Key stop lifts Garrard over Mercer 35-34

September 26, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

HARRODSBURG - Mercer County was pulling out all the stops to beat Garrard County, but the Golden Lions had the one stop that mattered most.

Garrard thwarted a two-point conversion attempt that would have given Mercer the lead late in the fourth quarter Friday night and escaped with a 35-34 victory.

The Lions (4-2) stopped Mercer's Andrew McCloud on the two-point try to get the last word - and their fourth straight win - in a shootout that featured 10 touchdowns and at least as many momentum swings.

"We knew it would be like that," Garrard coach Steve Stonebraker said. "We could've played out here until 2 in the morning and it would be nip-tuck."


Mercer coach Duane Hammons wasn't willing to stay that long. He chose to go for two points and the lead after the Scotties (3-3) scored with 3:39 left to pull within one point.

"I'd make the same call tomorrow, I'd make the same call next week," Hammons said. "I'm going to give it to my all-state running back and let him win the ballgame for us.

"I didn't look back. I didn't want to go into overtime with them."

Stonebraker said he understood the Mercer coach's choice.

"If I have an Andrew McCloud, I consider going for two," he said. "I wasn't really surprised by the call."

McCloud vaulted toward the end zone, just as he had done successfully on the Scotties' previous touchdown. But this time the Garrard defenders piled high to stop him, and he landed a full yard short of the goal line.

"Our nose guard chopped their center, and me and Bruce (Williams) tried to stop him coming over the top," Garrard quarterback-defensive back Spencer Crutchfield said.

Teams combined for almost 800 yards

It was easily the biggest defensive play on a night when offense ruled. The two teams combined for almost 800 yards, and Crutchfield and McCloud accounted for 589 yards between them.

Crutchfield passed for a season-best 211 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for 94 yards and one score. McCloud ran 32 times for 230 yards and three scores, and he caught three passes for another 18 yards.

"Both offenses were clicking, but their defense stepped up a few times and our defense stepped up a few times," Hammons said.

Two of those occasions were interceptions, one by Mercer's Brandon Scheller to get the Scotties off the mat in the first quarter, the other by Garrard's Dan Leavell that led to the Lions' go-ahead touchdown.

But those were the only turnovers of the game, and both teams threw the ball better than they had all season. Mercer's Jordan Lyons was 10-for-14 for 125 yards in his fourth career start, and Crutchfield was 10-for-15 against a defense bent on stopping the run.

"We were really effective with the passing game, and to a lot of different receivers," Stonebraker said.

The last of the seven Lions to catch passes was Kevin Preston, who had only one reception in their first five games. Crutchfield found him on a crossing route in the end zone, and he scored the touchdown that helped Garrard tie the game at 28-all in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

"I saw the ball when it left Spencer's hand, and after that I couldn't see it," Preston said. "It was like a miracle catch. Right when it got to me, I saw the white laces."

Williams recovers fumble in end zone

Leavell intercepted Lyons four plays later, and Zach Doan would have put Garrard into the lead minutes later had he not fumbled just as he was about to cross the goal line. But Williams was there to pounce on the ball in the end zone and give Garrard the lead with 6:47 to play.

"I think it goes down as an assist," Williams said. "He already had a touchdown, so I think he was trying to give me one."

Mercer answered with a 7-play, 58-yard drive capped by a 26-yard scoring run by McCloud, who also scored from 27 and 49 yards. But McCloud couldn't make it back to the end zone on the conversion attempt.

"That was a big stop," Williams said.

Preston then recovered Mercer's onside kick attempt, and Garrard was able to run out the clock.

The Lions led 14-0 after scoring on its first two series - "I thought it was going to be a bloodbath," Hammons said - before Scheller's interception and 27-yard return set the stage for Mercer's first score.

Garrard led 21-7 after a 74-yard touchdown catch by Leavell, but Mercer pulled within 21-20 on Lyons' touchdown run in the last minute of the first half. Both teams missed field goals in the third quarter before McCloud's touchdown and two-point plunge gave the Scotties a 28-21 lead at the 1:59 mark.

"I'm very pleased with the way our kids reacted, and I'm very pleased with the way we played," Hammons said. "We just needed three or four more plays."

Garrard players remember Compton

Garrard's players and coaches wore decals reading "JC" on their helmets and caps in memory of Garrard Middle School teacher Jerry Compton, a former assistant football coach, who died Thursday. A moment of silence for Compton was observed at halftime.

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