By Terry Boehmker
INDEPENDENCE, Ky. – Simon Kenton football coach Jeff Marksberry said he wanted his defensive players to come into Friday’s Class 6A playoff game against Campbell County with a “chip on their shoulder” after what happened in the regular-season match-up between the two teams.
In that game, Campbell County capped off a late drive by scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final seconds to pull out a 29-28 victory.
But Simon Kenton’s defensive unit made sure that didn’t happen again in Friday’s rematch and the Pioneers came away with a 29-21 win to advance to the third round of the Class 6A playoffs.
After Campbell County scored on its first possession of the second half to take a 21-14 lead, the Camels were held to just one first down on their final four possessions.
“The defense came up really big,” Marksberry said. “We played a lot of man coverage, which really scared me, but our kids found a way to make plays when it really counted.”
Simon Kenton (9-3) advances to play Scott County (11-1) in a regional final on Friday. The winner will advance to the state semifinals the following week.
This is the second time in three years the Pioneers have made it to the regional final. The fact that last year’s team was eliminated in the first round and finished with a 2-9 record makes it even sweeter for SK senior middle linebacker and running back Jared Bowling.
“I’ve never felt anything like this before,” Bowling said. “I know two years ago we went to the regional finals when I was a sophomore, but last year we were terrible and went 2-9. So to flip this around and go 9-3 and get to the regional finals is a great feeling.”
Scott County whipped Simon Kenton, 56-6, three weeks ago, but coach Marksberry is looking forward to a second shot at the Cardinals.
“We dug ourselves in such a hole the first time we played them,” Marksberry said. “They’re a great team and present a great challenge for us, but that’s what playoff football is for – the challenges.”
The offensive standouts in Friday’s playoff game were quarterbacks Brennan Kuntz of Simon Kenton and Tyler Durham of Campbell County.
Durham accounted for 259 of the Camels’ 284 total yards. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 171 yards, rushed 24 times for 88 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Kuntz was responsible for 170 of his team’s 297 total yards. He was 12-of-13 passing for 106 yards. He also had 15 carries for 64 yards and scored twice.
With 6:56 left in the third quarter, Kuntz threw a 19-yard TD pass to wide receiver Grant Wasson and place kicker Grant Mahoney got the extra point to tie the score at 21-21.
On their next possession, the Pioneers took the lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Bowling. There was a bad snap on the extra-point kick, but holder Jared Swanson scooped up the ball and made it to the end zone for a two-point conversion.
Campbell County had three possessions after that. The Camels had to punt on the first two and turned the ball over on downs on the last one.
“We knew what we had to do,” Bowling said of the Pioneers’ defensive performance on their opponent’s final three possessions. “We knew if we stopped them we’d win, and that’s what we did.”
The first half ended in dramatic fashion. With less than one second left on the clock, Campbell County junior wide receiver Avery Wood took the snap from center and threw a 4-yard jump pass to Kyle Hoskins, who was cutting across the back of the end zone.
The Camels also picked up good yardage on a hook-and-lateral play during that drive and they tried using their quarterback as a pass receiver on one play late in the game.
But none of the trickery made the game turn out the way Campbell County coach Steve Lickert hoped it would.
“They had a great game plan,” Lickert said of Simon Kenton’s defense. “They really studied what we do and did a good job stopping it. Their kids stepped up. You win some and you lose some, and they were definitely the better team tonight.”
CAMPBELL CO. 7-7-7-0 – 21
at S. KENTON 7-7-15-0 – 29
SK-Kuntz 54 run (Smith kick)
CC-Durham 2 run (Mahoney kick)
SK-Kuntz 8 run (Smith kick)
CC-Hoskins 4 pass from Wood (Mahoney kick)
CC-Durham 2 run (Mahoney kick)
SK-Wasson 19 pass from Kuntz (Smith kick)
SK-Bowling 4 run (Swanson run)
RECORDS: Simon Kenton 9-3, Campbell County 7-5.
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