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Grant County’s football team wasn’t ready for their season to end.
The Braves were hoping to make a run in the state playoffs, but unfortunately, the John Hardin Bulldogs weren’t ready to stop playing either.
The Bulldogs defeated the Braves 55-7 in Elizabethtown in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We played hard,” head coach Mike Davis said. “They just had too much speed on the field for us. We preached that we couldn’t give up the big play for two weeks and that they had the capability to take it to the house at anytime. We tried our best to contain it, but they executed better on offense than we did on defense.”
“We knew what we had to do and we didn’t get it done,” senior Matt MacAdams said. “It should have been a win for us, but we just didn’t get it done.”
“It was a tough way to end the season,” senior Justin Mertz said. “We didn’t play as a team. We should still be playing. There’s no doubt about it.”
The Braves started the game off with a touch of good luck. They kicked the ball short to keep it out of the hands of the talented Bulldogs return men, but ended up recovering the kick.
“We were trying to kick it away from them deep, but it worked in our favor,” Davis said.
The Braves were forced to punt, with the short kick giving the Bulldogs favorable starting field position.
On John Hardin’s ensuing drive, Elias Camper took the ball from their 45-yard line to Grant County’s three-yard line. Grant County stopped John Hardin from scoring on three straight plays before the Bulldogs scored on fourth down to put them up 7-0 early in first quarter.
The Braves had an answer for the Bulldogs. MacAdams came up with a clutch catch on third down, taking the ball down the field before being caught from behind. His catch energized the Grant County sideline and the fan contingent that traveled to Elizabethtown for the game. MacAdams missed catching a touchdown as his foot landed just out of bounds. On fourth down, Mertz hauled in a pass between defenders in the end zone to make it 7-7.
“I thought the catch would give us momentum and set the tone for the game, but it didn’t happen,” Mertz said. “We kept making mistakes.”
“When we scored, we showed we could play with them,” Davis said. “But they came right back and took it to the end zone.”
On John Hardin’s next possession, Camper again took the ball the length of the field to score and make it 14-7.
Mertz helped the Braves by returning the kickoff to the Bulldog’s 31-yard line, but Grant County couldn’t capitalize and were forced to punt after three plays.
Grant County tried to stop the Bulldogs on their next drive, but on third down, quarterback Alex Dingle connected with Tim Marcum on an 82-yard play-action pass to put the Bulldogs ahead 21-7 in the first quarter.
GCHS quarterback Joe Soden worked to keep the Braves in the game, despite being hounded all night by Bulldog defenders. After being sacked on second down, Soden tried to scramble for a first down, but came up short. The Braves punted the ball, but John Hardin brought a lot of pressure, blocking the punt and recovering the ball on Grant County’s eight-yard line.
David Morehead scored two plays later, taking the ball in from one yard out and making the score 28-7.
After another Grant County punt, the Bulldogs continued to move the ball on the ground against the Braves defense, ending the drive with a Camper touchdown run and making it 34-7 after a field goal attempt was no good.
The Braves started to move the ball against the Bulldogs defense with Soden connecting with MacAdams and Terrell Spray for first downs. But their drive stalled after an incomplete pass on fourth down gave John Hardin the ball. Camper scored again on a 77-yard run to make it 41-7 as the first half ended.
“Coming into the game, we were focused and ready to play, but we didn’t come out as intense as I thought we would,” Josh Rump said.
At halftime, Davis talked to his players, imparting the importance of continuing to play hard, regardless of the score.
“We told them we had 24 minutes left to play,” Davis said. “We told our seniors the next 24 minutes needed to be the best they have ever played. I thought we played harder in the second half and showed no quit, which is a sign of their character.”
Mertz started off the third quarter by returning the ball into Bulldog territory, but Soden was intercepted when he tried to make a play on third down.
The seniors were disappointed to end their football careers in Grant County, but they can still look back on what they’ve accomplished.
“We didn’t play our best,” Spray said. “But we came back this year with another winning season and made history going 7-3.”
“We didn’t play like we played the previous three games,” Soden said. “It was hard to make plays with all the pressure coming off the edges.”
“We didn’t execute like we were supposed to, but it was still a fun, historical season,” Cory Beach said.
“We could have played better,” Jordan Schadler said. “It was still fun knowing it was our last game together. We went out and had fun.”
“It was a really good season until it came to this,” Darryl Hearn said. “Some people bickered and fought with each other instead of playing football.”
“It feels bad to lose, but we accomplished a lot,” K.J. Little said. “I’ve played with these guys for 12 years. Even thought we lost, we can take what we learned in football and be better men in the real world.”
“We’ve played together for so long that these guys will be our best friends and people we can count on,” Rex Benson said. “We can not only trust each other on the football field, but off of it too. It’s been a privilege to play with them.”
“The season was successful,” Rump said. “We accomplished many of the goals that we set out for this year. I was proud of the underclassmen that stepped up this year.”