Simon Kenton relies on will to win, onside kick to escape Highlands

INDEPENDENCE, Kentucky – Undefeated Simon Kenton recovered an onside kick and scored two touchdowns in the last 90 seconds to escape visiting Highlands, 35-30, Friday night.

Simon Kenton head coach Jeff Marksberry knew his team struggled in the early going and gave credit to his players for having a never-quit attitude.

PHOTO GALLERY: Simon Kenton 35, Highlands 30

“There were a couple of kids on the sideline, a couple of our seniors that just pulled us together and looked at me and said,  'We’re not losing, and they made it happen. Those two kids just fought and fought and fought,” Marksberry said after the game.

Marksberry was talking about wide receiver Fisher Hayden and defensive back Brayden Trattles.

Hayden caught seven passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns, but it was Trattles who made the game-changing play.

 Nick Bowman’s 30-yard field goal put the Bluebirds ahead 30-21 with 2:41 remaining in the game.

Simon Kenton’s high powered offense led by quarterback Matt Shearer engineered a six-play drive in just over one minute. Shearer’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Hayden cut the Highlands lead to 30-28.

Everyone knew the Pioneers would try an onside kick. In the wild melee for the loose ball, Trattles got a hand on it and somehow advanced it an extra 20 yards before it was recovered by the Pioneers with 1:24 left.

“Brayden was the one who tipped the ball on the onside kick and gave us a chance to get the ball,” said Marksberry. “I grabbed him before we kicked it and said, 'Go get it.' The kid is just a winner.”

Trattles said his coach that gave him the confidence he needed to make the big play.

“Coach Marksberry came up to me and said, ‘Brayden, you’ve been making plays all night and I need you to make another one,’” explained Trattles. “I told him, ‘Coach, I’m all in and I’m going to make this play.’”

Marksberry also gave credit to kicker Christian Seger for putting Trattles in a position to make the play.

“What a kick by Christian,” Marksberry said. “That third bounce and, bang, we get it.”

The onside kick set up the Simon Kenton offense on the Highlands 34-yard line. Shearer scored from seven yards out, his second rushing touchdown of the night, with just 14.8 seconds to play.

The senior quarterback accounted for all five Pioneer touchdowns, two on the ground plus three through the air.

Highlands was in control most of the game after it surrendered the first touchdown to Simon Kenton.

Shearer found a streaking Fisher across the middle and Fisher raced 84 yards into the end zone for the game’s first score.

The Bluebirds were not phased and scored on its ensuing drive. Carl Schoellman found Nick Venneman in the corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown, Highlands took the lead thanks to a successful two-point conversion scored on a running play by Grady Cramer.

Highlands extended its lead to 11-8 with 2:51 left in the first quarter with a 26-yard field goal by Bowman. It was the first of three field goals by Bowman.

The Bluebirds forced three Simon Kenton turnovers in the first half. The most costly miscue was late in the second quarter.

Shearer went back to pass deep in his own territory and was flushed out of the pocket by Highlands’ Ben Sisson. Sisson got a hand up and deflected Shearer’s pass, then caught it  ran past a stunned Shearer 14 yards for a touchdown.

The Pioneers ran the two-minute drill, getting that score back as Shearer connected again with Fisher for a 3-yard touchdown pass, but Highlands still went into the locker room with a 17-14 advantage.

Highlands took a 10-point lead in the third quarter, the largest by either team. Schoellman, who threw for 161 yards on 16-for-27 passing, tossed a 23-yard scoring strike to Griffin Huber for a 24-14 advantage.

The Bluebirds controlled the clock throughout the third quarter thanks to the running game. Larry Wilson rushed for a game-high 171 yards on 18 carries.

Simon Kenton’s offense began to click in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers scored three touchdowns during the final stanza, sending their fans home happy.

“It was the best game that I’ve seen or been a part of, and I have tears in my eyes thinking about it,” Trattles said after the game. “It was just a great feeling to win it with my brothers.”

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Highlands 11-6-7-6 – 30

Simon Kenton 7-7-0-21 – 35

SCORING PLAYS

S – Hayden 84-yard TD catch from Shearer (Seger kick).

H – Venneman 23-yard TD catch from Schoellman (Cramer run).

H – Bowman 26-yard FG

H – Sisson 14-yard INT return for TD (pass failed).

S – Hayden 3-yard TD catch from Shearer (Seger kick).

H – Huber 23-yard TD catch from Schoellman (Bowman kick).

H – Bowman 33-yard FG

S – Shearer 2-yard TD run (Seger kick).

H – Bowman 30-yard FG

S – Hayden 16-yard TD catch from Shearer (Seger kick).

S – Shearer 7-yard TD run (Seger kick).

RECORDS: Highlands (2-4); Simon Kenton (6-0)

UP NEXT: Highlands vs. Dixie Heights (2-4); Simon Kenton @ Beechwood (4-1)

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