Special teams turns series to Fleming

Cole Saunders' monster game stretches Panthers win streak over Royals to 5

FLEMINGSBURG – After near domination from Mason County in the mid 90’s to 2013, Fleming County has taken the momentum back on the gridiron in their rivalry series with the Royals.

The Panthers have now won five straight over the Royals and reclaimed the all-time series lead with a 35-14 victory over the Royals, Friday night in Flemingsburg.

Special teams played a huge factor in the contest as the Panthers got a 67-yard punt return from Cole Saunders, blocked a punt and a high snap gave Fleming County the ball in the Royals redzone. Those three miscues created Panthers’ scores and proved to be the difference maker in the contest.

“It was huge to get that momentum on our side early. Last week we struggled the entire game trying to get momentum,” Panthers coach Bill Spencer said. “This week the punt return got the momentum going on and then we get the blocked punt and get it right back. It was huge for us early and got us up 14-0. If we don’t get those special teams plays early it could have been a whole different ballgame.”

Saunders wasn’t done from there though, who put the exclamation point on the victory with touchdown catches of 36 and 40 yards in the third quarter to give the Panthers a 28-7 lead.

“The punt return really set our tone. That was key,” Saunders said. “Once we started running the ball, it opened up our passing game and Johnny was able to throw it over the top to me.”

After Saunders return opened up the scoring, Maher then hit Kaleb Flanery for an 18-yard touchdown pass on a 4th and 10 to make it 14-0 in the latter stages of the first.

The Royals then got things going offensively via Seth Chambers, breaking off a 43-yard run and finishing the ensuing drive with a six-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 with 11:01 left in the second.

The score would remain that way as tensions rose on the field, particularly in a sequence where personal fouls were called on three consecutive plays. Penalties marred drives to the halftime horn, keeping the score that way.

The Fleming County offense that had been missing for the first six quarters of the season finally came to life in the second half. After just 55 yards from scrimmage in the first half, the Panthers opened up the second half with a 57-yard scoring drive that was capped off by Saunders’ 36 yard reception, racing down the sidelines to the endzone for the six.

It was Saunders finding paydirt again on their next possession, this time on a hitch-and-go from 40 yards out to make it 28-7.

The Royals quickly responded on a Brammer TD rush from 4th and goal from the five. They’d then force a three-and-out to keep the momentum on their side, but a penalty followed by a dropped pass stalled the next drive.

The high snap blunder then set up the Panthers final score of the evening on Tanner Weaver’s four-yard run.

“Giving up big plays. The blocked punt was on me, I’ll take that one. We’ve got a lot of young kids, but we’re not going to make any excuses. We’ve got to execute, still have to play and figure things out,” Royals coach Jonathan Thomas said. “I’m still very proud of my team, not down on us what-so-ever. I hate it for our seniors, they really wanted this one tonight.”

Despite out-gaining the Panthers on the evening in yardage, the scoreboard ended up telling a different story, giving Fleming County a 22-21 lead in the all-time series.

“That means a ton, not just to our program, but to our community. Mason is one of those schools where a lot of people are happy as long as we beat them they’re going to be a little bit happier. I hate that for Coach Thomas, he is a good guy, but we got to keep that momentum on our side,” Spencer said.

Chambers finished the evening with 167 yards rushing on 25 carries and a TD. Brammer threw for 106 yards and ran for another 18 with the touchdown run. Mason County returns to action Friday as they host Rowan County.

“We talked about not tapping out, not quitting and I don’t think we did that tonight. I think you can build and take a team somewhere that wants to keep playing all night long, no matter the circumstances,” Thomas said. “We’ll have a few more kids eligible next week, I think that will give us a chance to do some really good things.”

Fleming County bounced back after a 47-6 loss to Harrison County, giving up nearly 500 yards on the ground. They improved that effort Friday, allowing 162 yards on the ground to the Royals.

Saunders finished with 108 yards receiving on eight catches and the three touchdowns. Maher added 132 yards through the air with three passing touchdowns. Weaver led in rushing with 79 yards and the TD. Fleming County heads to Greenup County to take on the Musketeers Friday.

PANTHERS 35, ROYALS 14

MASON COUNTY—0-7-0-7—14

FLEMING COUNTY—14-0-14-7—35

Scoring:

1st Quarter:

(FC) C. Saunders 67-yard punt return (Paige kick) 9:45

(FC) Maher 18-yd pass to Flanery (Paige kick) 1:19

2nd Quarter:

(MC) Chambers 6-yd run (Gilligan kick) 11:01

3rd Quarter:

(FC) Maher 36-yd pass to C. Saunders (Paige kick) 10:21

(FC) Maher 40-yd pass to C. Saunders (Paige kick) 2:27

4th Quarter:

(MC) Brammer 5-yard run (Gilligan kick) 11:33

(FC) Weaver 4-yard run (Paige kick)

Records: Mason County 1-1, Fleming County 1-1

Fleming County quarterback Jonathan Maher (20) looks for daylight as Cole Saunders (19) sets up a block in front of him. The two later linked up in the game for two touchdown passes, Saunders adding another score via punt return.
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_082518-spt-fleming02.jpgFleming County quarterback Jonathan Maher (20) looks for daylight as Cole Saunders (19) sets up a block in front of him. The two later linked up in the game for two touchdown passes, Saunders adding another score via punt return.

Mason County’s Seth Chambers tries to break away from Fleming County’s Cole Saunders during a run in the first half. Chambers finished with 167 yards rushing and a touchdown.
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_082518-spt-mason01.jpgMason County’s Seth Chambers tries to break away from Fleming County’s Cole Saunders during a run in the first half. Chambers finished with 167 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Cole Saunders’ monster game gives Panthers five straight wins over Royals

 

EVAN DENNISON

[email protected]