On a cold, rainy night, the Elizabethtown Panthers stifled Bardstown’s high-powered offense from the jump and cruised to a 33-6 win in Kroger’s KSR Game of the Week. The Tigers, who came in first in the state in scoring margin and points per game, were picked off three times and lost a fumble, all in the first half. Bardstown QB Brady Clark came in first in the state in TD passes (24) and INTs (0). The Panthers’ defense wasn’t intimidated. They never let Clark get comfortable in the pocket all night, getting constant pressure on him.
“I got to give a shout out to Quinton Brown, my defensive coordinator, and the whole defense,” said Panther head coach Ross Brown. “We’ve been playing lights out all year and that’s what allows us to stay in games and to pull ahead when we need to. Coach Brown has done a great job and it has contributed a lot to our success.”
Elizabethtown forced four turnovers on Bardstown’s five first-half possessions. In turn, the Panthers scored touchdowns on all four of their first-half drives, rolling up 137 yards rushing and 135 passing in the first half.
“It’s important for us to get off to a hot start. Last week we kind of came out slow and sluggish, and turned it on in the second half,” Ross Brown said. “A team of this caliber, as well-coached as they are and with the talent they have it’s important that we start off well and don’t dig ourselves a hole.”
On the first possession, E’town’s Kam Sherrard picked off Brady Clark and returned it 24 yards to the Bardstown 16. Clay Games punched it on a QB sneak a few plays later and E’town led 7-0 only two minutes into the contest.
“I was late dropping back and then I turned around and the ball was just coming straight to me,” Sherrard said. “I knew that was his first (interception) and I just tried to put it in the end zone.”
That didn’t take long. Brady Clark throws 1st pick of year on 1st possession. Kam Sherrard with the pick for E-town. ?@claygames7? ran it in for a short TD a few plays later. 7-0 E-town. ?@KySportsRadio? Game if the Week pic.twitter.com/bNI3Q2D1Kb— Troy Howell (@teeroyhowell) October 25, 2020
Bardstown marched all the way down the field on their next drive, only for Clark’s pass to the end zone to be tipped up by Alandre Murphy and intercepted by Camden Williams, who just received an offer from Air Force.
Another pick for ?@EtownHighSchool?. This time it’s ?@camdenwj? After not throwing a pick all year, Bardstown threw 3 in the 1st half, with Williams picking off 2 of them. pic.twitter.com/Z5DvECaQWk— Troy Howell (@teeroyhowell) October 25, 2020
The Panthers turned that turnover into points once again, with Games throwing a 19-yard TD pass to tight end Trey Prather with 11:15 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
The next Bardstown drive stalled on the Panthers 45-yard line with 10:11 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Lemark Veasley’s great punt was downed by Yared Raley, forcing the Panthers to start from their own two-yard line.
The poor field position was not a problem for Games and the E’town offense; not at all. Games threw first-down passes to Murphy, Williams and Khia Sherrard before Camran McNeil ran in a four-yard TD run with 3:26 left in the 2nd quarter. The PAT was missed to the left, but it was 20-0 Panthers.
Bardstown promptly threw another pick on the first play of the next possession. This one a deep ball interception by Elizabethtown’s Williams again, with three minutes remaining.
E’town drove 89 yards for another TD. The drive included a 46-yard Kam Sherrard run, a 32-yard Games-to-Prather pass over the middle and a Games-to-McNeil 9-yard TD pass. The 2-point conversion was no good but who cares? It was 26-0 Elizabethtown.
E’town forced and recovered a backbreaking fumble as Bardstown was driving late in the 2nd quarter. It was recovered by Trey Durbin deep in E’town territory with four seconds remaining. The Panthers took a 26-0 lead into the locker room.
“We were aggressive on our tackles and we were going for the ball,” Durbin said.
On the first drive of the 2nd half, Games threw a 38-yard TD to Khia Sherrard on 4th-and-5 with 9:37 in the 3rd to make it 33-0. E’town forced a Bardstown punt. Veasley made another great punt for Bardstown, pinning Elizabethtown back on their own five-yard line. Bardstown did force E’town’s first punt of the game until 3:34 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
The Tigers took over on their own 34, but turned it over on downs at the end of the 3rd quarter. E’town took over on their own 12, and the Tigers forced another punt.
The Tiger’s Da’Trail Wright had some nice runs to set up a 20-yard TJ Greenwell TD run in the game’s final minutes. The PAT was no good making the final score 33-6.
McNeil rushed for 100 yards and 1 TD in the Panthers balanced attack.
“The game plan on offense was (to give the ball to) #21 mostly,” Kam Sherrard said about McNeil. “He’s a good runner. We just had to keep (Bardstown) off of him.”
Games finished 9-for-13 for 173 yards, 4 TDs (three passing, one rushing) and no picks. He was 8-for-10 for 135 yards in the first half.
“He likes the competition. We talked about not trying to do too much and he did a great job of letting the game come to him,” Ross Brown said of Games, who hasn’t thrown a pick all year. “That kid has worked his tail off to get where’s he’s at now. He deserves everything that he gets and I’m proud of him.”
“It’s hard to not pay attention to social media with games like this,” Games said. “There was a lot of controversy whether we could stop their high-powered offense and if they can stop our high-powered offense. It was just big for us to prove to the rest of the state that we are where we are for a reason.”
The senior-laden Panthers, who lost to Bardstown in the 2nd round of the playoffs last season, move to 7-0 on the season and will likely host the Tigers in the 2nd round later this year. E’town appears to be in the 3A championship conversation but will have to contend with powerhouses such as Belfry, Ashland, and DeSales.
The Tigers, who were wonderful hosts to all of us at KSR, played even with E’town in the 2nd half but couldn’t overcome the rough start. Greenwell, who is just a sophomore, ran for 120 yards and a score. Brady Clark is a good QB, but just didn’t have much time to throw. They fall to 6-1.
Just chalk it up to the KSR curse, seeing that home teams are now 1-6 in the Kroger KSR Game of the Week. Regarding the game predictions, Matt was the only person who picked E’town, with Ryan, Shannon, and Drew siding with Bardstown.
“Here’s the thing, I go with the numbers,” Jones said on Friday’s radio show. “Home teams are 1-5 when we show our face. I got to go E’town.”
Ryan still leads the pack at 4-3, with Shannon (3-3), Matt (3-4), and Drew (3-4) still in striking distance. The Panthers came in ranked #3 in Class 3A of the KSR Prep Rankings, while the Tigers came in ranked #5 in 3A.