Friday night’s showdown between Henry County and visiting Anderson County left one team perfect and gave the other its first loss.
The Henry Wildcats scored on their opening drive, then gave up 42 unanswered points as Anderson left New Castle with a 42-7 win and an undefeated 4-0 record through five weeks. Henry is 4-1.
“We had moments where we played very well, and moments where we played very bad. It just so happened that when we were playing bad, Anderson was playing well,” HCHS coach Chris Engstrand said. “When you play a team of Anderson’s caliber, you have to bring your ‘A’ game every second of every quarter. We just didn’t do that.”
Engstrand pointed out the week before the game that his team needed the fans to come out to the anticipated Anderson matchup, and they did. It was Henry’s homecoming game, both teams were ranked No. 7 in the state — Anderson in Class 5-A, Henry Class 3-A — and Anderson was sporting a Mr. Football candidate in senior quarterback Jake Russell. Henry started out on fire with a strong opening drive, but then watched it fizzle out as Anderson took the lead and stretched it with 21 points in a game-deciding second quarter. Russell was 16-of-20 passing for 280 yards and three touchdowns, including two touchdown passes during the second 12-minute stretch that opened the contest.
“If you look at some of the drives, we were able to move the ball,” Engstrand said. “We were playing with confidence at times. The way we played was a team effort both ways — when we were on and when we weren’t. No player really had an exceptional game nor did any player have a terrible one.”
Henry won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kick — Anderson tried an on-side kick but Chris Amburgy picked up the squiggly ball and got to mid-field. The Wildcats then marched the ball down field with some hard-fought plays from Zach Rahm, including the first play from the line of scrimmage when Luke Magness threw short to Rahm, who bullied his way to the 34-yard line. The opening drive ended when Magness kept the ball on a 7-yard run with 7:41 left in the first quarter. Dylan Doll kicked the extra point to put the Cats in front 7-0. Henry never scored again.
The Anderson Bearcats returned the ensuing kickoff to the 30-yard line, and a pass and two short runs got them into the end zone. The kick tied the game less than two minutes after Henry’s score. The scoreboard remained knotted up for the rest of the first quarter.
During the second quarter, when Anderson started to pull away, the Bearcats scored the go-ahead touchdown with 8:52 on the clock on a 10-yard run.
On their next drive, the Wildcats decided to go for it on a fourth-and-1 situation but was called with delay of game when they couldn’t get off the snap, which backed it up to fourth-and-6 and forced the Cats to punt.
Before halftime, Anderson scored two more touchdowns to take a 28-7 lead at the break. Russell threw a pass to Grant Cox, who sprinted to the sideline and dove for the cone with 4:25 left, and Russell found Cox on a 40-yard play with just 14 seconds on the clock.
Neither team scored during the third quarter, while Anderson added two insurance touchdowns during the fourth. Russell ran into the end zone from 2 yards out less than a minute into the fourth, and Russell threw a pass to Cox at the 6:47 mark. It left the Bearcats in front 42-7 when the final horn sounded.
Anderson finished with 486 yards total offense, including 283 passing and 203 rushing. Ben Walker rushed for 115 yards off 14 carries, while Cox caught six passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns. In the latest rankings released by the Courier-Journal early Tuesday morning, Anderson remains the seventh team in Class 5-A.
Meanwhile, Henry finished with 221 yards total offense, including 144 passing and 77 rushing. Magness was 11-of-23 passing for the 144 yards. Rahm caught three passes for 53 yards, Erick Butler caught three passes for 33 and Lance Timberlake caught two for 42. Magness also led the squad in rushing with 16 carries for 41 yards — the next highest pickup for Henry was Conner Johnson with five carries for 16 yards. When the latest rankings were released, Henry fell three spots to No. 10 in Class 3-A
The Wildcats started the 2009 campaign with four straight wins: 20-6 over Pike County Central in the season opener on Aug. 21, 13-0 over South Oldham, 32-12 over Trimble County and 50-13 over Owen County. Through the first half of the season, Magness has thrown for 882 yards and eight touchdowns with a 49.2-percent accuracy; Pete Baldwin, who missed Friday night’s game due to a knee injury but should be back this week, has rushed for a team-high 265 yards; and Butler has a team-high 287 yards receiving.
Henry plays at Owensboro Catholic this Friday night starting at 7 p.m. Owensboro is 1-4. The Wildcats will then have a bye week before jumping into District 4 play. A big question mark is how they will respond to the Anderson loss.
“Our guys understand the quality of opponent we played,” Engstrand said. “I take good comfort in the fact that our guys were disappointed. You have to have some adversity and setbacks if you want to reach that championship level. There will be struggles. We’ll be fine.”
E-mail us about this story at email@example.com.