With a few key players watching from the sideline, a few more walking around with their helmets off the entire game, and still more hobbling on and off the football field between plays, the Henry County Wildcats could not overcome Spencer County’s running attack Friday night as the Cats took their third district loss of the season and will now play on the road in the first round of the state playoffs Nov. 14.
The injuries, which left players going both ways and others stepping up to fill empty positions, came at a bad time for the Wildcats, who were hoping to be in position to host a playoff game with a win over Spencer. Instead, one of the top defenses in the entire state allowed 383 yards on the ground, which led to a 38-25 loss. It didn’t help that starting linebackers Erick Butler and Steve May, along with starting nose guard Zach Rahm, were out with injuries.
The Spencer Bearcats never got off a pass, while mainly carrying the ball straight up the gut the entire night. At the half, they had racked up 247 yards and a 20-7 lead, then cruised in for the 13-point victory. They ran 20 more plays than Henry (72-52) and held time of possession nearly 20 minutes longer (33:29-14:21). For the Wildcats, who won last year’s district championship but has failed to win a district game this season, the Spencer loss was frustrating.
“We knew they would be this run heavy, and we prepared for that,” Henry coach Chris Engstrand said. “We did the best with what we had. Without May, Butler and Rahm, it really changed the landscape of what we could do.”
The Bearcats, who never trailed, went to its running game early and continued to push the ball up field at will. They took the opening kickoff and slowly moved the ball until they scored on a 1-yard run five minutes into the contest. The kick was good to put them ahead 7-0.
Henry responded with its own touchdown and kick to even out the scoreboard. Luke Magness threw a short pass to Lance Timberlake, who caught the ball and sprinted 57 yards along the sideline into the end zone. Patrick Mahoney was good on the kick.
After the two squads traded touchdowns, Spencer scored 16 unanswered points — one more touchdown in the first quarter, another in the second and a field goal in the third — to go in front 23-7 with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats outscored Spencer 18-15 during the final quarter, but could not seriously challenge for the win. Magness connected with Jimmy Sampson on a 55-yard pass play for a touchdown with 10:40 remaining, Magness connected with tight end Cody Hinkel on a 14-yard pass play for a touchdown with 4:26 left, and Magness connected with Hayden Yancey on a 45-yard pass play for a touchdown with 2:18 left. Meanwhile, Spencer scored two more touchdowns during the final 12 minutes to hold on for the 13-point victory.
For Engstrand, the third-year Henry coach was pleased with his team’s ability to get back into the game after falling behind during the middle quarters.
“We have this ability to rally. We don’t give up,” Engstrand said. “We just have to do those things sooner and get in a more sense of urgency before we get in those positions.”
The Wildcats used more of a running game early on, then switched to a passing attack when they started to rally. Magness finished with 14-of-27 passing for 293 yards, four touchdown passes and one interception. Hinkel caught four passes for 84 yards, Timberlake caught three passes for 81 yards, Yancey caught three passes for 63 yards, Cody Miracle caught two passes for 10 yards and Sampson caught one pass for 55 yards. from the ground, Henry finished with just 78 yards with Magness keeping the ball nine times for a team-high 23 yards and Cody Miracle taking eight handoffs for 22 yards.
Spencer was led by Cameron Smith, who ran the ball 38 times for 285 yards and two touchdowns. He gave Henry fits all night long.
As for Henry’s injuries, Butler (fractured vertebra) is definitely out for the rest of the season while both May (shoulder) and Rahm (back) are questionable on a return. Also, lineman Matt Butts (ACL tear) has already ended his season, while lineman Kevin Quire (broken hand), lineman Darien Ingram (knee), tight end Hinkel (ribs), receiver Matt Long (neck) and receiver Sampson (lower back) are playing through setbacks. A number of other Wildcats are also suffering from injuries, which leaves the Cats far away from full strength with a bye week, Scott High School Nov. 7 and the opening round of the state playoffs Nov. 14.
“We will just have to pick ourselves up and go on,” Engstrand said.
E-mail us about this story at firstname.lastname@example.org.