GLASGOW — Jason Esters, the head football coach at Barren County High School, just shook his head as he talked to the media Saturday night after the Trojans held off a furious Metcalfe County rally to claim a 19-13 victory in the opening game of the TJ Samson Bowl at Glasgow High School.
After jumping out to an early 19-0 advantage, the Trojans watched the Hornets outscore them 13-0 in the second half and be just 26 yards from the winning touchdown with 15 seconds left to go in the game. That’s when Trojan senior Cole Payne stepped up to put a nail in the Metcalfe County coffin with an interception of a Ty McMurtrey pass with only seconds to go.
“This defensive unit stepped up in the second half. I was high-fiving the defensive coaches,” said Esters. “We started off playing well in the first quarter tonight and I don’t know what happened. I was talking with (assistant) coach (Billy Joe) Murphy about it and I just don’t know what happened. I can’t wait to watch the film.”
Esters will be happy to watch parts of the film as the Trojans scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions. Barren County took the opening kick 65 yards for a touchdown in just 2:00 as quarterback Andrew Hughes capped the drive with a 1-yard dive. Kaleb England’s extra point was good and the Trojans led 7-0.
After holding the Hornets on their next possession, the Trojans came back with a four-play, 59-yard scoring drive to go up 13-0 with 6:33 to go in the first period. Zach Sneed took the ball in from 1 yard out. England’s kick was no good.
The Trojans’ final score came in the second period when Barren County drove 43 yards for the touchdown. The Trojans got big yards on the ground from Wininger and Logan Rich. Hughes capped the drive with a 22-yard scoring pass to England. The kick was no good and the Trojans led 19-0 with 7:35 to go in the first half.
“It (rally) started for us in the second quarter. Barren County pushed us early and we acted like we weren’t ready to get off the football,” said Metcalfe County coach Freddie Harbison. “But after their second drive, and I know they scored again, but after the second drive it was a different game for us. We started getting some push up front. That made all the difference in the world.
“On their first score, we didn’t make a play in the end zone where we could have picked it off. On the second series, they scored. On the third touchdown, on fourth down, our senior safety stands there and doesn’t break on the football, and we don’t make a play. Right there, we could have gone in at halftime down 7-0.”
The Hornets got going midway through the third period when John Smith intercepted a Hughes’ pass and, coupled with a Barren County penalty, the Hornets had the ball on the Trojan 12. Four plays later, McMurtrey ran the ball in from the 1. Robbie Sanders made the extra point and with 7:39 remaining in the period, the Hornets cut the Trojan lead to 19-7.
On Barren County’s ensuing possession, David Jones recovered a Hughes’ fumble at the Trojan 15-yard line. The Hornets needed only three plays to find the end zone when McMurtrey scored from the 1. Sanders’ kick was no good and Metcalfe County was within six at 19-13 with 6:16 to go in the third quarter.
“I don’t know what Metcalfe County was doing differently in the second half,” Esters said. “We were adjusting our calls along the offensive line and I apologized to the guys for that. I changed my play calling. I got out of what I normally do to try and stroke some egos there because some people were pouting and it got me out of my rhythm. That may have been what caused the letdown. I told the guys after the game we’re going to get back to what we do and we’re going to start that on Monday.”
Logan Rich led the Trojans in rushing with 75 yards on 12 carries. Wininger had 35 yards on 13 carries and Hughes ran the ball nine times for 35 yards. Hughes was 4-of-16 through the air for 100 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Kyle Bryant had 66 yards on six carries to set the pace for the Hornets. Brandon Glass ran the ball seven times for 57 yards and McMurtrey rushed nine times for 21 yards. McMurtrey also threw for 116 yards in the air.
“Listen Metcalfe County is a very good football team. They’ve gotten a lot better than they were in the past,” said Esters. “I had been nervous all summer about what Metcalfe County had coming back. They’ve got a lot of good athletes. But our defense did a good job, bailed us out in the end. It is a win, and we will take it. We made one more play than they did and that got us the victory.”
“When we got the ball with, what, 59 seconds left, we thought we could win this game,” Harbison said. “And I think that made all the difference in the game. I honestly don’t know at the beginning of the game if the guys believed they could win. They started believing they could win late in the game. That’s what made the difference and I hope it can carry over.”
The Trojans hit the road on Friday to visit Warren East in Bowling Green, while Metcalfe County will also hit the road for a game at Monroe County in Tompkinsville. Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.