Knox County Eagles Take Conference Win Over Milan
By David Sharp
Knox County recovered from a first quarter Milan touchdown drive with 41 unanswered points, posting a 41-6 Tri-Rivers Conference football victory at Ella Campbell Field. The contest marked the final non-district game for both sides.
Damon Hemmerling ran through the Wildcat defense for ten yards on the first KCHS play from scrimmage. Many observers thought the play signaled the beginning of an anticipated rout.
Milan rose defensively and stopped Knox County on downs at midfield. The youthful but determined Wildcats stalemated the Eagles until Keenan Gillaspy raced 47 yards for a touchdown on a well-executed option play.
Milan fullback Brody Schrock bolted 30 yards on a dive play setting up the game’s first score. Schrock hit pay dirt from five yards out at the 8:18 point of period one. The two point run failed and Milan led by a 6-0 score.
Knox County saw Damon Hemmerling’s run from his 40 yard line to inside the Milan ten called back when the officials ruled they had not properly set the ball for play. The Eagles punted after a three and out.
The Wildcats drove the football to the red zone. A holding penalty moved the football back ten yards, negating a nice gain. Milan was assessed eight penalties for 85 unofficial yards on the night.
Milan passed the ball effectively during the first half. Brian Schrage sacked sophomore signal caller Cooper Bankus, setting up a fourth down and long situation on the Knox County 19 yard line.
The Eagle secondary was able to break up a corner route near the goal line. Leighton McCabe covered at least eight yards of space for the possible touchdown saving play.
Knox County took over on downs. The Eagles made several big plays during the contest. Keenan Gillaspy’s 47 yard run capped the 81 yard touchdown drive with 7:57 showing on the second quarter clock. The two point run failed, and the game remained tied at six.
The long touchdown run changed game momentum much like Brookfield’s 40 yard plus run near the end of the second quarter. Knox County proceeded to handle Milan from that point forward as the Bulldogs did to the Eagles in week four.
Knox County’s fired up defense forced a Milan punt. The Eagles scored their second touchdown in a minute and 14 seconds when Keenan Gillaspy found Tristan Lonberger for a 39 yard touchdown pass. Lonberger made a great run after the catch of a quick stand up pass to the wide receiver. The one play drive put the Eagles up 14-6. Andy Greenley ran in the two point conversion.
The Eagles bent but didn’t break on the subsequent Milan drive. The Wildcats started out on their 19 yard line, and moved Knox County back to their 22 with a punt.
Knox County took possession with 1:46 showing on the second quarter clock. Several big gains propelled the Eagles to the Milan 21 yard line in 23 seconds. The Eagle offensive line opened a hole for Damon Hemmerling to score on a one yard plunge with 59 seconds to play in the first half.
Damon Hemmerling’s two point run was called back by a penalty. Milan stopped the two point run. The Wildcats ran out the final minute. Knox County led 20-6 at intermission.
Knox County held a 205-172 yard total yard from scrimmage edge at the half. Milan held the football for the first eight minutes of the second half. Brody Schrock ran the rock effectively. David Hinkle sacked Cooper Bankus around the Eagle 30 yard line, stalling the promising Wildcat drive.
The Eagles took over on their 34 yard line for their first second half possession at the 4:07 mark of period three. A solid Damon Hemmerling run was extended by a late hit penalty.
Cameron Kirmse raced 18 yards to the Wildcat 14 yard line. Damon Hemmerling ran over a Milan defender en route to a 14 yard touchdown run with 1:39 to play in the third quarter. Cameron Kirmse’s run made the score 28-6 in favor of Knox County.
Travis Hamlin recorded Knox County’s third of four quarterback sack of the contest, stalling a Wildcat drive. Milan was forced to punt from deep in their territory.
Knox County took over on their 49 yard line around the beginning of the fourth quarter. Tristan Lonberger raced 30 yards on a wide receiver reverse. The Eagles overcame a pair of illegal procedure penalties on their second scoring drive of the second half.
Cameron Kirmse made a great diving catch of a deep post pattern pass from Keenan Gillaspy. The 20 yard scoring strike came at the 9:46 mark of period four. Cameron Kirmse kicked the extra point for a 35-6 lead.
The Eagle defense forced another Wildcat punt. Brady Morton capped a 49 yard drive with a two yard touchdown run with 5:54 to play in the game. The two point run failed and Knox County held a commanding 41-6 lead.
