By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With 6:23 left in Thursday night’s South Laurel-Southwestern football game, the Warriors just scored to pull within two, 27-25.
Southwestern elected to go for the two-point conversion, and was successful when Austin Smiddy found tight end Gunnar Pittman wide open in the end zone, tying the game, 27-27.
Fast forward to overtime.
South’s Tyler Detherage had just scored on a 10-yard run to give the Cardinals a 41-34 advantage. Taking the ball on the 10, Southwestern answered quickly when on second down Logan Campisano scored from 4-yards out, pulling his team within one, 41-40.
The rule of thumb is always go for the win on the road, and the tie at home. Southwestern did just that, running the exact same play it had less than 10 minutes earlier, with Smiddy again finding Pittman alone in the end zone, and the Warriors escaped, 42-41.
“We let this one slip by us,” South Laurel coach Larry Welch said. “I’m real disappointed. We were expecting them to come again with the two-point conversion. We told our guys that. Evidently they didn’t hear what we told them.”
The game featured two teams struggling to stay alive in the district race. Southwestern improved to 1-1 in district play and 3-3 overall, snapping a two-game losing streak. South Laurel is now 0-2 in district play and 1-6 overall. The Cards have now lost five in a row.
It was either feast or famine for both teams. The Warriors had 14 series in regulation. Five of them for more than 60 yards. The other nine were 13 yards or less, including one for -5 yards. Three of them ended with punts, three with turnovers, and one on downs. The others resulted in touchdowns.
The Cards had the ball 12 times. Seven resulted in drives of 44 or more yards. Two were in negative yardage, and one for zero yards. South turned the ball over twice on downs, twice on punts and twice with turnovers. They also lost a kickoff return with a fumble.
Southwestern struck first on its opening drive, 11 plays in 80 yards, capped off by Jordan Maggard carrying it in from 2-yards out for the 7-0 lead. The Warriors ran the ball down South’s throat on this drive with Maggard and Campisano running through the defense like a hot knife through butter. Campisano finished with 198 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, while Maggard carried the ball 25 times for 103 yards and two scores. They both also fumbled the ball away.
The Cardinals tied the score early in the second quarter thanks to a personal foul penalty on a late hit on Jason Mitchell, moving the ball to the Southwestern 48. On the next play, Detherage found Jeremy Prichard for a 48-yard touchdown. Matt Slavey added the point after, tying the score at 7-7 with 11:37 left in the half. Prichard had a huge game, catching four passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Two of his biggest catches would come late in the game.
After a Southwestern fumble, the Cards drove to the 20, where facing a fourth-and-11, Slavey attempted a 37-yard field goal that sailed just wide left. South’s defense then held the Warriors, forcing a punt with 7:58 left.
Taking over on the Southwestern 44, Detherage found Zach Allen, who made the catch at the 25 put paid the price as a Southwestern player made a helmet-to-helmet hit, one so hard that Allen’s helmet flew off.
Allen laid motionless on the ground as medical personnel rushed to him. He was taken away in an ambulance, and at last report, he had suffered a concussion but thankfully had movement in his arms and legs.
Four plays later, Jonathan Jenkins, who had come in when Detherage was hurt on second down, hooked up with Devin Pennington for 10 yards and a score. Southwestern blocked Slavey’s PAT attempt, so with 6:05 left, South led, 13-7.
Not known as a throwing team, Southwestern caught the South defense off guard when Smiddy hit a wide open Devon Baker over the middle for a 74-yard score. The extra point snap was fumbled, and with 5:59 left, the game was tied, 13-13.
But not for long.
South’s next possession started at the 27, where on first-and-10, Jason Mitchell took a pitch right, raced down the sideline, cut back toward the middle, making a couple of Southwestern defenders miss and raced in for a 73-yard score. Slavey’s PAT made it 20-13. Mitchell carried the ball three times for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and caught six passes form 107 yards and he had one interception.
