HEBRON, Ky. – Simon Kenton survived an offensive shootout against Conner at Fred Nevel Stadium on Friday.
The Pioneers (3-0) defeated the Cougars (1-1), 42-35 behind a four-touchdown night by sophomore running back Dillon Powell, which included a crucial 90-yard kickoff return at the end of the second quarter.
“That was huge,” Simon Kenton coach Jeff Marksberry said. “I think (Conner) was a little tired there at the end of the second quarter, I felt like our conditioning kind of took over. That was a huge difference in the football game.”
The back-and-forth affair began on Simon Kenton’s opening possession, a 60-yard drive that was capped by a 31-yard run by Powell.
Conner’s high-octane offense responded quickly, as senior quarterback Drew Barker led the Cougars 79 yards down the field to set up a game-tying 45-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Andrew Way.
The two teams traded touchdowns three times during the first half. After allowing TDs on two straight drives in the second quarter, Simon Kenton forced Conner to punt for the second time before the break.
That proved to be an important defensive stance, as the Pioneers’ special teams unit went onto block the punt attempt by Barker.
Simon Kenton senior quarterback Brenen Kuntz took advantage. He scored on a 17-yard rushing play to give the Pioneers a 21-14 lead.
Barker bulled his way 73 yards down the field in less than two minutes after that score. He zipped a 22-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Brian Loney, bringing the Cougars within one point with 13 seconds left in the half.
Conner missed its extra point attempt, and it appeared the Pioneers would lead 21-20 heading into halftime.
But Powell ran the pivotal ensuing kickoff back for his third touchdown of the half, giving the Pioneers a 28-20 lead at intermission, which they never relinquished.
Simon Kenton and Conner traded touchdowns twice more in the latter half of play, but the Cougars fell short in their late comeback attempt.
Barker finished the game 27-of-44 passing for 344 yards and four touchdowns. He carried the ball 20 times for 75 yards and one TD. Way, Barker’s favorite target on the night, caught 10 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite Barker’s ample offensive contribution, Simon Kenton’s defense executed its game plan to contain him on the ground.
“We didn’t want him to get going downhill,” Marksberry said. “A couple times you saw him get started, we were able to close that gap and not let him run down hill at us. Our defensive line, our linebackers – Barry Deaton played a tremendous game – Matt King, one of our defensive ends, played a tremendous game and those guys did a great job of executing that plan of taking away that run game from him.”
Simon Kenton collected 347 total yards of offense. Kuntz was extremely efficient in completing 15 of 18 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. He had 18 carries for 114 yards and two rushing TDs.
Powell finished with 16 carries for 84 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also had one touchdown reception and a kick return for a score.
Simon Kenton will host Newport Central Catholic (1-2) on Sept. 13, while Conner travels to Ryle (1-2).