Garrard shut down by Elizabethtown defense

November 16, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

ELIZABETHTOWN - There was a time when it seemed inconceivable that Garrard County could be shut out. Yet that's exactly how its season ended.

The potent offense on display in the first half of the season was nowhere to be found Friday night as Elizabethtown whitewashed the Golden Lions 36-0 in a Class AA, Region 2 second-round playoff game.

Whether in good field position or bad, there was nothing Garrard could do to get into the end zone against an Elizabethtown defense that was waiting at every turn.

So the team that averaged 31.6 points in its first seven games walked out of Doug Smith Memorial Stadium with none.


"We've been able to move the ball up and down the field all season long, and we just ran out of gas tonight, I guess," Garrard coach Steve Stonebraker said.

"We weren't playing teams the caliber of E-town. They've got tremendous team speed. We definitely should've scored, and I think we should've scored more than once, but you've got to tip your hat to them."

It was the first time Garrard had failed to score in 56 games, since a 30-0 loss to Lexington Catholic on Oct. 23, 1998.

Most of the buzz about Elizabethtown before the game concerned its high-octane offense, but defense proved just as important to the Panthers, who will host Corbin in this week's regional finals.

Elizabethtown (10-2) held Garrard (9-3) to 139 yards, less than half its previous season average of 326 yards per game, and the Panthers returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a 73-second span in the third quarter to take a 22-0 lead.

Stonebraker said Garrard's rushing woes have stuck out like a sore thumb late in the season, and they were evident again in the Lions' net rushing total of minus-14 yards.

"That's affected us the last three weeks," he said. "That's something we knew would be a choking point going into the season, so that's why we really worked on our passing game. We've been undermanned up front against everybody we've played."

Garrard threw the ball on 39 of its 57 plays, but that didn't work well either. Quarterback Bruce Williams and tailback Tim Quisenberry, who attempted five halfback passes, combined to go 5-for-18 in the first half for 63 yards and were intercepted three times.

Two interceptions thrown by Williams effectively broke the game open. The first was returned 30 yards by Jerry Turner for a score, the second 57 yards by Zac Travis just three plays later.

"He fought hard and played a good ballgame all the way around," Stonebraker said of Williams, who threw 10 interceptions and two touchdowns in his five starts since Spencer Crutchfield was injured Oct. 3. "He made a couple of bad throws, and they were able to capitalize on them. That's what good teams do."

Lions had plenty of scoring chances

Garrard had no shortage of scoring chances. Six of its 11 possessions ended in Elizabethtown territory, three of them inside the 30-yard line.

The most notable missed opportunity may have been the first. The Lions' opening drive took them to the Elizabethtown 25 before three plays resulted in a net loss of 1 yard.

"I thought it was a big momentum swing when we held them on the first series," Elizabethtown coach Brett Burnett said.

Stonebraker apparently thought otherwise. "That was not really big considering they started their first possession inside the 10 and got the ball back with good field position," the Garrard coach said. "That was way too early to be really major."

Elizabethtown's offense got untracked in the second half, when quarterback Chris Todd completed 11 of 15 passes - including his last eight in a row - for 130 of his 229 yards.

The Panthers finished with 384 yards and 19 first downs, but Stonebraker wasn't critical of the Garrard defense.

"For the most part we played pretty well," he said. "We gave up a couple of big plays, but more than anything else they had to fight for every yard they got."

Todd finished 19-for-30 with three touchdown passes, while Williams was 14-for-34 for 140 yards for Garrard. Chris Clark was the Lions' leading receiver with six catches for 55 yards.

Stonebraker said it will be hard to bid farewell to a class of 10 seniors that led Garrard to its winningest season in eight years.

"This isn't the way we wanted it to end ... but as time passes and they step back and look at this thing, they're going to see a whole lot more positives than negatives," he said.

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