The Letcher Central Cougar football season ended Friday night with a 49-6 playoff loss to Madison Southern in Berea. LCC played inspired football early on, trailing only 7-6 going into the second quarter to the heavily favored Eagles. However, the state’s leading rusher Damien Harris was too much too handle and the Cougars finished the year with a 4-7 record.
Letcher Central received the opening kickoff. The returner bobbled the kick and was tackled immediately at his own 14-yard line. Houston Watts got the start at quarterback and was sacked on second down for a 10-yard loss. On third down Watts gained nine yards on a draw play but was well short of the first down and LCC was forced to punt. Zane Blair had a 38-yard punt, but a personal foul penalty on the Cougars moved the ball to the LCC 37-yard line. The Letcher Central defense held Harris in check on the first series of downs to force a fourth down and three to go. Harris scored a 30-yard touchdown on the fourth down play, but a holding penalty at the 13-yard line brought the score back but still gave Madison Southern enough yardage for the first down. Two plays later Aaron Sipple scored on an 11-yard fullback dive run. The extra point was good to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
The kickoff was a touchback so LCC started second drive at its own 20-yard line. Jaylyn Williams gained five yards on a sweep play. Then Watts threw a completion to receiver Kyler Lucas for a 10-yard gain. A facemask penalty against the Madison Southern defense moved the ball to midfield. On third and eight Watts scrambled for a seven-yard gain and was tackled just short of the line. Letcher Central then drew the Eagle defense offside to get the first down. Three plays later on fourth and five Watts connected with Williams in the flat for a sevenyard gain and another allimportant first down.
On second and 10 Williams caught shovel pass for seven-yard gain. A six-yard quarterback draw run by Watts took the ball to the Madison Southern 14-yard line. Williams took a reverse around the left side and was brought down at the one. Williams scored a one-yard touchdown up the middle on the next play. The extra point was partially blocked, but LCC had cut the lead to 7-6 with 1:53 left in the first quarter. The 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive took almost seven minutes off the clock and was the most impressive drive the Letcher Central offense had all season long.
Letcher Central tried an unsuccessful onside kick to give Madison Southern excellent field position. Quarterback Aaron Slone used a play action pass to find receiver William Dean for a 25-yard gain. Then on the last play of the first quarter, Harris gained 24 yards on a cutback run and was tackled at the one-yard line. Harris scored on the next play and the extra point made the Madison Southern lead 14-6 with 11:55 to go in the second quarter.
Letcher Central started its next drive at its own 23- yard line. On second down Hunter Hall gained eight yards up the middle to make it third down and one. Watts used a hard snap count to draw the defense offside again. The drive stalled there, and on fourth and seven, Coach Mike Holcomb tried a fake punt. The “up back,” Hunter Hall, took the direct snap and ran around the right side but was tackled short of the line.
On the first play after Madison Southern regained possession, Harris burst up the middle for a 44-yard touchdown and the extra point increased the lead to 21-6 with 7:52 left in the first half.
After LCC’s Jaylyn Williams then broke two tackles for a 28-yard kickoff return to the LCC 43-yard line, the Letcher Central offense was forced to punt on a three and out.
Madison Central’s Slone quickly gained 15 yards on a quarterback keeper to get into LCC territory. Then on play action, Slone connected with Sipple in the flat for a 14-yard gain. A facemask penalty on the Cougars moved the ball to the 11-yard line. Two plays later Casey Dionne scored from three yards out on a toss sweep play. The lead swelled to 28-6 with the point after.
The Cougar offense couldn’t move the ball and was forced to punt again with a minute left and Harris returned the punt 75 yards for a touchdown to make the score 35-6 going into halftime.
Madison Southern received the opening kickoff of the second half and returned it to its own 35-yard line. Slone couldn’t handle a snap and the 12-yard loss on the fumble made it third and 21. The Cougar defense held to force the first Eagle punt of the game.
Letcher Central went three and out again. Harris returned the punt 28 yards into the LCC red zone. Two plays later Harris caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Slone to make the score 42-6 with 7:30 left in the third quarter.
On the next LCC offensive possession Zane Blair came in to play quarterback. Blair found Hall on a screen pass for eight yards to get to a manageable fourth and two. On the fourth down play Blair gained five yards on a read option play to pick up the first down. Three plays later on fourth and 10, Kyler Lucas caught a pass on a slant route but was stopped two yards short of the first down.
Madison Southern took possession and quickly scored on a pass from Slone to tight end Andrew Miller. The extra point split the uprights to put the Eagles up 49-6 with 9:26 left in the game.
LCC freshman Quade Adams had an excellent 27-yard kickoff return. On second down, Williams came in motion and took the handoff from Blair. The 24-yard gain around the left side of the line was the longest offensive play of the game for the Cougars. LCC eventually turned the ball over on downs.
Despite the large deficit they faced, the Cougars still showed pride on the last two plays of the game. Madison Southern tried a play action pass and senior Ryan Alzuraqi absolutely laid out the quarterback to force an incompletion. Then on the last play senior Keith Boggs tackled the ball carrier for a five-yard loss.
In the last game of the year Jaylyn Williams had 53 yards rushing on 10 attempts and scored the Cougars’ lone touchdown. Houston Watts completed eight of 10 passes for 52 yards and carried the ball nine times for 23 yards. Zane Blair completed four of eight passes for 25 yards and had 17 yards rushing on three attempts. Kyler Lucas led the receiving corps with 34 yards on four catches.
Madison Central’s Harris had four touchdowns and showed the speed that has landed him a scholarship offers by the likes of Michigan and Alabama. The Cougars lost the game 49-6, but played their hearts out and never quit.
Coach Holcomb has a large number of underclassmen coming back next year when LCC should be much improved.