The Switzerland County Pacer varsity football team celebrated Homecoming on Friday night in a big way, jumping out to an early lead and then showing off a strong defense in a 40-12 win over visiting Rock Creek Academy.
The Pacers opened the scoring early when powerhouse Zach Weaver fought his way into the end zone in the game’s opening minutes on a one year touchdown run. JW Goldsberry provided the PAT, and the Pacers held a 7-0 lead.
Rock Creek then attempted to get their offense going, but Pacer defensive back Dathan Brown snuffed out a drive with an interception that gave Switzerland County the ball near midfield with 7:40 left in the first quarter.
Switzerland County couldn’t take advantage of the turnover, however, and when the Eagles got the ball back, their tailback broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run at the 4:44 mark of the first period. Rock Creek doesn’t have the reliable kicker that the Pacers have in Goldsberry, so they went for the two-point conversion, but that was denied and the Pacers held a 7-6 lead.
The Pacers have shown a quick strike capability all season, and the opening quarter on Friday night was no different, as Switzerland County took the kick off and marched right down the field. Quarterback Damion Courter then connected with Dakota Wallace on a four-yard touchdown pass, and after Goldsberry kicked the PAT, Switzerland County was in front, 14-6, with :28-seconds remaining in the first.
Both defenses then swelled up, not allowing much offensive production through the first half of the second quarter; but with 5:22 left until half Courter connected on a long pass to Lucas Hutchinson that put Switzerland County in the red zone.
Courter then capped that drive with a four-yard pass to Tre Batchelor, and after Goldsberry converted the PAT, the score stood at 21-6 with 4:12 to go until halftime.
With Switzerland County’s defense manhandling Rock Creek, there was still time for one more Switzerland County score before the halftime break and the crowing of this year’s Fall Homecoming royalty.
The drive kicked into gear when Courter hit Hunter Records for a 42-yard completion that put the ball just outside the goal line, and again it was Weaver, a nearly unstoppable force in the red zone.
Weaver took another one-yard blast up the middle for his second touchdown of the half, and when Goldsberry nailed the PAT, halftime came with Switzerland County in front by a score of 28-6.
The third quarter was again marked by solid defense from both squads, but with 3:03 left in the period, Courter got free on a run and scampered 21 yards to pay dirt. This time the PAT was no good, but the Pacers held a commanding 34-6 lead.
That was the score as the game moved into its final 12-minute quarter; and it was Rock Creek that dented the scoreboard first, when an Eagle defender scooped up a Pacer fumble and rumbled 55 yards for a score with 6:21 to play. Again the two-point conversion was no good; and the Switzerland County lead still stood at 22, 34-12.
The Pacers responded to that miscue almost immediately, as Courter hit Batchelor on a 73-yard catch and run just 21-seconds after Rock Creek had scored. The PAT was no good, but that made the score 40-12 in favor of the Pacers, and the game clock was ground out by Switzerland County the rest of the way, giving the Pacers the big win.
On the night, Courter was skillfully efficient, going 9-for-14 passing with 203 yards and two touchdowns, and he also rushed six times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Batchelor finished with 72 yards rushing on 10 carries and a touchdown; Matt Davis had 49 yards rushing on five carries; Brown had three carries for 27 yards; and Weaver had three carries for just seven yards, but he also punched in two scores.
Batchelor also led the way in pass receiving, hauling in just one catch, but it was a big one for 73 yards and a touchdown. Hutchinson had two receptions for 55 yards; Records had two receptions for 46 yards; Brown had an 18-yard catch; and Wallace had two receptions for 12 yards and a score.
Weaver was also a force defensively, recording three tackles; seven tackle assists; one sack and three tackles for loss; while Brown added two tackles and five tackle assists. Colbee Boatman had one tackle, 12 tackle assists and one tackle for loss; Dakota King had two tackles and three tackle assists; Records had a tackle and five tackle assists; Hutchinson added two tackles; Batchelor had a tackle and an assist; Mike Galbreath had a tackle and two assists; Joe Earls — fresh off his crowning as Homecoming King — had a tackle and two assists; Brenden Otter had a tackle and an assist; Dakota Lester had a tackle; Nick Gatto had five tackle assists; Kyzick Byrum assisted on four tackles; and Gavin Reese had a tackle assist.
Brown, King, and Ryan Hart each had fumble recoveries in the contest.
The win, which also celebrated and honored the military as the Pacers wore special military jerseys provided by the National Guard, ran Switzerland County’s overall record to 5-1. The Pacer now do some traveling, as the next two games are on the road.
The Pacers travel to South Decatur tomorrow (Friday) night for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Cougars currently sport a record of 2-4 and are averaging 16 points per game offensively while allowing over 34 points per game with their defense.
On Friday, October 11th, the Pacers then travel to North Decatur to take on the Chargers, who also sport a 5-1 record. North Decatur is averaging 34 points per game offensively, while allowing just under seven points per game with its defense.
The regular season then wraps up with a home game and Senior Night on October 18th against Milan. The Indians currently have a record of 4-2, putting up an average of 32 points per game while allowing 18 points per game with their defense.
Switzerland County through six games is averaging 29 points per game while surrendering an average of 15 points per contest.
Once the regular season finishes, Coach Ryan Jesop and his Dirty Birds will enter Sectional play beginning on Friday night, October 25th.
The opponent and location of first round Sectional games has not yet been determined, but along with Switzerland County (5-1), Sectional #39 includes: Triton Central (4-2), Mitchell (3-3), Paoli (3-3), Providence (2-4), Clarksville (1-5), Union County (1-5), and Eastern Pekin (0-6).
Locations of first round Sectional games is determined by the draw, with the team in the lower bracket hosting the first round, so there is a good chance that the Pacers will host either a first or second round game.