Fleming County bounces back with win over West Carter

Panthers eat clock, get three touchdowns from Maher in the first half

JARED MACDONALD
[email protected]

OLIVE HILL –The rain came down and the lightning flashed overhead.

But after an hour delay before the opening kickoff, there was nothing flashy about the Fleming County football team’s offense.

Instead, the Panthers took the opening kickoff and slowly marched through the mud at Michael Ed Blankenship Memorial Field, took advantage of early West Carter turnovers and held on for a 19-16 win over the Comets in an important Class 3A, District 5 game on Thursday.

“Huge win. We told our kids coming into this game this week that we had lost one game, but that didn’t put the nail in the coffin. As long as we keep winning ball games, we control our own destiny,” said Fleming County coach Bill Spencer. “I was very proud of our kids’ effort and attitude in the first half. The way they came out and established what we wanted to do and build that lead was great for us.”

Fleming County started the game at their own 37-yard line and powered the ball up the middle for minimal gains each time. It was enough, however, and the Panthers were able to convert several times on fourth down, before quarterback Jonathan Maher eventually punched the ball into the end zone from the 2-yard line. By the time the drive was over, there was only 3:03 left in the first quarter.

“That was our game plan all week. I said, ‘Guys, we can’t get frustrated if we’re getting three and four yard plays. We may not hit 10, 20 yard plays our kids are used to doing sometimes in years past, but with a team like West Carter, we said that our best defense is going to be chewing up the clock on offense,” said Spencer.

West Carter helped the Panthers by fumbling on their first offensive play of the game, setting the Panthers up at the Comets’ 30. Five plays later Maher scored on a 3-yard run for a 13-0 lead with less than a minute to play in the opening period.

“It couldn’t have worked out better for us in the first half with holding onto the ball, having some long drives and not giving them an opportunity to be on offense,” said Spencer. “The first play that they ran being a fumble didn’t hurt anything either.”

Kaleb Flanery came away with an interception on the Comets’ next possession, setting up Maher’s third touchdown run of the half which made it a 19-0 Fleming County lead. His third touchdown run came from three yards out.

“Our offensive line really pushed their defensive line around,” said Maher. “It really opened us up to get yards there at first.”

Fleming County’s offense ran 34 plays to West Carter’s four at that point. The Panthers finished the half up 19 points after having possession for 20:49 in the first two quarters. They finished the game with 161 yards on the ground in the sloppy setting.

“We’re just trying to establish who we are. We’ve struggled with some things. We’ve turned the ball over too many times. Very wet, muddy field conditions. We didn’t want to try to force things. Sometimes it feels like you try to force a square peg in a round hole. On a field like this tonight, you’ve got to go straight ahead,” said Spencer.

West Carter got on the board with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Christian Rivers to Jackson Bond, but the Panthers came up with several key stops down the stretch, including a pass break up from Flanery on a deep ball on third down early in the fourth quarter and a stop on fourth down when Fleming County got hold of a scrambling Rivers. They also picked off a deep pass from Rivers with 3:44 to play.

The Comets added a touchdown with under 10 seconds left on a 9-yard pass from Rivers to Blake McGlone, but Fleming County grabbed hold of the onside kick attempt and took a knee to finish the win.

Fleming County moves to 3-5 overall and 2-1 in district play. They’ll host Bath County next Friday in the Bypass Homes Bowl. The Wildcats lost to the Comets last week, 40-12.

West Carter falls to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in Class 3A, District 5 play. The Comets are scheduled to travel to Pendleton County next Friday for a 7:30 p.m. game.

PANTHERS 19, COMETS 16

FLEMING COUNTY——13-6-0-0—19

WEST CARTER—-0-0-8-8—16

FIRST QUARTER

(FC) Maher 2-yard run (Paige kick) 3:03

(FC) Maher 3-yard run (Kick failed) 0:33.6

SECOND QUARTER

(FC) Maher 3-yard run (Two-point failed) 3:53

THIRD QUARTER

(WC) Rivers 13-yard pass to Bond (Two-point conversion) 1:26

FOURTH QUARTER

(WC) Rivers 9-yard pass to McGlone (Two-point conversion) 0:09.8

Records: Fleming County (3-5. 2-1), West Carter (3-4, 1-2)

Fleming County quarterback Jonathan Maher (20) carries the ball during the first quarter against West Carter, Thursday, in Olive Hill.
https://maysville-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_DSC_1885.jpgFleming County quarterback Jonathan Maher (20) carries the ball during the first quarter against West Carter, Thursday, in Olive Hill.