“We just came out and made some good plays defensively,” said Milan coach John Dabney. “We are sticking with what we do and the kids are going to make plays. You have to stay on your responsibilities with a quarterback like Keenan (Gillaspy) back there.”
“Keenan made a fantastic inside cut on his scoring run,” said Coach Dabney. “That’s the difference between a senior, and a first year sophomore kid playing linebacker. Knox was just able to hit us with some big plays. We still had an eight minute drive going into the third quarter.”
'Inexperience somehow finds it’s way. A first and 15 becomes first and 25 after a holding penalty. When you are inexperienced, it seems like the breaks never go your way very often,” said John Dabney.
“The kids came to play. We had a little let up at the end where we had a lot of let ups the week before. These kids are battle tested. We have played every week somewhere on the road.”
Milan has played their home games at Truman State University this season due to weather related delays on their stadium renovation project. Milan will have new bleachers, renovated practice fields and an all weather track to go with their existing high end press box when the project is completed.
“We will not let them admit it, but at times we are a worn out football team,” said Dabney. “We are inexperienced, playing against several good football teams. They are learning the hard way. The kids were well prepared.”
“I just think that after blocking Travis Hamlin and some of their big guys that after an eight minute drive, the big guy just says whoa. We are undersized. We fought our rear ends off. I’m proud of how our kids stuck together and what they have been able to do.”
Milan recorded 16 unofficial first downs on the night. The Wildcats rushed 44 times for 173 yards and a Brody Schrock touchdown. Schrock led the Wildcats with 22 attempts for 97 rushing yards. Christopher Staggs ran 21 times for 75 yards.
Cooper Bankus was 6-14 passing for 65 yards. Zach Brittian had two receptions for 21 yards. Brody Schrock punted five times for a 26.67 yard average.
Knox County improved to 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in the conference. The Eagles snapped a three game losing skid. The home team rushed 34 times for 304 yards officially. The Eagles had 18 first downs on the night.
Keenan Gillaspy rushed eight times for a game high 115 yards and a score unofficially. Damon Hemmerling had 13 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Tristan Lonberger was next in line with four attempts for 40 yards. Andy Greenley rushed three times for ten yards.
“We didn’t come out with enough fire and pop,” said Andy Greenley. “We needed to hit them in the mouth and take their confidence. Ben Harder, Damon (Hemmerling) and David (Hinkle) really played well defensively. (Brian) Schrage and (Travis) Hamlin played well too. Everyone contributed.”
Andy Greenley led the Eagles with 20 tackles from his linebacker position. Ben Harder made several big defensive plays and finished with 15 total tackles. David Hinkle, Travis Hamlin, Ben Delaney and Brian Schrage recorded Knox County quarterback sacks.
“This gives a little confidence going into districts next week,” said Andy Greenley. Scotland County began the season by winning three of their first four games. The Tigers have a formidable offensive backfield. Senior running backs Kyle Shelley and Cody Taft are two of the better football players in the conference.
Cody Taft is a transfer student from Union, Missouri. Taft is credited with helping turn the Tiger football program around this season. Scotland County has size along the lines. The winner of the first district game obviously has a leg up.
Keenan Gillaspy passed five times with four unofficial completions, 80 yards and two touchdowns. Tristan Lonberger had two catches for 59 yards and a score. Cameron Kirmse had a touchdown reception for 20 yards.
Knox County had five penalties for 30 yards. The Eagles fumbled the football four times and got every one back. “They were fired up and we were a little flat,” said Eagle head coach Steve Ramer of the opening portion of the contest.
“You look at some of the scores, and think you can just roll anybody without getting up. Milan is a young, fundamentally sound football team. You can’t do that in high school football.”
“If they are pumped up and you aren’t, you are going to make it interesting. We made it interesting in the first quarter,” said Coach Ramer. “The next three quarters we played really good ball. Everything we ran worked. The good part for us is that we didn’t lose any fumbles tonight.”
“We limited our penalties and eliminated our turnovers tonight,” commented Steve Ramer. “We ended up winning. We have got to stop (Scotland County’s) running game and make them throw the football,” said Coach Ramer when asked the key to defeating Scotland County in the first KCHS district football game.
“We have got to load the box and stop them from running the football. On offense, we have got to take care of the football.”