Eagles Hold On To Win At Highland
By David Sharp
Knox County made plays to win their varsity season opener by an 18-6 margin at Highland. The Eagles overcame first game jitters, which possibly contributed to ten penalties for 80 yards and three turnovers.
The Eagles caused seven Highland fumbles on defense, recovering five. Brent Cowan picked off Cougar quarterback JT Gray in the second quarter, setting up the second Eagle touchdown in a 20 second span.
Knox County’s defense was ahead of their offense until the final four minutes of the game. Tyler Davis picked up a Cougar fumble on the Knox County ten yard line late in the game.
The Cougars appeared to have their guests on the proverbial ropes, ready to tie the game or go ahead at the 3:43 mark of the fourth quarter.
The Eagles regained possession on their ten yard line. Highland’s defense was able to keep Knox County from a much needed first down.
KCHS coach Alex VanDelft set up a reverse to sophomore wide receiver Donovan Edwards.
A penalty marker flew on the Knox County five yard line, as Edwards broke free of the Cougar defense. Edwards raced down the sideline nearest the Knox County bench to the Highland 12 yard line.
Knox County ran time down to the 43 second mark. The Eagles faced a fourth down and ten situation leading by a score of 12-6.
Senior quarterback Leighton McCabe found Chance Tungate open in the end zone for a game clinching touchdown.
Highland (0-1) seemed to hold the upper hand much of the night. The Cougars drove 32 yards on their first possession to the KCHS 30. Knox County’s defense stiffened, holding Highland on downs.
The young Eagles had trouble getting into formations at times, resulting in two drive killing penalties. Highland tried a slip screen play on their next series of downs.
The football was thrown behind the line of scrimmage. Officials ruled the pass to be a lateral. Linebacker Jared Barnard was hustling all the way on the play, and picked the football up just before it went out of bounds on the Highland sideline.
More Knox County penalties and a JT Gray sack forced another Eagle punt. Leighton McCabe boomed two first half punts 40 yards each. Donovan Edwards tackled one of the Cougars for a loss, forcing a Highland punt. The contest was scoreless entering the second quarter.
Knox County took over on their 48 yard line to start off the second quarter. Freshman Brody Moubry raced 34 yards into the red zone, setting up Leighton McCabe for a one yard touchdown run with 6:55 to play in the first half. The two point try failed, leaving the score at six to nothing in favor of Knox County.
Highland lost a fumble on the next play. A penalty pushed the football back to the Cougar 14. Leighton McCabe raced ten yards to pay dirt and a 12-0 lead. The two point pass was intercepted, leaving the score at 12-0 Eagles.
Knox County had a chance to put the game more solidly in control. Brent Cowan intercepted a pass and raced 40 yards down the Cougar sideline to the Highland five yard line with 5:18 to play in the second quarter.
Apparent confusion in the Knox County back field led to a fumble. Highland picked up the football on their one yard line with 3:56 showing on the clock. The Cougars drove the football down to the Knox County 25 yard line. A fourth down pass was broken up, stalling the drive with 16 seconds remaining in the first half.
Knox County ran out the remaining time, leading 12-0 at intermission. First half stats were fairly even. The Eagles had 15 more yards in penalties, but a positive two turnovers.
The Eagles won the toss and deferred to the second half. Donovan Edwards nearly took the second half kick to the house. Edwards raced 51 yards to the Highland 29 yard line.
Knox County was unable to finish the drive, turning the ball over on downs at the Highland seven yard line. A 15 yard facemask penalty on Knox County negated a good defensive play, moving the football to the Highland 28 yard line with a first down.
Highland was forced to punt. The Eagles muffed the punt. JT Gray recovered the football around the KC 40 yard line. The sides exchanged possession. Highland took over on their 34 yard line early in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars drove to the Knox County three yard line. Chris Sparks capped a well executed Highland march with a three yard run at the seven minute mark of the fourth quarter. The extra point kick was blocked, leaving the score at 12-6 in favor of Knox County.
The Eagles recovered an on side kick attempt. Leighton McCabe completed a 14 yard pass for an apparent first down. Knox County was whistled for a 15 yard penalty for a late hit. The momentum shifting penalty pushed the ball back into Knox County territory, forcing a replay of second down.
Highland forced a punt. A low snap from center resulted in a blocked kick. Kegan Brown recovered the ball on the Eagle 21 yard line. The Cougars blocked better along their offensive line as the 80 degree plus night wore on.
Highland began driving the ball down the field toward the Eagle goal line. Knox County’s defense made a play when Tyler Davis recovered a fumble on the Eagle ten yard line with 3:43 to play in the game.
The Eagles kept the football on the ground trying to melt away the clock. Highland held firm on defense. The Eagles spread the field and ran off their 80 yard reverse play to Donovan Edwards.
