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Knights fall to 0-2 while offense stalls

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By Jesse Osbourne

For the second time in the Jeff Robbins era, the Knights are 0-2 to start the season.

The first time it happened was in 2004, Robbins' maiden voyage with the Knights as a head coach. That team was coming off a 0-10 season under a different staff. This time it comes under completely different circumstances following two of Robbins' best seasons ever.

"Are we 0-2? Yes. Are we learning from it? Yes. Will it make us better? Yes," Robbins said Sunday night. "I wanted to play the best and find out where we're at. Our kids are texting us (coaches) and saying we need to try this, we need to try that so they're thinking about the game."

After falling last week to defending 4A state champions Bell County (2-1), the Knights offense sputtered and never ran at full speed against a big and fast squad from 6A Nelson County (2-0) on Friday night at John J. Boswell Field.

"We've got to get better. We're 0-2 because of things we have done," Robbins said, referring to nine turnovers in two games and penalties in crucial situations.

The Knights looked eerily similar to the team from a week before against Bell County. A late rally was held off was just minutes to go.

The defense held off a Nelson County offense that ran up 56 points the week before. Marion County entered halftime only down 10 despite racking up five turnovers.

As Nelson upped the lead to 17-0 four minutes into the third quarter, the Knights finally woke up in the fourth.

Quarterback Jordan Bell kept the ball and ran in from the five-yard line for the Knights first score with 9:47 left in the game. The defense held firm again and forced a Nelson County punt. 

The Knights' Chuck Elder scampered 42 yards to return the punt for a touchdown, weaving down the sideline behind good blocking. The extra point by Mark Corbett made it a three point game at 17-14 with 8:05 to go.

With the crowd going into a frenzy, the defense stepped up starting on the kick off after the touchdown.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a Nelson County player pushed the ball back to the Nelson 10-yard line to begin the series.

Once again, the Knights defense swarmed and pushed the Cardinals back to their own 5-yard line.

On fourth and 15 the Cardinals punted from their own end zone but the Knights still brought the punt rush. Jacob Tabor was penalized for roughing the kicker, which gave the Cards an automatic first down and new life with seven minutes remaining.

"I have no doubt that if we get the ball back there we win. From there, the air was out of the balloon," Robbins said.

A quarterback keeper by Nelson's Tyler Martinez would give the Cards breathing room as they led 24-14 with 4:50 left in the game.

The Knights would have to score on their next possession with time running out. An early interception by Jordan Bell would be returned to the Knights 44-yard line, setting up Nelson with good field position.

Martinez struck again from the 21-yard line, this time from the air. His pass to Andy Clowser in the end zone with 3:31 to play would extend the lead to 31-14 and seal the game.

The Knights finished with six turnovers (three fumbles and three interceptions).

"Of our five turnovers only one was forced by Nelson County. We gave them five gifts. We wrapped them up, put a red bow on it and said 'Merry Christmas' early," Robbins said.

They gained 138 yards on the ground and 99 through the air compared to 161 and 99 for the Cards.

Next week they face 2A Bardstown High School (1-2) on the road. Bardstown lost to Nelson County 56-41 in week two of the season.

Robbins said the Tigers like to spread the ball around on offense but benefit from senior running back Ricky Harper, one of the best backs the Knights will see all year. Robbins also noted that senior J.P. Willett would be another player to watch.

"He's 5'9", 145 pounds and one of the hardest nosed kids you'll find," he said.

Senior Dominique McMakin will also be a handful for the Knights as he's nearly six feet tall and tipping the scales at 295.

"Bardstown is a good team and this is going to be a barn burner game. We have to concentrate on ourselves and correct our mistakes," Robbins said.

Kick off is slated for 7:30 at Bardstown High School.