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KC Eagles Blank Falcons To Open Season
By David Sharp
Fayette and Knox County hooked up in a gut wrenching defensive struggle in week one varsity football action at Ella Campbell Field. The Falcons held a razor thin 134-132 halftime edge in total yards from scrimmage.
The game appeared it might be won or lost on a break. Ben Harder scooped the football up on the Fayette 34 yard line and raced for the only scoring play of a thrilling 7-0 Knox County victory. The eventual game-winning touchdown was scored when a Fayette receiver was ruled to have possession of a Dalton Lenoir pass.
A thundering hit by Eagle linebacker Davin York knocked the ball loose. The way this game was going, the teams may have battled well into overtime before a point went on the board.
“I thought he caught it,” said KCHS senior linebacker Ben Harder. “He got hit and I saw the ball come out. I picked it up. They didn’t blow the whistle and I just took off.” The game winning play came on Ben Harder’s birthday. Ben Harder picked up the football with a cast covering a broken middle finger on his right hand.
Knox County’s defense played lights out from beginning to end. The Eagles enjoyed excellent field position most of the night as a result. Fayette’s overall team speed created problems on both sides of the ball.
Fayette blocked a 27 yard Cameron Kirmse field goal attempt in the first quarter. An embolden Falcon team converted a fake punt for a first down near the Fayette 35 yard line. The teams exchanged punts frequently.
Keenan Gillaspy kicked the football an unofficial eight times. Four of the KC punts were 40 yards or longer. Falcon junior Trae Allen returned a 40 yard punt 25 yards. Dalton Lenoir had a punt travel ten yards out of bounds.
Knox County took over on their 40 yard line. Keenan Gillaspy found Davin York for a 33 yard gain. The Falcon defense rose and stopped their hosts on downs at the Fayette 25 yard line with 10:57 remaining in the first half.
David Hinkle recovered the first of three Fayette lost fumbles on his 48 yard line. The Eagles could not move the ball and punted. Trea Allen brought a 50 yard punt back 20 yards. Davin York blitzed up the middle of the Fayette offense and broke up a third down pass.
Dalton Lenoir hammered the football 41 yards. The teams exchanged punts again. Fayette picked up a fumble on the Fayette 34. Knox County had a good drive going from their 35. The KCHS runner appeared to be down by contact. The Eagles cashed in a similar break in the third quarter.
Fayette drove down the field in the final 90 seconds of the first half. Tristan Lonberger stepped up and intercepted a pass on the Knox County 14 yard line with 48 seconds to play in period two.
The defensive stop probably prevented a touchdown the way Fayette was moving the football. Keenan Gillaspy punted again, this time for 44 yards. The final 15 seconds elapsed with the game knotted in a scoreless tie.
Knox County rushed 21 times for 76 first half yards. Fayette was 12-74 on the ground in the same time frame. Knox County was 2-8 for 58 passing yards. Fayette went 5-13 for 60 yards in the air with an interception against. Fayette held a 7-5 edge in first downs.
The net effect was a 134-132 Falcon edge in first half total yards from scrimmage. Knox County held a ten yard edge in penalty yards.
Fayette did a good job of shutting down the Eagle offense in the second half. Knox County had four defensive takeaways to one for Fayette. Knox County did not turn the ball over in the second half. Fayette surrendered possession twice in a three minute stretch early in the third quarter.
“We got out with a victory,” said Knox County coach Steve Ramer. “We are a team that can’t make mental mistakes and we made way too many tonight. We had (seven unofficial) penalties, we just can’t do that.”
Fayette tried an on side kick at the start of the second half. Knox County recovered on their 49 yard line. The Eagles continued to win the battle of field position. The Falcons shut down Knox County’s offense down and forced the first of four second half punts.
Keenan Gillaspy bottled Fayette up on their ten yard line. The Falcons went to a short passing game, in part due to a fierce Knox County pass rush. Davin York leveled a Fayette receiver in the flat.
The question of if the receiver had possession is a matter of film study, and for the ages. Ben Harder took advantage of an opportunity and scored Knox County’s first touchdown of the season at the 7:41 mark of the third quarter. Cameron Kirmse’s kick gave Knox County a 7-0 lead.
The fired up Knox County defense made another play their next time out. Damon Hemmerling recovered a fumble on Fayette’s first play from scrimmage after the KCHS score.
It was Fayette’s turn to shine defensively. The Falcons stopped the home team on downs at their 12 yard line with 5:31 to play in period three. Another punt exchange ensued.
