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The Marion County Knights football team hosted the Anderson County Bearcats on senior night Friday. In a back-and-forth game, the Bearcats prevailed, 42-33.
The Knights (3-7) enter the postseason as the fourth seed in their district.
On their opening kickoff, Anderson County caught the Knights off guard and recovered a pooch kick. The Bearcats took the early 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass with 10:06 left in the opening quarter.
“The opening kickoff for them was a huge momentum builder, and we were playing catch up all night,” Knights Coach Jeff Robbins said.
After forcing a punt, the Bearcats took a 14-0 lead with 3:10 left on their second touchdown pass.
Marion County scored on its next possession. On a drive that included a 39-yard run by Ryan Peterson, Vincent Collins scored on a pass from 1:07 left in the first period. The score was 14-6 after a missed the extra point attempt.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, Anderson County threw yet another touchdown pass to take a 21-6 lead.
On the following drive, a 42-yard run by Peterson helped set up a one-yard touchdown rush by Mattingly. Austin Turner scored on a two-point conversion, and the Knights cut the lead to 21-14.
The Bearcats responded with their fourth touchdown pass to take a 28-14 lead.
After trading punts, Collins caught his second touchdown pass from Peterson with 45.1 seconds before the break. The score capped a four-play, 54-yard drive. The Knights trailed 28-21 at the half.
On the opening drive of the second half, Cameron Brown recovered a fumble, which led to another Mattingly scored to close a seven-play, 42-yard drive.
Anderson County blocked the extra point, and held onto the lead, 28-27, with 8:34 left in the third period.
Neither team scored again until the fourth quarter. With 11:56 to play, a rushing touchdown gave Anderson County a 35-27 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Derrick Robey broke open for a 40-yard run, and Mattingly added another rushing touchdown. After a failed two-point conversion, the Knights trailed 35-33 with 10:16 left.
The teams traded punts before Anderson County took over with 5:38 remaining. The Bearcats’ final scoring driving included a pass interference penalty against the Knights and two fourth-down conversions, including a one-yard touchdown run that gave the Bearcats a nine-point lead with 1:39 left.
Marion County hoped for some magic on its final drive, but fumbled instead, allowing the Bearcats to run out the clock.
Peterson led the Knights offensively with eight carries for 86 yards. He also completed five of 18 passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Mattingly carried the ball 16 times for 69 yards and three touchdowns. Derrick Robey had 11 carries for 67 yards.
Collins had three receptions for 66 yard and a pair of touchdowns.
On defense, Chris Gaither led Marion County with 11 tackles. Collins and Brown each had seven tackles, and Brown also had a fumble recovery. Nick King had six tackles.
“We had a great effort offensively and ran the option as good as we ever have,” Coach Robbins said. “Ryan Peterson was reading the defense very good.”
Robbins also pointed out some difference between the teams.
“Our line played well against a much bigger and more experienced Anderson County team,” he said. “Defensively, we played very well against the run, but made several mistakes in the secondary.”
Robbins said the Knights had some difficulties on special teams. John Southall is battling back spasms that affect his kicking, and freshman Aldo Perez could not punt due to a knee injury.
As part of senior night, the Knights said goodbye to 16 senior players and a water boy and girl. The seniors recognized before the game were Chance Gillespie, John Southall, Alex Nalley, Trey Taylor, Levi Mattingly, Jeremy Mattingly, Clay Smith, Ben Mattingly, Jalen Smalley, John Burke, Mitchell Taylor, Austin Turner, Nick King, Carlos Litsey, Ryan Peterson, and Derrick Robey. Tessa Simpson and Joe Taylor were also recognized as part of the ceremonies.
Playoffs open Friday
The Knights open the postseason against Rockcastle County Rockets. Marion County will travel to Mount Vernon for a 7:30 p.m. kick-off Friday, Nov. 4.
The Rockets are 8-2 on the season and will enter the game coming off a 28-12 loss to Montgomery County.
“Rockcastle County is big, strong, fast, and aggressive,” Robbins said. “They are a power running offense led by seniors Chris Luna and B.B. Bradley.”
Up front the Rockets are led by Ben and Jacob Lake; both are about 6’2” and 250 pounds, according to Robbins.
Robbins also noted that the Rockets run a variety of fronts, but rely on intensity to get the job done, and are very good at it.
“We must play ball control offense, stop the run on defense, and play solid special teams to have a chance of winning,” Robbins said.
The Knights and Rockets have never met on the football field in Marion County history.
1 2 3 4 - F
Anderson (8-2): 14 14 0 14 - 42
Marion (3-7): 6 15 6 6 - 33