The Switzerland County varsity football team ran into a buzz saw on Friday night, as the South Decatur Cougars came to Pacer Field and ran over their hosts en route to a 74-20 victory.
“Some nights you’re the hammer and some nights you’re the nail,” Pacer coach Ryan Jesop said after the loss. “South Decatur punched first and our guys need to do more of that to maximize our talent. Fundamentally, it showed that we have a ways to go to compete with a good smash mouth team like them, but to our kids credit they never got down on themselves or gave up.”
The Pacers received the opening kick to start the game, but when the Pacer drive stalled, Switzerland County was forced to punt, and South Decatur’s Oakley Billingsley ran the punt back 51 yards for the first Cougar score of the night. The point after was no good, and South Decatur led 6-0 with 8:06 to go in the first.
Switzerland County then muffed the kickoff and had to start at its own four yard line, but tailback Jonny Thompson ripped off a 21-yard run that got the Pacers out of dangerous field position. From there, the Pacer offense couldn’t get things going, and after another punt South Decatur took over at its own 47-yard line. After some short gains, Cougar tailback Damon Allen broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run, and with 4:56 to play in the opening period, South Decatur was ahead, 12-0.
The Pacers got a spark moments later, when senior Will Pike fielded the kickoff, found his blockers, and raced 92 yards for a touchdown. Kyle Whitham’s PAT was good, and 4:42 to go, the Pacers were down just 12-7.
Tragedy was averted moments later, as South Decatur fielded the Pacer kickoff and ran it back for a touchdown, but the Cougars were whistled with a block in the back penalty, negating the score and bringing the ball back to the Pacer 25 yard line.
Again it was Allen for South Decatur, as the senior ran it in for a score from 14-yards out, and after Billingsley converted the two-point attempt, South Decatur was back in front 20-7, with 2:40 still to play in an exciting opening quarter.
Switzerland County couldn’t get the offense moving again, and on a punt attempt, a bad snap led to South Decatur getting the ball on the Pacer 14-yard line, and the Cougars advanced down to the two as the quarter came to an end.
It didn’t take long for South Decatur to add to its total, as Allen again took the hand off to open the second quarter and ran into the end zone for another touchdown. This time the Pacer defense held strong on the Cougar two-point try, denying the additional score and making it 26-7.
The Pacer offense began to get on track, as quarterback Casper Stow connected with Cameron Niswander on a nice gain that took the Pacers to midfield; and moments later, Stow pitched the ball to Whitham going right, and the halfback then stopped and threw an option pass back to Stow as he raced down the left sideline, and the 50-yard completion narrowed the score to 26-13 after the two-point attempt failed.
Special teams again played a big role in the game, as South Decatur’s Draven Lee took the kickoff and ran it all the way back to the Pacer 21 yard line. Moments later Allen again made noise, racing around the right end for another score, and this time the PAT kick attempt was good, extending the Cougar lead to 33-13.
Trystan Kielbasa took the following kickoff and took it back to the 43 yard line, giving Switzerland County good field position, but again the drive stalled and the Pacers gave the ball back on downs.
South Decatur was driving again, but that threat was snuffed out when Stow, playing defensive back, stepped in front of a Cougar receiver and made the interception with 6:44 to go before halftime. Again Switzerland County couldn’t mount a sustained drive, and again gave the ball back to South Decatur on downs at midfield. This time the Cougars moved to the Pacer 15, but the Switzerland County defense flexed its strength, forcing the Cougars into a field goal attempt, which was no good.
Trying to get on the board before halftime, Stow’s pass was intercepted by a South Decatur defender and run all the way back to the Pacer 11 with just 15-seconds left until halftime.
Again the Switzerland County defense stepped up, with Justice Bledsoe making a critical interception in the end zone to deny any chance for more Cougar points before halftime, and the teams went to the break with South Decatur ahead,, 33-13.
Any chance to quelling the Cougar momentum with the halftime break went away quickly, as Billingsley took the kickoff to open the second half and ran it all the way back for a quick touchdown. After the successful PAT, South Decatur was up by a 40-13 score.
After Switzerland County was forced to punt on its possession, again the South Decatur rushing attack took over, with Billingsley capping the drive with a touchdown run; and after South Decatur converted a two-point attempt off of a fake PAT try, the Cougars had upped their lead to 48-13 with 9:41 to go in the third quarter.
Switzerland County couldn’t get its offense rolling, as South Decatur bottled up Thompson and bent but didn’t break, keeping the Pacers from putting together a long drive for points.
Allen made a 29-yard scamper for another South Decatur touchdown with 6:59 to go that made the score 54-13 after the failed PAT; and Allen followed that up with a three-yard run at the 3:39 mark that upped the score to 60-13.
Switzerland County tried to mount some offense, but Stow’s pass was intercepted and run back to the Pacer 25 yard line with 1:15 to go in the third; and that’s how the third quarter ended; but South Decatur’s Gunner Myers took the handoff early in the fourth period and plowed into the end zone for another Cougar touchdown that made the score 66-13 after Switzerland County blocked the PAT attempt.
Whitham, subbing at quarterback after Stow took a big hit, again provided some spark when he connected with Pike for a 61-yard touchdown completion, and after Whitham kicked the PAT, Switzerland County was down 66-20 with 10 minutes to play.
South Decatur got its final score of the night with 5:21 to play, when Kenny Meadows ran the ball in from five-yards out; and after South Decatur made the ensuing two-point attempt, that set the final score at 74-20, sending the Pacer fans home with some long faces.
Fans, but not players.
“We feel like this is more of an anomaly than the norm for our program now, and moving forward we’ll learn from the mistakes we made that dug us into such a deep hole at the beginning of the game,” Coach Jesop said. “No one expected us to be .500 at this point in the season, but we can’t be complacent or rest on our laurels with so much football left to play.”
Tomorrow (Friday), Switzerland County will close the home portion of its schedule with a 7 p.m. kickoff against North Decatur; and the Pacers then close out the regular season on Friday, October 14th, with an away game at Milan.
Coach Jesop’s troops then enter Sectional play, where the Pacers (3-3) will travel to Triton Central to play the Tigers (4-3), on Friday, October 21st. The winner of that game will then host the winner of the Eastern Hancock (4-3)-Centerville (2-5) game on Friday, October 28th; and the winner of that semifinal would then host the Sectional Championship game on Friday, November 4th.
Other matchups in Sectional 38 include Milan (5-2) at Union County (2-5); and Northeastern (5-2) at Indianapolis Howe (3-4).