TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Chris Parsons / The Endzone Staff
WHITLEY COUNTY — Whitley County running back Zack Mills showed why his coaches and teammates were excited to get him back on the field Friday, but his return wasn't enough to get the Colonels their first win of the season.
Instead, the Colonels came up short on the final play of the game against Clay County Friday, falling to 0-5 for the first time since 1984 after the 42-36 loss to the Tigers at home.
Whitley County coach Jim Black said he was pleased with his team's effort as it battled back from a late deficit, but he was quick to point out the fact that his team may have waited a little too long to decide to make the kind of plays it took to win the game.
"You've got to give our kids credit for the effort, but we just didn't play well throughout the game," Black said. "When you do that you have to climb mountains instead of just bumps to get back in it and that's the situation we put ourselves into.
"We made a good defensive stand there toward the end on that Clay County drive, but we waited until they had already driven the football all the way down the football field to do that," he added. "What we have to do though is we've got to decide to make plays early instead of waiting until we get ourselves in positions that we shouldn't be in to try and dig our way out."
While Mills was welcomed back with open arms, rushing for 186 yards and three touchdowns, it was Clay County's Sam Carr that stole the show, rushing for 313 yards and two touchdowns to help the Tigers get their first win of the season after starting the season with four straight losses.
Whitley County struck first when Mills picked up an Austin Ysidro fumble and ran it in from 30 yards out to put the Colonels on top, 6-0, early in the first quarter.
Clay County answered with a heavy dose of Carr as he broke free from 36 yards out to tie things up at six apiece with 5:189 to play in the first quarter.
The Tigers struck again on their next possession when Ryan Holland connected with Nathan Dobbs for a 26-yard touchdown pass, staking the Tigers to a 12-6 lead with under three minutes to play in the opening quarter. Clay County extended its lead to 20-6 when Holland scored on a quarterback keeper to push the gap to 20-6 after the two-point conversion was successful.
Mills was able to help trim the deficit before the end of the first half when he scored on a 32-yard run, making the score 20-12 at halftime.
The two teams traded touchdowns in the second half until the Tigers went ahead 42-20 with 2:37 to play in the third quarter, thanks to a 15-yard touchdown run by Arnold Arnett.
That's when the Colonels decided to mount a comeback.
An 18-yard touchdown reception Mills cut Clay County's lead to 42-28 with 10:34 to play, which was followed by a successful onsides kick recovery by the Colonels.
Black's squad made good on the play as Austin Ysidro scored on a two-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 42-36 with 8:57 to play in the game.
Clay County did a masterful job of using the clock as it drove down the field late, using over six minutes before turning the football over on downs, giving the Colonels a chance to drive for the win with 2:17 to play in the game.
The Colonels managed to get the ball to the 13-yard line, but the final play came up short as Mills tried to get out of bounds to stop the clock, but didn't make it in time.
With his team setting at 0-5, Black said the only thing he and his staff could do is start over on Monday in preparation for next week's opponent.
"We just came up a little bit short, but we have a winnable game to play next week and we'll try it again," Black said. "We have to continue to get better as a football team if we want to win.
"Hopefully we can improve in some area and play good football next week," he added.