By BRUCE W. SINGLETON, CJ Correspondent
The Somerset Briar Jumpers beat district rival Lexington Christian Academy at the Briar Patch last night 12-9. It was a game that went down to the last seconds before the outcome was assured for Somerset.
Everybody expected the defenses to be tough.
They were right.
Everybody expected fumbles and interceptions.
They were right.
Everybody expected a low scoring game.
They were right.
Defense dominated both sides of the line in the first half. Somerset was unable to move the ball on the ground or in the air. Addison Thompson's 2 interceptions, with return yardage totalling 30 yards almost equalled the entire Jumper offensive output on the ground at 33. Ironically, Somerset's 3 first half passes totalled 33 yards.
The only time either team was able to capitalize on the mistakes of the other came at 6:07 in the second quarter when Chandler Dobbs kicked the 24-yard field goal. The Jumpers had missed the opportunity for a touchdown after Thompson’s interception took the ball down to the LCA 8. Three Somerset plays met with Eagle defense looking for all the world like that which the Somerset faithful has been accustomed to seeing the Jumpers exhibit all year.
And halftime the score was 3-0
Even so, Somerset had to endure some nail-biting moments as LCA marched the ball down the field in the waning seconds of the half, only to have their efforts stymied by a missed 32 yard field goal. The kicker who missed that field goal was Sophomore Colin Duzyk. Undaunted, Duzyk would come back in the second half and score all 9 of the Eagles’ points, first on a 13 yard pass reception for a touchdown (he missed the extra point) then on a 29-yard field goal less than two minutes into the second half.
That lone Eagle touchdown was set up by a fine defensive effort, when stifling pass coverage forced a punt from the 26. The LCA player was on top of the punt almost before it got to Somerset’s punter. Two plays after the ball landed on the Somerset 11, the Eagles took it in.
And then the penalty monster arrived.
After Somerset turned the ball over on downs after the kickoff, LCA began a series that took more than 6 minutes off the play clock. That series saw LCA advance all the way from its own 30 to Somerset’s 11, aided in great part by penalties against the Jumpers for a personal foul, an off sides call, and a defensive pass interference call.
In a game so dominated by defense, no team can withstand having an additional 35 yards tacked onto the other team’s progress. Nevertheless, unable to get into the end zone, LCA took the chance at the field goal and was up 9-0 with 10:15 to go in the game.
It was at this point that Coach Robbie Lucas put Freshman Quarterback Castle Hatcher into the ball game. Starter Tanner Gadberry had not been experiencing the superior game he turned in against Danville: the game the Eagles had prepared for.
From that point on, it was like the turning point in a Rocky movie. Just like Apollo Creed didn’t expect Rocky to start boxing right handed, LCA didn’t expect a team that had been a primarily ground-gaining team all year to come out and pass.
But just as Somerset was knocking on the door the yellow laundry began to decorate the field.
The pass would have been a highlight reel heart stopper. Perfectly thrown and perfectly caught from 4th down and forever, the ball went into the hands of Tyson Williams in the end zone for the lead. But not so. A holding call backed the ball up to the 32. Hatcher’s next pass to Cheuvront was just not enough to gain the first down.
LCA had dodged the bullet, but they were on their own 16. Then a holding call took it back to the 6. LCA fumbled, but maintained possession just in time to give the Jumpers one more try.
With 4th and 10 and the ball on the 16, the Eagles held on to the ball long enough to invoke the delay of game penalty.
Then, rather than punt, the Eagle quarterback took the ball, turned the other way, and ran through the back of the end zone.
It was an interesting strategy: give the Jumpers the 2 and the safety and avoid the potential return for the touchdown.
With 3:44 left in the game and a 4-point lead, the Eagles free kicked to Somerset’s 48 yard line.
It took 3 plays for Somerset to score the touchdown that would put them ahead for the rest of the night.
Even so, trailing by 3, the Eagles mounted another drive, only to by stymied by an offensive pass interference penalty on Somerset’s 1.
One more desperate pass later, Somerset’s safeties knocked the ball down and there was nothing to do but take the victory formation for the win.
But it was easily the most exciting game either team had seen in a very long time.
Head Coach Robbie Lucas complimented the coaching and the defensive prowess of the Eagles after the game.
“We’re very fortunate to have a win,” he said. “This is a very good football team. They have lost key cogs here and there. They will have something to say in the regional title championship and in the playoffs.”
“We put Castle Hatcher into a very tough situation,” he continued. “To be very honest with you, he still is not ready, but he was more ready tonight than he has been for the last little bit. He came in, he led the offense, and we are very proud of the way he played.”
The win brings Somerset’s record to 6-2 on the season and 2-0 in the district.
Next week, Somerset travels to Middlesboro, which lost to Danville last night by a score of 28-19.
*LCA 0 0 6 3-- 9
*Somerset 0 3 0 9 --12
SHS — Chandler Dobbs 24 FG 6:07
LCA—Colin Duzik 13 pass from Lincoln Henzman Kick failed 5:29
LCA—Duzik 29 FG 10:15
SHS—Will Lange 18 pass from Castle Hatcher 2:02
RUSHING—LCA- Sam Maybrier 7-33, Nick Whitman 6-23, Chandler Sneed 1-4, Dima Ballard 6-12, Dylan Lancaster 3-9, Lincoln Henzman 6-11.
Somerset--Will Lange 9-35, Tevin Slaughter 3-11, Cam Cheuvront 1-3, Jalen Jones 1-1, Castle Hatcher 2-13, Bryson Jones 1-4, Taner Gadberry 6-0
PASSING—LCA—Lincoln Henzman 3-8-43 (1TD), Dima Ballard 10-20-109 (2 INT)
Somerset—Castle Hatcher 5-8-83 (1TD), Gadberry 7-12-144
RECEIVING—LCA—Colin Duzyk 1-13 (1TD), Nick Whitman 1-8, Ryder Brown 2-19, Sam Maybryar 3-44, Chandler Sneed 3-14
SHS--Cam Cheuvront 8-94, Will Lange 1-18 (1TD), Patrick Williams 1-18,
Bryson Jones 1-52, Brycen McWilliams 1-21
FIELD GOALS LCA—Duzyk 29 FG
SHS — Chandler Dobbs 24 FG
LCA Dylan Lancaster 1-35
SHS Cheuvront 1-27, Lange 2-32
SHS – Addison Thompson 2-30