2017-09-13 / Sports

Cougars’s needed more than a good first half

By DEREK BARTO


Letcher Central quarterback Nick Sergent hands the ball off to teammate Kaleb Mullins in the Cougars’ 55-27 loss to Union last week. (Photo by Chris Anderson) Letcher Central quarterback Nick Sergent hands the ball off to teammate Kaleb Mullins in the Cougars’ 55-27 loss to Union last week. (Photo by Chris Anderson) The Letcher County Central Cougars played their best half of football of the entire season in the first half against Union High School, but unfortunately could not sustain it in the second half and fell by a score of 55-27.

LCC quarterback Nick Sergent was phenomenal in the first half, throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns, but Division 1 prospect James Mitchell led Union to 35 straight points after trailing 20-13 late in the second quarter, which proved to be the difference in the contest.

Missing its starting quarterback Bailey Turner for the season because of a torn ACL, Union elected to play Mitchell from a wildcat formation to begin the game. The LCC defense stuffed three runs, and then on fourth down cornerback Blake Brashears deflected a pass to force a turnover on downs.


Jenkins quarterback Lance Bentley rushed the ball during a 47-16 loss to East Ridge last week. The Cavs put their first points on the board in the game, and hope to nail down their first win later this week at Lynn Camp. (All photos this page by Chris Anderson) Jenkins quarterback Lance Bentley rushed the ball during a 47-16 loss to East Ridge last week. The Cavs put their first points on the board in the game, and hope to nail down their first win later this week at Lynn Camp. (All photos this page by Chris Anderson) On the first play of the LCC possession, Sergent found Brashears streaking down the middle of the field for a 64-yard touchdown. Kicker Jayson Buttrey made the extra point to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead.

Union, a new high school located in Big Stone Gap, Va., answered during the next series when running back Braxton Zirkle, facing a fourth and one, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and then went 39 yards for a touchdown. The extra point split the uprights to tie the game at 7 with 1:59 to go in the first quarter.

With LCC now back in control, Sergent scrambled for a 15-yard gain to close out the first quarter. Then Sergent rolled left and threw a strike to Hunter Campbell who used a stiff arm at the 20-yard line then dragged another defender the last eight yards for a 58-yard touchdown reception. Buttrey’s extra point put LCC back ahead, 14-7.

Union answered quickly when Mitchell took a shotgun snap and on a misdirection play scampered for a 57-yard score. The extra point was wide left, leaving the Cougars with a 14-13 lead.

Letcher Central’s offense then went three and out, giving Union the ball at its own 43-yard line after the punt. Union marched the ball down the field, and on first and goal LCC linebacker Jon Sergent blew up Zirkle in the backfield, causing a fumble that was recovered by Leyton Polly at the LCC five-yard line.

From there, Sergent scrambled to the left and found Kalin Branham just inbounds for a 20-yard gain after a great catch. On the next play, Sergent threw a 75-yard bomb to Campbell for another TD.

The two-point conversion failed, keeping the score at 20-13 with 4:54 left in the second quarter.

With Union starting near midfield, Zirkle capped off a six-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. The extra point tied the game at 20 heading into halftime.

LCC used some trickery on the kickoff return to open the second half. After Branham fielded the kickoff on the right hash mark, he ran to the right and pitched the ball back to Campbell on a reverse for a 54-yard return. The drive stalled, however, after Sergent got sacked on third-down and LCC had to punt.

Union’s Mitchell followed with a 28-yard run before scoring on a 37-yard run around the left side of the line. The extra point was good and Union had their first lead of the game, 27-20.

Facing fourth and 24 on the next series, LCC elected to go for the first down. Sergent threw a deep pass that was tipped by Mitchell, but Brashears stuck with the play and caught the deflected ball for a 39-yard gain. The offense couldn’t move the ball any further and turned the ball over on downs.

Union quickly scored on a 36-yard touchdown run by Avery Jenkins, making the score 34-20 with 6:26 left in the third quarter after the extra point.

With LCC back on offense, Leyton Polly caught a 10-yard pass and fought his way to gain just enough yardage for a first down. Polly was injured on the play and did not return the rest of the game. Sergent connected to Campbell for a 65-yard gain, setting up a first and goal for the Cougars. After a holding penalty and sack pushed LCC back, a fourth-down pass was intercepted by Union’s Dominick Brooks. Jenkins gained 41-yards on a sweep which led to a Mitchell eight-yard touchdown run to make the score 41-20.

LCC was forced to punt to end the next series. A great 56-yard punt by Jon Sergent was brought back because a penalty on the Cougars. On the second punt, Mitchell picked the ball up off the bounce and split the coverage team for a 59-yard touchdown for Union. The extra point was good and just like that Union had blown open what had been a very competitive contest.

LCC didn’t quit, however, as Cameron Whitaker scored a touchdown on a run up the middle with 4:36 to play. The Buttrey extra point cut the lead to 48-27.

Union tacked on one more touchdown to make the final score 55-27.

The Letcher Central offense was explosive in the first half, but struggled in the red zone in the second half. Nick Sergent completed 12 passes on 26 attempts for 370 yards and three touchdowns. Hunter Campbell had a career high 215 yards receiving on six receptions, two of them touchdowns. Blake Brashears had 101 yards receiving and a long touchdown. The Cougars actually had more total offense yardage (455 yards) than Union (435 yards).

James Mitchell had 201 yards rushing and four total touchdowns, proving to be just a little too explosive for the LCC defense to handle. Jon Sergent again led LCC in tackles with 11 and Leyton Polly chipped in with eight tackles.

Letcher Central will look to pick up their first victory of the year when they travel to Pike County Central this Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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