The Letcher Central Cougars evened their record to 4-4 after an all-important 22-18 victory over district rival Perry County Central. The Cougars visit winless Whitley County this Friday in their last district contest of the season.
In the game with Perry Central, Ryan Alzuraqi returned the opening kickoff 32 yards to the Commodores’ 47-yard line to give the LCC offense great field position. Jaylyn Williams had a 14-yard run out of a spilt back shotgun formation. A personal foul penalty by the Commodores moved the ball inside the red zone. Letcher Central junior running back Hunter Hall had an 11-yard run on a trap play to make it first and goal. Two plays later Hall scored a touchdown from two yards out. Dustin Holbrook made the extra point to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
With Perry Central starting at its own 15-yard line, Commodores quarterback Nathan Pray did a masterful job of directing the offense and converted on three consecutive third downs to move into LCC territory. Pray found receiver John Toomer on an out route for a 14-yard gain that led to an eightyard touchdown run by senior running back Devan Brewer. The score remained at 7-6 LCC after the extra point was wide left.
The Letcher Central offense wasted little time getting into Perry Central territory. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Zane Blair connected with receiver Houston Watts for a 15-yard gain. Then Jaylyn Williams took a pitch around the right side for 14 yards. The drive stalled there and the Cougars turned the ball over.
Perry Central used a methodical 11-play, 72-yard drive to take the lead. The key play on the drive was a 24-yard reception by receiver Tyler Fugate on third and long from Pray. On second and goal, Pray scrambled to the right and found Toomer alone in the back of the end zone. The twopoint conversion was no good, but the Commodores had taken the lead 12-7.
The Letcher Central offense had its first three and out of the game. On the punt, Nathan Pray returned it for a touchdown, but the score was nullified by a block in the back penalty against Perry Central. The Commodores were driving down the field until on third and six, Pray scrambled and LCC defender Devin Wright made an excellent open field tackle to force fourth and two. On the fourth down play, cornerback Aaron Thomas outfought the Perry Central receiver for an interception to thwart the scoring opportunity.
After penalties derailed the next LCC drive, Austin Pray had another great punt return, this time taking it to the LCC 10 yard line just before the half. The Cougar defense stiffened, and on fourth and goal from the two-yard line Pray threw the ball on a fade pattern to receiver John Toomer, who was wide open but simply dropped the ball. The Cougars breathed a sigh of relief and headed into half-time trailing only 12-7.
Perry Central received the opening kickoff of the second half. Showing a renewed spirit, the LCC defense quickly held the Commodores and forced their first punt of the game. On the first play of the LCC drive, Williams took the handoff, spun away from a tackler and dragged two defenders for a 16-yard gain to midfield. Then, the Cougars ran a draw play for Hunter Hall who gained 26 yard right up the middle. On third and five from the Perry Central nineyard line, Williams carried the ball just short of the goal line for a first down. On the next play Hall scored out of a power-I formation. Letcher Central retook the lead 14- 12 after Damion Holbrook made the point after.
Perry Central started its next drive at its own 35-yard line. Facing fourth down and two yards to go, Commodore coach Justin Haddix rolled the dice and left the offense on the field. Pray took the shotgun snap and ran a sweep around the left side, but LCC defender Zane Blair snuffed out the play and tackled Pray for a sevenyard loss.
On LCC’s ensuing drive, Hunter Hall broke free and carried tacklers for a 35-yard gain to the one-yard line. On the next play, Blair snuck the ball in for the touchdown. LCC decided to go for two after Perry Central jumped off side on the extra point attempt. Blair scored on the two-point conversion to increase Letcher Central’s lead to 22-12 late in the third quarter.
Penalties then derailed yet another Perry Central possession. Pray connected with Tyler Fugate on a slant route on third down for a 16-yard gain into LCC territory, but a holding penalty negated the play. The Commodores could not convert on third down and were forced to punt for the second consecutive time.
The Letcher Central offense got nothing going and Zane Blair had a net punt of 36 yards to begin the fourth quarter. The Perry Central offense then had its most productive drive of the second half. Fugate took a swing pass and scampered around the left side for a 17-yard gain to midfield. Then Pray connected with receiver Seth Napier for 13 yards. After a Zane Blair sack, Pray threw a jump ball that Toomer caught over a Cougar defender to advance into the red zone. Perry Central again was its own worst enemy. A holding penalty and false start pushed them back and the Commodores eventually turned the ball over on downs with 7:24 left in the fourth quarter.
Letcher Central played conservatively and ran the ball three times and punted. Perry Central drove the ball down and scored on a two-yard touchdown run by Brewer with less than two minutes remaining on the game clock. The Cougar defense held on the two-point conversion and maintained a 22-18 lead.
After LCC recovered the onside kick, Hunter Hall earned some tough yardage to run out the clock and secure the victory for the Cougars.
The win evened up Letcher Central’s record at 4-4 and more importantly 1-1 in district competition. The Cougar offense leaned heavily on the ground and had great success with their rushing attack. Hunter Hall carried the ball 19 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Jaylyn Williams had 72 yards on nine carries and Zane Blair had 33 yards including a touchdown run. The Cougars only attempted seven passes but the new look ball control offense worked well and also kept the defense fresh which showed in the second half. The LCC defense played much better, especially in the second stanza and all 11 defenders rallied around the ball making fundamentally sound sure tackles all night long. Zane Blair and Keith Boggs had two tackles for loss apiece. Hunter Hall and Ryan Alzuraqi each had 6 tackles.
If Letcher Central is able to defeat Whitley County, the Cougars will secure second place in the district and host a first round playoff game. Kickoff at Whitley County is set for 7:30 p.m.