With only one yard to go for a first down in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, it seemed as though Hamilton County would make a quick fourth down conversion on their way to the end zone for a game-deciding score.
The Edwards County defense put a stop to that notion, however.
Earning their first victory of the 2019 season on their home field on Friday, the Lions were able to secure the win in large part due to their defense. The ECHS boys secured a 14–12 margin over the Foxes to improve to 1–1 on the year.
While Edwards County scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Hamilton County was driving during their final possession, getting within the 15 yard line before the Lions earned a fourth down stand to put the game away.
“Huge self-esteem bump for our defense to be able to get that stop,” said Head Coach Joe Rivers. “HamCo had a very good running attack that we had struggled to stop throughout the game. We knew what plays they were going to run in that situation.
“The kids responded well and stopped it.”
For much of the night, the Foxes’ rushing attack had proven difficult for the Lion defense to stop.
“They had a real solid line and running backs that were tough to stop.”
As the game pressed on, however, particularly following a long scoring drive for Hamilton County on their opening drive coming out of the half, the ECHS defenders were able to better hinder the visitors’ rushing efforts.
“Coach (Russ) Gerlach made in-game adjustments on defense to get our players in better positions,” explained Rivers. “The players responded well to slow HamCo’s attack.”
It wasn’t just the defense that found new life in the fourth quarter. During the Lions last scoring drive in the waning minutes of the final period, the offense exploited a dynamic passing attack to move the ball down the field, led by senior quarterback Marcus Stennett, who went 6–15 for 111yards and two touchdowns.
“Coach (Johnathan) Henton noticed a soft spot in the zone defense early in the second half,” he stated. “On that last drive, we decided to exploit it and it proved effective.”
Camden Cowger played a vital role in that pass attack, nabbing four balls for 93 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score.
“Camden was a huge part of our success last year, so it is no surprise that he is stepping up big again this year,” said Rivers. “He is a smart on-the-field player that adds another dimension to our game for other teams to try and prepare for.”
Jordon Brock caught two passes for 18 yards as well.
In the running game, Stennett was the top rusher with 54 yards on 11 carries, with St. Ledger close behind at 45 yards on six touches. Keath Bateman produced 27 yards on eight carries, with Eli Grimes gaining 21 yards on five touches.
Brock made an 11-yard run on his only rush of the day.
The Lion defense combined for 99 tackles in the victory, with five defenders reaching double figures in takedowns. Leading the way was St. Ledger with 22 tackles, including 14 assisted and eight solo. Grimes netted 15 tackles, 12 of which were assisted. Zach Lewis and Anton Linder each made 11 tackles, while Kinser Medler had 10 tackles on the night.
While Rivers was happy with his team’s win, he expressed that his team will continue to improve in the coming weeks.
“We still have not played our best football,” he said. “I expect us to take more strides forward this week.”