UNION, Ky. – The Simon Kenton Pioneers held on against the Cooper Jaguars 13-12 to claim the region championship on Friday night at Cooper High School.
Simon Kenton (13-0) thwarted a two-point conversion try with one minute left in the game and then forced a turnover on downs after Cooper (10-3) recovered the ensuing onside-kickoff to come out victorious in a classic game that will be talked about for many years.
“In a game like that no one deserves to lose and both teams laid their hearts on the line, they’re a great football team and we were lucky enough to come out on top I’m very proud of our kids,” said head coach Jeff Marksberry.
The Pioneers’ offense was held to a season-low 13 points, 30 points below their average. However, the defense came up huge allowing Simon Kenton to advance to the state semi-finals. It was the tenth game this year that they’ve kept their opponents to 15 points or fewer.
“We focus on each other and play for each other and that’s what leads us to bend but not break,” said senior defensive lineman Tucker Mueller. “Its great weeks of practice and doing everything our coaches need us to do.”
The Jaguars ran the ball for 150 yards per game prior to Friday night, however they were only able to gain 92 yards on the ground and averaged just 2.5 yards per carry.
Conversely, the Pioneers ran the ball for 299 yards behind a strong offensive line with junior quarterback Cam Racke rushing for 157 yards and senior running back Dillon Powell running for 148 yards.
“They’re a really good defensive football team they’ve got some great defensive lineman, Sander Rocksvag and Marcus Watson, but I feel our offensive line matches up pretty good,” said Marksberry.
Between a sloppy field and Cooper’s strong defense Simon Kenton was forced to be a one-dimensional offense as it had just 31 passing yards, but the smash-mouth style was enough to win in the end.
“The offensive line is great and I appreciate everything they do for me and Dillon and everyone else on the team,” said Racke. “It was tough throwing the ball tonight with the conditions the receivers were slipping and I made a few bad reads.”
Down 13-6 with 2:21 left in the game the Jaguars had the ball at their own 27-yard line and senior quarterback Nathan Brown led a 73-yard touchdown drive yet his two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Cooper then recovered the on sides kick with a minute left in the game, but couldn’t do anything on that final possession and finally the Pioneers could breathe.
“I don’t want to go home, that’s what’s in my head,” said Racke. “I don’t want to be done but the defense took care of business.”
After the game the Simon Kenton players were letting the region championship sink in.
“Truly up to this point in my life this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” said Mueller. “But we have to focus on going 1-0 every week that’s our team philosophy.”
Cooper will have to deal with being on the losing side of this classic battle as they now turn towards next season.
Simon Kenton will host Lafayette (11-2) next Friday with a trip to the state championship game on the line.