By Terry Boehmker
HEBRON, Ky. – Conner football players were glad to see the rain had stopped when they came out of the locker room for the second half of Friday’s home game against Campbell County.
The Cougars had problems running their spread offense during the first half because of a constant downpour that made it difficult to throw or catch the football, and they trailed 6-0 at halftime.
But the rain subsided in the second half and Conner was able to move the ball much better to come away with a 13-12 victory.
“It opened up our offense,” Conner coach Dave Trosper said of the change in weather. “When you can sit on a spread team and they have to run the ball, it’s tough to do some things. That’s what we’ve got to be able to do. We’ve got to be able to throw it.”
Conner senior quarterback Drew Barker, who was limited to 47 passing yards in the first half, threw for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to lead his team to the win.
Barker, a University of Kentucky recruit, got most of his second-half passing yardage during Conner’s game-winning 70-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 51 yards, including a 10-yard strike to senior wide receiver Brian Loney, who made a sliding catch in the end zone with 44 seconds left.
“That was a designed play,” Barker said. “(Loney) ran a slant route and their cornerback bit on our slot route so he was just wide open in the end zone. I barely got it there, but it just enough.”
Barker also rushed for two first downs during that final drive. One of them came on a crucial fourth-down play at the 16-yard line. He carried the ball to the 10 to move the chains and threw the game-winning TD pass to Loney on the next play.
“We really did some great things (during that drive) and there were a ton of guys who contributed to it,” Trosper said. “That just shows us that we can do some things whenever we put our minds to it.”
Steady rain before the game had turned the field into a wet and muddy mess, but Campbell County managed to score on its first possession of the game.
On an option play, senior quarterback Avery Wood tucked the ball into Brandon Morris’ arms and he went 45 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Camels a 6-0 lead with 7:25 left in the first quarter.
Those were the only points scored during the first half as the persistent rain caused a myriad of problems. The slippery football resulted in bad snaps, fumbles and wobbly passes that limited the effectiveness of both offensive units.
The only other scoring opportunity came late in the second quarter when Campbell County drove the ball to the Conner 22 yard line. With 1.3 seconds left, the Camels attempted a field goal, but the holder had a problem handling the wet football and the kick failed.
At the break, Campbell County had 147 total yards compared to Conner’s 80. But the Cougars were able to execute on offense much better in the second half.
“In the first half, we were too predictable. They knew we were going to run it,” Barker said. “But the rain stopped just long enough for us to get some passes out and that kept them honest (on defense). That really was the big difference in the game.”
Conner scored its first touchdown on a 30-yard pass play in the third quarter. Barker threw the ball to senior wide receiver Brandon Way, who found a seam in the Campbell County defense and raced to the end zone. Mason Buck converted the extra-point kick to give the Cougars a 7-6 lead.
Campbell County regained the lead late in the fourth quarter. Wood threw a screen pass to senior wide receiver Nate Hess and he took it 80 yards for a touchdown that made it 12-7 with 4:58 left.
The Camels then went for a 2-point conversion, but the ball carrier was stopped short of the goal line.
“We thought we got it in the end zone there, but apparently we didn’t,” said Campbell County coach Steve Lickert. “That (missed) two-point conversion was big. And we talk about the kicking game all the time, that was big too because it cost us that extra point (after our first touchdown) and that’s what the difference in the game was.”
Conner also failed to get a two-point conversion after its final touchdown, but Campbell County wasn’t able to move the ball within field goal range before time expired.
Conner finished with 259 total yards (144 passing, 115 rushing) while Campbell County totaled 274 (173 rushing, 101 passing).
Wood was the game’s leading rusher with 100 yards on 22 carries. Barker picked up 99 yards on 23 carries.
“The weather did screw both of us up pretty good,” Lickert said. “I would love to play on a dry field and really get after them and see who the best team is.”
at CONNER 0-0-7-6–13
CA–Morris 45 run (kick failed)
CO–Way 30 pass
from Barker (Buck kick)
CA–Hess 80 pass from Wood (run failed)
CO–Loney 10 pass from Barker (pass failed)
RECORDS: Conner 3-1, Campbell County 3-2.