MONTICELLO -- Social distancing is supposed to be the norm for 2020, but in last night's game between Southwestern and Wayne County, neither team could seem to distance themselves from one another all-game long.
Both teams went back and forth the entire evening, but in the end, it was visiting the Southwestern Warriors escaping Jewell Field with a 42-41 victory over the Wayne County Cardinals.
Heading into the fourth and final quarter of action, Wayne County held a 35-28 lead over the Warriors. Southwestern, with 7:28 to go in the contest, took a 36-35 advantage over the Cardinals with a two-yard touchdown run from Giddeon Brainard and a two-point conversion run from Tanner Wright.
Wayne County responded just over a minute later on an eight-yard touchdown run from Braedon Sloan. The Cardinals' two-point try failed, but they led Southwestern, 41-36, with 6:15 left to play.
Southwestern, after a big return from Brainard, set up shop on their next drive from the Cardinal 38-yard line. Paced by some big fourth-down conversions from Wright, the Warriors capped off the drive with another score from Brainard. The two-point try failed, but Southwestern found themselves sitting out front, 42-41, with 1:31 remaining.
The Cardinals started the following drive from their own 49-yard line, but a holding penalty would hurt their momentum. After several incompletions, Wayne County found themselves just inside Warrior territory with a fourth-and-15 conversion. Brody Weaver hit Wesley Cares in stride for a 21-yard completion, giving the Cardinals new life at the Warrior nine-yard line with 8.6 seconds left.
Wayne County elected to go for the win right then by attempting a 26-yard field goal try. A slew of Warrior defenders would block the game-winning kick attempt, handing Southwestern the come-from-behind win in Monticello.
Southwestern could have easily laid down after falling behind with just over six minutes left in the game, but they kept fighting, and that is exactly what second-year Warrior coach Jason Foley wanted to see out of his squad.
"We preach all the time about being fourth quarter ready and finding a way to win," began Foley. "We made a lot of mistakes, but we never quit fighting. Our heart and our grit were there, and I'm proud of these guys."
Wayne County struck first on a 40-yard touchdown run from Sloan in the closing minutes of the first period. Jack Kelsay's made kick put the Cardinals ahead, 7-0, with 2:01 to go in the opening frame.
The Warriors would get on the board with 8:19 left until halftime on a one-yard run from Brainard. The kick failed, keeping Wayne County out front by a lone point at 7-6.
Both teams traded scores in the final two minutes of the first half of play, sending the teams into the locker room knotted up at 14-14. Brody Weaver hit Lee Shelton for an eight-yard touchdown pass to go ahead by eight points, but Southwestern responded with a 61-yard kick return touchdown from Brainard and a successful two-point try tied the game up at 14 apiece at the intermission.
The two teams lit up the scoreboard in the third stanza, combining for 35 points. The Cardinals outscored Southwestern by a 21-14 margin in the quarter and led the Warriors heading into the fourth period, 35-28.
On Southwestern's inaugural offensive play of the second half, Wright broke through the Wayne County defense for a 53-yard score. The Warriors' two-point conversion failed, but Southwestern grabbed a 20-14 advantage with 10:40 left in the third period.
After Sloan and Brainard scored touchdowns for Wayne and Southwestern, respectively, Sloan reeled off touchdown runs of 24 yards and 64 yards to put his team out front by seven points heading into the fourth period.
Wayne County finished with 428 total yards in the game, including 341 rushing yards and 87 passing yards. Southwestern had 298 rushing yards and 19 passing yards for a combined 317 yards of offense.
Braedon Sloan, a favorite for Kentucky's Mr. Football, had a big night for the Cardinals, rushing for a game-high 283 yards and five touchdowns on 27 attempts. Sloan had touchdown runs of 40 yards, three yards, 24 yards, 64 yards, and eight yards.
"Braedon Sloan is a special kind of player, and he got a lot of his yards on his own," Thompson stated. "He is blessed with talent and he makes us all look good."
Through the air, Weaver completed six passes for 87 yards and touchdown, which was hauled in by Shelton. On the ground, Weaver had eight carries for 45 yards.
Brainard had a career night for Southwestern, tallying 64 yards and four touchdowns on just 11 carries. The junior also had a 61-yard kick return for a score in the one-point triumph.
"Giddeon Brainard had a phenomenal night, along with Tanner Wright, Connor Crisp, and Ethan Ware," praised the Warrior football coach. "Giddeon is a powerful guy, and he's hard to tackle. I am proud of him."
Wright, on the ground, chimed in with 164 yards and a score on 19 attempts. Maison Hibbard, filling in for starting quarterback Chandler Crabtree, had 19 passing yards and 16 rushing yards.
Southwestern (1-0) will look to move to 2-0 next Friday at home when they will host George Rogers Clark (GRC). Wayne County (0-1) will travel to the mountains next week to face the Black Bears of Harlan County.
Southwestern 42, Wayne County 41
SW -- 0 14 14 14 -- 42
WC -- 7 7 21 6 -- 41
RUSHING: (SW) Wright 19-164 TD, Brainard 11-64 4 TD, E. Ware 4-32, Crisp 5-21, Hibbard 4-16, I. Ware 5-1. (WC) Sloan 27-283 5 TD, Weaver 8-45, Shelton 1-13.
PASSING: (SW) Hibbard 2/7 19 INT. (WC) Weaver 6/17 87 TD.
RECEIVING: (SW) Vaught 1-14, Crisp 1-5. (WC) Cares 3-64, Simpson 1-15, Shelton 1-8 TD.