The Letcher County Central Cougars are assured of post-season play after defeating Whitley County, 40-30, Friday to lock up the third seed out of Region Four District Eight when playoffs begin in two weeks.
The Cougars welcomed back senior quarterback Logan Johnson, who threw for 383 yards and accounted for five touchdowns while showing no ill effects from the injury that had sidelined him for almost a month.
Host Whitley County received the ball first and the LCC defense quickly forced a punt. On fourthand one from the Colonel 38 yard line, Johnson spun off a tackle to barely pick up the first down. Facing third and 15, Johnson bought just enough time to find receiver Keaston Hall streaking down the right sideline for a 35-yard gain. On the next play, Johnson found Corey Dollarhide for a six-yard touchdown after Dollarhide ran a perfect corner route. Sidney Fields connected on the extra point and Letcher Central had a quick 7-0 lead.
Whitley County ran an option play and freshman quarterback Austin Ysidro kept the ball and outran all the Cougar defenders for a 70-yard touchdown to tie the score at seven. The Colonels tried an onside kick that Keaston Hall recovered to give LCC great field position. Out of an empty backfield formation, Johnson connected with Chris Tyree for a 36-yard gain that gave Letcher Central first and goal. Running back Drew Bentley ran off the left tackle and faked a defender out of his shoes on his way to the end zone. The extra point was no good and LCC led 13-7 with 1:16 left in the first quarter.
The next Whitley County possession looked promising until Tony Cantu, Sidney Fields and Nick Mullins met the quarterback for a sack. The Colonels punted and LCC started at its own 17 yard line. The Drew Bentley show continued for the Cougar offense. On the first play Bentley took a swing pass and used a spin move to gain 26 yards. Later in the drive Johnson lofted a pass to Bentley, who made a juggling acrobatic catch just over the outstretched arm of a Whitley County defender and scampered 45 yards for the score. The two-point conversion was no good, but Letcher Central still found itself up 19-7 halfway through the second quarter.
On the next LCC offensive possession, Logan Johnson was intercepted by defensive tackle Brandon Lawson while trying to throw a screen pass. Whitley County couldn’t stand prosperity and tried a halfback pass that Drew Bentley intercepted with just less than two minutes left in the first half.
The Cougars quickly got to work, with Dollarhide catching a 48-yard bomb from Johnson between two defenders. Back-toback receptions by Matt Boggs and Tyree brought the ball all the way to the Whitley County 12 yard line. On a quarterback draw, Logan Johnson went in for the score from nine yards out and Bentley converted on a two-point conver- sion to give LCC a 27-7 lead at halftime.
Letcher Central had 301 yards of total offense in the first half. The Cougars were led by Logan Johnson, who completed 14 passes on 19 attempts for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Drew Bentley ran for a score and caught two passes for 71 yards and a touchdown as well. The LCC defense played great in the first half and held Whitley County running back Boston Bryant to only 34 yards. Bryant came into the game averaging more than 140 yards a game.
Whitley County came out of the halftime break with a totally different attitude and on its first offensive possession of the half the Colonels ran right through the teeth of the Cougar defense. Bryant had runs of 24, 28, and 11 yards, which eventually led to a seven-yard touchdown jaunt by Bryant. The two-point conversion was good and Whitley County cut the lead to 27-15.
Whitley County tried an onside kick once again and luckily for the Cougars, Koree Stewart came out of the pile with the ball. Bentley ran up the middle for 13 yards and then Johnson found Stewart on a crossing route for a 17-yard gain. On fourth and four from inside the red zone Johnson found Keaston Hall alone for the score to make the count 33- 15 with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
The Colonels had a good kickoff return, and consecutive first downs led to a Boston Bryant 21-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Whitley County converted on another two-point play and the score was 33-23.
The Colonels attempted an onside kick for the third time, and it finally paid dividends when they recovered the kick at the midfield stripe. Two costly penalties and a fumbled snap derailed the drive and Whitley County was forced to punt with just under nine minutes left in the contest.
The Cougars then turned to the ground game to chew up clock and ensure the victory. Bentley picked up 20 yards on three rushing attempts, but two consecutive losses had the Cougars facing a third and 19 from their own territory. Johnson rolled to the right and found Dollarhide for 50 yards in what would be the most important play of the game. LCC scored two plays later on a bullet pass from Johnson to Stewart. Sidney Fields made the extra point to give Letcher Central a 40-23 lead with just more than two minutes left in the game.
Whitley County didn’t give up. Boston Bryant busted a run up the middle for 52 yards before Josh Nichols went seven yards for a touchdown to make the final score 40-30 in favor of the Cougars.
The much-needed victory not only gave LCC a better seed for the playoffs, but also boosted the young Cougar team’s confidence by being able to get a road win in a hostile environment. Johnson finished the game completing 22 passes on 29 attempts for 383 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for a score. Drew Bentley had 64 yards rushing on 13 attempts and had a touchdown both receiving and rushing. Corey Dollarhide who had five catches for 124 yards and a touchdown led the receiving corps.
The Cougar defense gave up a few long runs, but as a whole played well. The unit was led by Sidney Fields who had nine tackles and senior leaders Tony Cantu, Caleb Baker, and Koree Stewart also had strong performances.
The Cougars finish up the regular season at home Saturday against Greenup County.