to be the only points scored in the second half.
The 57 yard touchdown pass made the score 21-20 in favor of Knox County. Lucas Hudson ran in the two point conversion, extending the KC lead to a field goal at 23-20.
“Two things went well for us. We didn’t turn the ball over nearly as much as we have been and we made big plays,” said Knox County head coach Steve Ramer.
“We had a couple of big plays, both offensively and defensively. We have been lacking the big score play,” said Coach Ramer. “We played four quarters of football. Putnam County is a great team. They played hard. We answered them and played hard for four quarters.”
Another good Knox County kickoff put the football on Putnam County’s one yard line. The Midgets overcame more penalties and moved the ball out of the hole. The teams wound up exchanging punts again.
Putnam County drove the football near the Knox County 37 yard line in the fourth quarter. Andy Greenley jumped on one of seven Putnam County fumbles, wresting the ball away from the dangerous Midget attack.
Knox County drove the ball to the Midget 25 yard line. Knox County faced a fourth down and ten with 3:07 remaining in the game. Putnam County made a defensive play and threw Keenan Gillaspy for the only sack allowed on the night.
Dennis Dent had two quarterback sacks on the night. Levi Miles went to the turf around the midfield stripe. The Eagles stepped up and made defensive plays, winning back the ball on downs with 1:50 to play in the game.
The one thing that could beat the Eagles was a turnover. Putnam County got that chance when a missed exchange resulted in the second Knox County fumble of the night. Putnam County fumbled seven times and lost two. The Eagles had two unofficial fumbles losing one.
Putnam County had one more chance on the Eagle 47 yard line with 1:45 showing on the game clock. Dennis Dent and company stopped PC quarterback Levi Miles on a first down option play for a loss. Putnam County ran three other nail biting plays but turned the ball over on downs with 1:12 to play on the Midget 49 yard line.
Knox County (1-5, 1-3) ran off the remaining time and celebrated the 23-20 victory. “The defense played great tonight,” said Ramer. “The end of the game was a perfect example. We give them four downs to make a first down and stop them. At the worst possible time, we fumbled.”
“The defense stood up and held them to negative yards. We have to maintain that four quarter mentality,” said Steve Ramer. “No matter what happens, we have to play hard every down. Our playmakers showed up tonight. They played like leaders. Our Homecoming King Hayden Hunziker stepped up and made big stops for us.”
“That pass by Tristan (Lonberger) was right on the money,” said Ramer. “Levi Miles is a great athlete. He recovered on the play. If that pass is a foot under thrown it is picked.”
Both sides recorded an unofficial 17 first downs. Knox County rushed 36 times for 217 yards unofficially. Lucas Hudson had 16 carries for 113 yards. Tristan Lonberger had ten rushed for 37 yards. Andy Greenley went 4-29 on the ground. Keenan Gillaspy had 37 net rushing yards and a touchdown.
“We didn’t want to make a lot of mistakes and beat ourselves tonight,” said junior quarterback Keenan Gillaspy. “We cut down on our mistakes and our big plays were there. We need to keep working on driving the ball down the field, and when the big plays are there, taking them.”
Keenan Gillaspy was 2-6 passing for 81 yards and a touchdown. Tristan Lonberger was 1-1 for 57 yards and a score. Knox County was 3-7 for 138 team passing yards and two touchdowns. Dennis Dent had an 11 yard reception. Lucas Hudson caught one touchdown pass for 35 yards and Cameron Kirmse had his 57 yard scoring strike.
Knox County had four penalties for 45 yards. Putnam County had 11 penalties for 55 yards, mostly on illegal procedure calls. Putnam County rushed 44 times for 216 unofficial yards. Levi Miles led all rushers with 20 attempts for 137 yards. Jacob Shipley rushed 13 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
Levi Miles was 3-7 in the passing category for 41 yards. Taylor Alexander had both receptions and the PC passing touchdown.
“We knew our season was half over and that we had to turn it around,” said senior Dennis Dent. “There was no better place to do it than Homecoming. Earlier in the year we would blow up when we made a stupid mistake,” said Dent. “Everybody was calm and collected tonight. We took care of the ball. We executed when we had to.”
“Our defense was amazing. There were no mental let downs in the second half. We knew what we needed to do, and everybody did it,” said Dent.
Knox County has another stern test coming up at Milan. Wildcat players to watch include freshman quarterback Cooper Bankus, Logan Hill, and Cody Peterie. Senior Bryce Richardson has won the coveted Wing-T fullback job. Richardson has a good combination of power and speed.
The Wildcats are big and quick along the lines. The history of the Milan vs. Knox County series usually indicates close games. The Eagles have not defeated Milan since KCHS alumni and former coach John Dabney took over the Wildcat football program. Both teams enter district play after this week. Knox County and Milan could possibly have a playoff rematch.
Andy Greenley led Knox County with 19 tackles and a fumble recovery against Putnam County. Lucas Hudson recorded 16 tackles. Jacob Moots had 13 total tackles. David Hinkle and Dennis Dent had 11 tackles each. Dennis Dent had two sacks.
Mitchell Pegg had a KCHS fumble recovery. The Eagles wound up with a 355 to 302 advantage in total yards from scrimmage.
Knox County R-I alumni, teacher and coach Kathy Hall was honored before the 2008 Homecoming Football Game. Coach Hall died October 1, 2008 of Cancer.
Mrs. Hall worked with the district’s physical education department for 27 years. She attended more KCHS basketball games stricken by cancer in a wheelchair than many who call themselves Eagle fans.
The tribute read by public address announcer Daryl Huchteman ended with “Now let’s go out and play ball.”
Play ball the Eagles did. This story is dedicated to Coach Kathy Hall’s memory and service to our community.