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Satisfying 7th

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Braves end regular season with shutout win at Boyd

By Ryan Naus

When the Grant County High School football team traveled to Boyd County, it was a homecoming for head coach Mike Davis.

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Davis grew up in Boyd County and played for the Lions’ football team, but returning as the Braves head coach, he only wanted one team to walk away with a win. The Braves shutout Boyd County on the Lions’ senior night, winning 23-0.

“It was a really good ballgame,” Davis said. “We played solid football in all aspects of the game. When we made these contracts with Boyd County, I knew it would be a big game. I told the players it was about Braves football; it wasn’t about Mike Davis returning to Boyd County. It was nice to go home and have our football team play a complete game.”

The Braves beat the Lions and earned their seventh win of the season, a school record. Quarterback Joe Soden also became the Braves career leading passer, moving ahead of Andrew Smith with over 2,100 yards.

“The seventh win is another step in building the program,” Davis said. “We’ve met a lot of goals and we’re laying a foundation. There’s a standard being set in the youth league, middle school and high school. It’s Grant County football from first to 12th grade. Grant County football can play. Joe’s done a great job. It’s a personal record, but it’s a team record too. He’s a phenomenal athlete and does a great job leading the offense. He’s set the bar high, along with the other seniors.”

“It feels good to know you’ve accomplished something in your high school career along with another winning season,” Soden said. “There’s something about this class. We’ve brought it since middle school. We’ve played together our whole lives and it’s nice to be a record-setting team.”

The Lions had won their district a week before, but couldn’t keep up with the Braves.

“They were shell shocked when we played as well as we did,” Davis said.

The game was a defensive struggle in the first half, with both offenses looking to find a rhythm. Boyd County punted on their two drives in the first quarter.

The Braves offense was not able to move the ball consistently in the first quarter either, despite putting together a solid drive that slowly moved the Braves down the field.

The Braves relied on their running game, as Soden and running backs Rex Benson and Terrell Spray moved the chains on the ground. Soden also connected with receiver Tyler Haar on the drive, but ultimately, they turned the ball over on downs when they were unable to convert on fourth down.

Fortunately, the Braves defense played staunch defense, as Josh Rump came up with two plays that kept the Lions from moving down the field. On second down, Rump bulldozed an offensive lineman into the ground before taking down the quarterback. On the following play, he knocked the ball out of a receiver’s hands, forcing fourth down. The Lions tried a fake punt, but came up short, giving the Braves the ball on Boyd’s 44-yard line to start.

After alternating punts again, the Braves turned the ball over on downs. With time running down in the first half, the Lions tried to get in position for a field goal, but a sack by Darryl Hearn on third down forced them to punt, giving the Braves under a minute to make something happen.

Soden moved the ball down the field, cutting across the up and across the field for a first down, relying on a helmet rocking block from K.J. Little that put a Lion on the ground. Justin Mertz hauled in a pass from Soden and moved the Braves into field goal with just under five seconds left. Preston Cahill made a 30-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Braves a 3-0 lead as they headed into halftime.

“It was huge,” Davis said. “We had called a trick play to try and get a score and Boyd County had it snuffed out pretty good, but Justin was able to get the ball in position for a field goal. A rookie kicker came through with a huge field goal before half that gave us the momentum.”

“It was a big kick by Preston to give us points going into the half,” Soden said.

Although both teams had struggled in the first half offensively, the Braves came out hot in the second half.

Going back to the running game, Spray and Benson moved the ball down the field. Matt MacAdams came up with a catch for first down, despite being drilled in the back, setting up Soden for the game’s first touchdown, as he sprinted down the field and scoring to put the Braves ahead 10-0.

“It was great,” Soden said. “Our offensive line picked it up in the second half and showed their defense how to block people. It was beautiful. When Rex picked up his block, I was home free.”

Just as Boyd County looked to answer, Grant County came up with some more defensive magic. The Lions fumbled the ball when Randy Salyers knocked the ball loose on the option. Sheffield picked up the ball and rumbled to the end zone, making it 16-0 after a blocked extra point attempt.

“Randy hit the option man as he was getting the pitch and I recovered the ball,” Sheffield said. “I saw green grass and I ran with it. It definitely put the game out of reach. Our coaches were going crazy. It energized the whole team. It was pretty sweet. It was my first varsity touchdown. I play a lot of defense and don’t get a lot of touches offensively, so I was glad to take advantage of the opportunity.”

The Lions fumbled the ball on their next drive, giving the ball back to a Grant County team that had all of the momentum.

Mertz and Soden fell into a rhythm, connecting several times before Spray ran for the score. Soden connected with Haar for the two-point conversion and made it 23-0.

“Joe had some good checks and was reading the defense,” Mertz said. “The defense was setting u s up to make quick passes.”

The Braves defense kept the Lions from creating any offensive rhythm, ending the game with two fumble recoveries and an interception by Dillon Pelfrey. For the game, the Braves only gave up 125 total yards.

“The defense set the tone,” Davis said. “They set our offense up in several situations, which is huge. We executed our game plan for the third week in the row. It’s always nice to play that way going into the playoffs.”

The Braves have two weeks before the playoffs, when they travel to John Hardin for their first round game.

“We’re 0-0 right now,” Davis said. “The fans followed us to Boyd County and hopefully with the playoffs coming up, it will be a big turnout and another good night.”