Southwestern answered that with an 11-play, 76-yard drive capped off by Maggard scoring from 10 yards out. The point after failed, and South went into the half with a 20-19 lead.
At the half Jackson West and Taylor Johnston were named the South Laurel Football Homecoming king and queen.
Southwestern tried an onside kick to open the second half, but South recovered on its own 49. The Cards drove the ball to the 15, but on fourth-and-1, Josh Phelps was stopped short of the first down.
That was the second time the Cards had driven inside the Warrior 20 and went for it on fourth down instead of trying for a field goal, and twice they were stopped, leaving a potential six points off the scoreboard.
Jason Mitchell intercepted Smiddy on Southwestern’s next possession, but South couldn’t take advantage and punted the ball away.
Over the next three possessions between the two teams, one ended in a punt, one with an interception and one on downs as the offenses struggled.
After holding Southwestern and taking over on downs at the 36, Mitchell took a hand-off on the first play from scrimmage and raced 64-yards for the score. With 9:56 left, South now held a 27-19 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Baker caught the ball on the 5-yard line and raced down the sidelines 95-yards for an apparent Southwestern touchdown. But during the play, there was a scuffle between a South Laurel and Southwestern player and an inadvertent whistle negated the score. Both teams were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which meant the penalties off-set themselves.
So instead of a touchdown, Southwestern had the ball on the 40 yard line with 9:17 left. Six plays later, Campisano carried it over from 12-yards out. The two-point conversion tied the game, 27-27, with 6:23 left.
Both teams had one score left in them during regulation. Following a South Laurel punt, Southwestern put together an 8-play, 78-yard drive that resulted in Campisano scoring from 16-yards out to make it 34-27.
Following the kickoff, the Cards’ offense had 1:42 to drive 78 yards.
Starting from the 22, things didn’t start out too well as Detherage was sacked by Wyatt Karter on first down for a loss back to the 14. On the next play, Detherage’s pass was incomplete, but Southwestern was called for a personal foul, moving the ball to the 29 to set up second-and-three.
After another incomplete pass, Detherage took off and got to the 32, giving the Cards a first down with .48 seconds left. He then found Prichard, who took it to the Southwestern 32. Following a spike of the ball, Detherage again hooked up with Prichard, this one for 32-yards and a score as the South receiver stretched his body to full extension to make a diving catch. After Slavey’s kick the game was tied, 34-34, sending it into overtime.
Southwestern won the toss and elected to go on defense. On South’s first play, Detherage carried it in from 10-yards out. Slavey’s kick was good, and South Laurel led, 41-34.
The Warriors took two plays to score, both runs by Campisano, the second of 4-yards, to cut the lead to 41-40. Southwestern went for two, and the same combination of Smiddy to Pittman that converted less than 10 minutes earlier gave the Warriors a 42-41 win.
“I figured surely to goodness we’d cover the tight end,” Welch said. “But we did not.”
And it made South’s hopes of returning to the playoffs a little more difficult with only three district games left.
“This put us in a hole,” Welch said.
South Laurel will travel to Lincoln County Friday night.
Southwestern 42, South Laurel 41 (OT)
Southwestern 7 12 0 15 8—42
South Laurel 0 20 0 14 7—41
SW—Maggard, 4 run (Baker kick); SL—Prichard, 48 pass from Detherage (Slavey kick); SL—Pennington, 10 pass from Jenkins (kick failed); SW—Baker, 74 pass from Smiddy (kick failed); SL—Mitchell, 73 run (Slavey kick); SW—Maggard, 10 run (kick failed); SL—Mitchell, 64 run (Slavey kick); SW—Campisano, 12 run (Smiddy to Pittman); SW—Campisano, 16 run (Baker kick); SL—Prichard, 32 pass from Detherage (Slavey kick); SL—Detherage, 10 run (Slavey kick); SW—Campisano, 4 run (Smiddy to Pittman).