Referee Darrell Ippensen ran down the field toward the penalty marker. Holding was the preliminary indication. The official pointed toward the Highland sideline. Knox County’s coaching staff asked for an explanation.
The penalty was a defensive holding penalty on Highland. The Eagles jumped for joy as they declined the penalty. Knox County had the football on the Highland 12 yard line after the thrilling 80 yard run.
Highland’s defense played hard to the end. Knox County faced a fourth down and ten with 47 seconds remaining in the game. Leighton McCabe threw a dart to Chance Tungate, who was wide open on a post pattern in the back of the end zone.
The Knox County receiver hauled in the game sealing touchdown with 43.7 seconds remaining in the game. The two point pass failed, leaving the Eagles up by an 18-6 score.
Highland lost another fumble late in the game. Andrew Hunolt picked up the football with 23 ticks on the clock, sealing the first varsity win of 2011.
Knox County rushed 26 times for 199 yards on the night. Two big plays accounted for 114 Knox County ground yards. The Eagles recorded eight first downs to 11 for the Cougars.
Knox County had ten penalties for 80 yards. Highland was whistled five times for 55 yards in penalties. The Cougars lost five fumbles to three for Knox County.
Jared Barnard, Leighton McCabe, Tyler Davis, Andrew Hunolt and Jon Harder had the KCHS fumble recoveries. Jared Barnard had a solid game on defense, leading the Eagles with ten tackles. Acie Sparrow led Highland with eight total tackles.
Highland rushed 36 times for 162 yards according to official Cougar stats. Highland was 3-10 passing for 46 yards with a Brent Cowan interception against.
Leighton McCabe was 2-6 passing for 20 yards and a touchdown. Donovan Edwards rushed four times for a game high 90 yards. Leighton McCabe rushed 17 times for 70 yards and two scores. Brody Moubry had two carries for 41 yards.
JT Gray led Highland with 11 rushing attempts for 68 yards. Chris Sparks rushed 13 times for 41 yards and a touchdown. The difference in the game was Knox County’s turnover advantage. The Eagles found a way to win despite not playing up to their capability.
“We turned the ball over six times. We all made mistakes,” Highland coach Kenny Grubb told the Edina Sentinel. “It’s week one, it’s not week ten. We are going to watch the film, make a list of things we need to work on and move on to Louisiana.”
“We are not going to dwell on the negative. We are going to look for our next opportunity to make a play,” Kenny Grubb said. “I can’t say enough about our defense. We gave up 18 points, but 12 of them came from turnovers inside our 20 yard line.”
“We flew around on defense. I’m proud of the way we ran the football in the second half. I am proud of my offensive line for how hard they blocked. I’m proud of my backs for how hard they ran,” Coach Grubb said.
Highland played with standout running back Derick Smith, who will miss the first three games with a knee injury suffered in the Clark County jamboree. Highland plays Louisiana their next Clarence Cannon Conference game.
“Our only goal is to win,” Knox County coach Alex VanDelft said. “The guys came out played hard and got that win. We got some turnovers in key situations. They had the ball from the very beginning. When they got close to the end zone, one of our guys would wrap up, and ten guys come and get the football.”
“We had some pretty big plays. Probably the biggest one was at the end of the game,” Coach VanDelft said. “We had been running our inside zone play consistently, setting up that reverse play.”
“It was a long third down. It was time to pull out that play and we did,” VanDelft said. “Donovan (Edwards) ran 80 yards. He did a great job getting us an opportunity to score a touchdown.”
“We finally got it in on that fourth down try. Brent Cowan is one of those guys we count on the corner. Anyone that watched Knox County track knows he is one of the fastest guys in our conference,” Alex VanDelft said.
“He had two pass break ups and an interception. People have that pre conceived notion that Leighton McCabe can’t throw or he won’t be good at it,” Alex VanDelft said.
“What Leighton is good at is getting things done. When ever it is time to make a play, we are going to put the football in Leighton’s hands and he is going to make something good happen for us.”
Opposing coaches will probably rewind a portion of the Knox County at Highland film showing Leighton McCabe throwing the football from around his 20 near the opposing 40 yard line, overthrowing his receiver.
“The pass from Leighton McCabe to Chance Tungate was a great throw. It iced the game,” Alex VanDelft said.
Knox County will travel to Paris on Friday, September 2 for their next varsity football game. The Coyotes have a big offensive line, averaging 262 pounds per man.
Players to watch for Paris include all conference linebacker and quarterback Alex Thomas. The Coyote quarterback passed for 350 yards at Knox County last year. Thomas has been hampered by a broken left hand, his non throwing hand.
Running backs Michael Batsel and Austin Tawney tip the scales around 215 pounds each. Paris lost to Monroe City in week one.