Fayette drove the football to the Knox County 36 yard line. The Eagles stopped their guests on downs. The Eagles were forced to punt. David Hinkle crashed the Falcon’s personal protector and blocked a punt on the Falcon 30 yard line.
The Eagles had a golden opportunity to salt the game away when their took over at the 8:16 mark of the fourth quarter inside the 30.
Fayette hit the Eagles with several blitz packages. The Falcons brought heat off the edges in a zone blitz scheme. Fayette recorded four quarterback sacks for a net loss of 37 yards. Logan Ball planted Keenan Gillaspy three times. Alex Hilderbrand had the other sack.
Knox County did not get to Dalton Lenoir for a sack, but pressured the Fayette quarterback into an 8-23 night good for 89 yards and a Tristan Lonberger interception. Fayette’s fleet footed receiving corps got open numerous times. Lenoir did not have time to find his targets much of the time.
David Hinkle pressured the Fayette quarterback into an incomplete pass on fourth down and 17 yards to go. Knox County took over on their 44 yard line with 5:16 to play in the game.
Davin York and Andy Greenley made several gutsy runs. Knox County was able to grind out the remaining time. The Eagles racked up two tough first downs on the ground. Tristan Lonberger took a wingback counter play 12 yards to the Fayette five yard line for a first down at the 1:59 mark of period four.
The Eagles did not record a second half first down until the final 5:16. “We are still looking for a halfback. We have a lot of competition,” said Coach Ramer. “We are learning as we go. Normally we would yell at Ben Harder for trying to scoop that ball up.”
“(Davin) York made a heckuva hit to knock that ball loose. (Ben) Harder scored a touchdown and we’ll take it,” related Steve Ramer. “We weren’t trying to do anything special on defense. We just wanted everybody to do their job.”
“We wanted to stay home and play good team defense,” said Ramer. “We play consistent team defense and make the other team beat us. They put a few first downs together, but they couldn’t string too many together without a mistake.”
“We put good pressure on the quarterback. I think our DB’s did a good job of keeping everything underneath them,” said Coach Ramer of the Eagle defensive effort. “We made tackles. We made them regret making that underneath catch.”
“Westran is probably the most under the radar team. They won’t be for long. They are a good ball club that can go deep into the playoffs,” said Steve Ramer of his week two foe. “It’s going to be an excellent test for us. We are going to have to play excellent defense as we did tonight. We will have to play better on offense.”
The Hornets stung a good North Shelby team at Shelbyville by a 34-7 score. According to KRES Radio, Bryce Enyard rushed 12 times for 160 yards and three scores. Tyler Hunt recorded 207 all purpose yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders turned the football over six times, with four interceptions.
Fayette rushed 22 times for 122 yards. Trae Allen led the Hornets with eight carries for 47 unofficial yards. Fayette was whistled for eight penalties for 65 yards. Mikey Thompson had four pass receptions for 37 yards.
Fayette held a 12-8 advantage in first downs. Dalton Lenoir punted seven times for a 25.3 yard average.
Knox County rushed 41 times for 137 unofficial yards. Davin York led the way with nine attempts for 41 yards. Keenan Gillaspy rushed 13 times for 34 yards.
Tristan Lonberger carried 11 times for 39 yards. Brady Morton was 4-13 on the ground while Andy Greenley had for attempts for ten yards.
Damon Hemmerling led Knox County with ten tackles. Hemmerling added a fumble recovery. Andy Greenley had seven tackles. Fourteen KCHS players had at least one stop in a good team effort.
Keenan Gillaspy was 2-10 for 58 yards passing. Tristan Lonberger tried a halfback option pass that fell incomplete. Knox County was 2-11 for 58 yards with no interceptions. The Eagles lost 37 yards as a result of quarterback sacks.
Leighton McCabe had a 23 yard catch while Davin York hauled in a 35 yard pass, both from Keenan Gillaspy. Knox County had seven penalties for 45 yards. Two Fayette first downs were as the result of penalties.
Long time Knox County Eagle supporter Larry Phillips was honored with a moment of silence before the contest. Larry Strong Phillips died August 23, 2009 at his home at the age of 68.
Larry Phillips was a staunch Knox County Eagle football booster for decades. The veteran Knox County attorney handled field announcing chores when this reporter played. Mr. Phillips played football for William Jewell College. He really knew the game.
Larry Phillips leaves his wife Barbara Ann, three children, six grandchildren and many friends. This story is dedicated to Larry’s memory.