The Morning After
Breathitt came into Stanton, Kentucky on Friday night with more questions than answers after the opener in Irvine, Kentucky last week against Estill County. In its opener, Breathitt watched a 34-13 lead whittled to 52-43 with Estill threatening to pull it out as late as the final two minutes of a ball game in which the Engineers were not believed to be a legitimate threat to win coming into the contest.
A Bryce Hoskins tip into the arms of Ethan Gipson who raced for the defensive score in the game’s waning minutes made the 60-43 outcome look considerably more comfortable than it felt. Regardless of the 17-point margin, surrendering 43 points to anybody wasn’t a pill the Breathitt defense would easily swallow.
Needless to say, the defensive unit felt it had much to prove. They would have to prove it against an offense virtually no other team in the mountains, aside from Powell County’s Mike Jones, runs.
Breathitt entered the contest with more than a few questions on the offensive side. Breathitt, a team which pounded the ground with the best of them in 2019, managed a very ho-hum 137-net rushing yards against an Estill defense, in the opener. Not to throw shade at the Engineers but they didn’t exactly come into Breathitt’s opener with the reputation of being a remake of the Steel Curtain.
There were questions abound, not the least of which was could Breathitt keep two-time, All-state first teamer, William Long, hydrated enough to play a second half? He had spent the second half at the ER in Irvine, Kentucky getting IV fluids for severe, all-over cramps.
The Powell County game answered some of these questions. First, could the Bobcats play defense, particularly against the double-Wing offense? Well the Bobcats switched from its customary 3-4 base scheme and aligned in a 5-4, switching to a six man front occasionally in what looked a lot like the old Wide-Tackle 6 Jerry Claiborne ran at UK back in the day.
The results were far from flawless, surrendering 296-yards rushing in 56-carries. Yardage aside, the defense forced 5-fumbles on the night, recovering 4. Ethan Gibson, who is proving himself ever the opportunist, recovered 3 of the 4-fumbles.
There were some outstanding defensive efforts on the night. Senior William Long registered 11-tackles (9 solos, 2 assists) with 2 tackles for loss (TFLs) and a huge stop on about 4th and 18-inches where he launched himself past the lead block and tackled the ball carrier for a loss, giving us possession and stopping a Powell County invasion into Bobcat territory. Junior, Colton Herald turned in his second consecutive strong outing with 7-tackles (6 solos, 1 assist) and sophomore Bryce Hoskins collected 7-stops (3 solos, 4 assists).
A pair of underclassmen, second-level players showed they could be counted on for big-time play. Freshman, Caden Bowling, had 12-tackles on the night (10 solos, 2 assists) together with recovering the one fumble not recovered by Ethan Gibson, and Sophomore, Brady Tincher, pitched in a dozen tackles (9-solos, 3-assists). Freshman Gabe Fugate, limited largely to special teams, punched a ball out we recovered causing a forced fumble (FF) to be credited to his stat line. Other “FFs" on the night went to juniors, Jalen Turner and Blake Ritchie, with one a piece.
Although the Bobcats surrendered way more rushing yards than anyone would like, there is a silver lining, if you will. Powell County ran 56-offensive plays for 296-yards of total offense and only scored the one time. They call that bend but don’t break defense. I prefer the neither bend nor break defense, but sometimes you take what is given you.
Offensively, the front-line’s performance was night and day better than it was in the opener. The same line which cleared the way for a paltry 137-net yards rushing against Estill County helped the backfield gash Powell for 320-yards on only 24-carries with 5-rushing TDs.
Lane Weddle led the ground assault with 4-carries for 133-yards with 3-rushing TDs. Freshman, Caden Bowling gained 80-yards in only 11-attempts with a rushing TD. Ethan Gibson, primarily a defensive standout, gained 29-yards on 3-carries finding pay dirt himself and Trevor Baldwin gained 29-yards on his 5-carries from scrimmage. Even Jaylen Turner got a carry which he took 49-yards before being tackled.
On the night, running behind the Big Blue Wave of Miller, Spencer, Long, Perry, and Deaton, the offense averaged 13.33-yards per rushing attempt and scored a TD every 4.8-rushing attempts. Reminiscent of 2019, or so it seemed.
Through the air, Breathitt was 4 for 8 for 90-yards with two-additional TDs scored. One of the TD receptions was to senior, Lane Weddle with the other one landing deftly into the outstretched hands of freshman, Austin Sperry.
Sperry caught 2-passes for 58-yards receiving with 1-TD. Weddle caught 2-passes for 32-yards receiving with the other TD.
The two-point conversion play, throwing the slant to hulking TE Bryce Hoskins, was there anytime we needed it. We didn’t need it but once last night but good to keep in the mental vault of the Bobcats’ brain trust as the year progresses.
One never knows, when positioned in the middle of the field, when the Bobcats will need to call on the slant to Hoskins. The Bobcat coaches have seen Bryce can get open on the play. The coaches also know Hoskins will catch it from his work around the goal line.
So far this year, it has been very difficult to stop. We will see it many times going forward I would be willing to wager.
In summation, the final score was 50-8 with it being 44-8 at the half time and the second half being played on a running clock. It was a dominating performance from the defending region and district champions.
Tremendous strides were made between the first and second games. It should be fun to see what kind of progress the Bobcats can continue to make, especially with these young players getting plenty of game-time reps to develop.
Join us this coming week. We will see you when Knott County comes calling on the Riverbank at the Mike Holcomb complex.