VANCEBURG – Bryce Burgess sees his job simply.
“Just backing him up,” the Greenup County junior running back said of the Musketeers’ stud senior, Dalton Halstead, “and when he gets tired, I’ll go in and I’ll do work.”
His carries-to-touchdowns ratio was similarly easy to calculate on Friday night. Burgess ran for two touchdowns on as many carries and 79 yards. Add that to Halstead’s two TDs and 156 yards on the ground and Eli Sammons’ three scoring tosses, and you get Greenup County’s 46-7 season-opening victory at Lewis County in the 37th Paul Westerfield Bowl.
Musketeers coach Scott Grizzle was glad to see increased production from Halstead’s understudy as part of a deeper overall team.
“Oh man, it’s huge,” Grizzle said. “We’re trying to play Dalton on both sides of the ball some, and we’re rotating a ton of guys through. That’s something we’ve never had. We played 20-some (varsity) guys tonight, and just having another guy to take the load off of Halstead’s big for us.
It was a tackle by Greenup County that changed the game. Lewis County trailed 32-7 late in the first half, but was driving for a chance to get back in it and had one more play from the Musketeers’ 1-yard line with 0.1 seconds showing on the scoreboard.
But the Musketeers stood Lions fullback Immanuel Manning up for a loss of a couple of yards as time expired. Linebacker Eric Lawson leading the charge for Greenup County, from Grizzle’s vantage point.
For Lewis County, a chance to be competitive deep into the game against the Musketeers for the first time in three years was lost. Three first-half turnovers didn’t help either.
“I shouldn’t say it’s the difference,” Lions coach Josh Hughes said of the goal-line stand, “because with the score, maybe not, but momentum and being able to play a second half believing you have a chance to win, that pretty much took the air out of that. So then it becomes, ‘Let’s try to get through this.’ You’re not telling them that, but that’s what they’re thinking.
“It’s unfortunate. I felt like some things were going good for us there, and then we don’t find a way to get in.”
Lewis County put forth a better effort, at least, than it had of late against Greenup County. Down 19-0, the Lions got on the scoreboard on Garrett Applegate’s 40-yard scoring run with 50 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Applegate finished with 91 yards rushing in the game en route to bowl offensive MVP honors.
“I felt like the kids prepared themselves better,” Hughes said. “We played a much better first quarter than we had last year (at Greenup County), and I still felt like we were going deep into that first half where the kids still felt like we had a chance to compete. That’s a good thing, but we’ve gotta find a way to not be afraid to take a chance and be a decent football team.”
Grizzle said Greenup County slowed Applegate’s production by working with its play-side outside linebacker on reading his keys and keeping his eyes in the right place, as well as periodically rotating in fresher defensive linemen. It worked: Applegate actually had 95 yards at one point before losing four over his last five carries.
The Musketeers scored on five of their six first-half possessions to take control early. Sammons found Austin Clarkson all alone in the Lewis County secondary from 28 yards out to convert a fourth-and-25 with 7:23 to go in the first quarter, and Trey Collier hit the first of his four extra points.
Burgess ran for a 54-yard score at the 4:30 mark, and after the Lions fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Sammons hit Patrick Kelly for a 20-yard scoring strike 24 seconds later.
Sammons earned game MVP accolades by going 9 of 18 for 135 yards without an interception. Kelly drew nearer to becoming Greenup County’s all-time leading receiver with three catches for 59 yards.
Lewis County’s Randy Iery took home defensive game MVP recognition. The Lions’ Zach Lehn hit 12 of 30 passes for 120 yards and was picked twice. Zach Robersion caught five passes for 61 yards.
Greenup County improved to 7-1 in the all-time series with Lewis County. Its victories have come by an average of 36.6 points per game.
GREENUP COUNTY 46, LEWIS COUNTY 7
GC — Austin Clarkson 28 pass from Eli Sammons (Trey Collier kick), 7:23
GC — Bryce Burgess 54 run (kick fails), 4:30
GC — Patrick Kelly 20 pass from Sammons (pass fails), 4:06
LC — Garrett Applegate 40 run (David Keen kick), :50
GC — Dalton Halstead 39 run (Collier kick), 5:56
GC — Austin Evans 18 pass from Sammons (kick fails), 3:17
GC — Halstead 34 run (Collier kick), 11:16
GC — Burgess 25 run (Collier kick), 9:16
Records: Greenup County 1-0, Lewis County 0-1