Who would have thought that after only three short years of existence the Letcher County Central Cougars would be competing for a district title? That is exactly what happened this past weekend as the Cougars, 5-1 and 3-0 in district play, traveled to Whitley County (2-3) to take on the Colonels.
The Colonels have taken some knocks this year but they are a very solid ball team. They lost early to Bell County and Middlesboro and were shocked last week by Perry Central.
The Cougars, now ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll of Class 5A schools, are on a five-game winning streak and have had to come from behind several times to pull out the victory. But they have done it and after assuring themselves of a first round playoff game at home, it was now time to win the regular season district title outright. And it would be a classic.
With a large crowd on hand from Letcher County, the Colonels would open on offense and behind quarterback Jordon McCumbers they would move downfield mixing plays and confusing the Cougars. The Colonels faced a fourth-and-one play at the Cougar 40-yard line and picked up three to continue the drive. With 8:21 to go in the first quarter the Colonel running back (Powers) burst through a hole up the middle and went 37 yards for the first score of the night and it was quickly 7-0 Colonels.
The Cougars would bounce back as they marched downfield. Ben Fisher picked up eight on the ground and then Charlie Banks picked up 10 more to the Whitley 48-yard line. Terry Tolson picked up six more and, after a penalty on the Cougars, they were facing third and nine. Banks hooked up with Stacy Phillips for 12 yards and a big first down.
Another 16-yard pass to Phillips would produce another first down, but the Colonel defense stiffened up and forced the Cougars into a fourth and 12 from the 19-yard line. Banks calmly settled into the pocket and hit Stacy Phillips in the end zone for the touchdown. Colton Cook nailed the extra point and it was 7-7.
The Colonels would fumble the ball back to the Cougars on their possession and the Cougar offense was back on the field. It would not take long as the Cougars, behind Tolson and Fisher on the ground and Banks connecting with Dakota Brock for 13 yards on a pass play, found themselves at the Colonel 9-yard line. A Cougar penalty moved the ball back near the 15-yard line. Again, they would face fourthdown play and again Charlie Banks stood in the pocket and threw a strike to Dakota Brock from 15 yards out for the second Cougar touchdown of the night. Cook would connect on his point after and it was 14-7 Cougars.
This time the Colonels would not fumble as they marched back down the field and with 5:21 left in the second quarter, they were at the Cougar 14-yard line. McCumbers passed once to the 7-yard line and then Cody Jones took it in on the next play to make it 14-13 Cougars. The Cougars came up with a block on the extra point try and held on to the lead at the half.
The third quarter has belonged to the Cougars, but not on this night. They received the second half kickoff and after moving to midfield, they turned the ball over on an interception down on the Colonel 18-yard line. The Colonels would waste no time as Cody Jones hit a seam up the middle and was off to the races for 82 yards and the touchdown. The Colonels would try a twopoint conversion but the Cougars stopped that and it was 19-14 Whitley County.
The Cougars drove back downfield on their possession but again the Colonels intercepted a pass in the end zone and everything was going right for the Colonels. At the end of three, the score stood at 19-14 Colonels.
The fourth quarter was one for the ages. The Colonels would be forced to punt on the next possession and as the punter kicked it was blocked by Nathan Adams. Dustin Brown picked it up and ran it in for the Cougar score and a 20-19 lead. The conversion was no good.
Whitley started from its own 37 and quickly moved out to the 47-yard line. But it was time for another big play from the defense of the Cougars as the Colonels fumbled the ball and Caleb Frazier picked it up and ran it all the way for a huge touchdown for the Cougars. The score was 27- 19 before you could blink.
The Colonels sure didn’t blink as they marched back down the field as McCumbers connected on two long passes, the last of which was a 33-yard bomb to Wynn in which he spun away for the score. They would tack on a two-point conversion and it was 27-27 with 6:47 left in the game.
The Cougars put a beautiful drive together that saw Terry Tolson have two 14-yard runs and Dakota Brock picking up 32 yards straight up the middle to the Colonel 8-yard line. The Cougars were stopped and forced into a field goal situation. Whitley County called time-out to try to ice Colton Cook. The kick was no good but to Colton’s credit, it was from the hash mark and not from the center of the field. The Colonels would take over the ball but could go nowhere and the game went to overtime.
Whitley County would get the first possession from the 10-yard line and it would take two plays as McCumbers hit Shaun Baird after a beautiful fake and he found the end zone and the Colonels had the lead. Instead of kicking the extra point, they went for two. Why they did this I don’t know. The Cougars smelled it out and stopped them short of the goal line and now it was their turn.
Tolson picked up two yards and then Charlie Banks moved it down to the 1-yard line. Tolson would get the honors as he found the end zone. Colton Cook came out and hit the biggest kick of his life to give the Cougars the 34- 33 victory and the regular season District 8 championship.
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Who would have believed in only three years as a school that this would have happened? The defense was the star of the night for the Cougars, but it was a team that brought home the championship.
The Cougars will now wait until the season plays out to find out who they will play in the playoffs. Perry Central is now 2- 1 in the district and Clay County and Whitley County are both 1- 2.
The Cougars picked up 223 yards on the ground against Whitley County and 82 more through the air for a total of 305 yards. They will play East Ridge next in a Thursday night contest at Ermine. They will follow that with an open date before closing out against Bourbon County on the road and Lawrence County at home.