TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Denis House / The Endzone Staff
BARBOURVILLE—Chris Crawley-Goodman rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns as Mercer County ended Knox Central's season with a 31-14 win in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“It's not the way we wanted to go out,” Coach Scott Russell said. “Sometimes things are stacked against you. We had a bunch of guys out, that played a part in it. But that's football and Mercer County is a good football team.”
In the end the Panthers (6-5) had no answer for Crawley-Goodman, who broke off long runs of 18, 44 and 35 yards as he carried the ball 26 times for the Titans (7-4).
It would be Mercer County striking first thanks to a fortunate bounce on a punt that hit a Knox Central player from behind and the Titans were able to recover on the 36 yard line. Four plays later, Crawley-Goodman carried it in from 18 yards out, and with 45.4 seconds left in the first quarter, Mercer County held a 7-0 lead.
Knox Central answered right back with a 10-play drive that covered 68 yards and was capped off when Jonathan Gist scored from 16 yards out. The two-point conversion was good, and with 7:59 left in the half, the Panthers now held an 8-7 lead.
After the Knox Central defense came up huge with two sacks on Crawley-Goodman, one by Dee Castle, the Panthers took over on the 36. But on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Matthew Barger was intercepted by Crawley-Goodman, who returned the ball to the Mercer 42. That turnover resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Travis Fox, and with 39 seconds left in the half, the Titans had regained the lead, 10-8.
Mercer's first possession of the second half ended after only four plays when Andrew Johnson intercepted a Crawley-Goodman pass and returned it to the 28.
Knox Central then put together a eight-play drive that resulted in Gist scoring from one yard out. The try for two failed, and with 7:16 remaining in the third quarter, Knox Central had retaken the lead, 14-10.
But that would be all the offense the Panthers could muster on the night. Mercer answered right back with a Crawley-Goodman touchdown with 3:38 left in the quarter for a 17-14 lead. He would score two more times, one from one yard and the other from two yards out, to make the final 31-14.
“We got knocked down and hopefully that will help us understand what it takes to get to the next level,” Russell said. “But I'm proud of the team. They played hard.”