Joseph Barkoff, story and photos:
On Friday, August 18, 2023, Friday night lights, was the season opening for most of Kentucky and Edmonson County Wildcats opened their 2023 season at home against longtime rival Grayson County Cougars at the Tobacco Bowl in Brownsville.
The stadium, and high school in Brownsville, is surrounded on all sides by beautiful, lush green trees. Though it was not enough of a serene environment to negate the level of competitiveness, almost palpable on the sidelines and seen on the field of play throughout the contest. Yet, the first half of play was marred by “first game jitters,” as was described on the Edmonson Voice WildcatsLive broadcast on Facebook and available on Youtube.
Grayson won the pregame coin toss and elected to receive the ball first. After a short pooch kick from Edmonson they drove down and punched to ball into the endzone, despite a heartfelt goal line stand by Edmonson, in less than three minutes in the first quarter.
With 9:12 on the game clock, Grayson missed their kick short, but the score was 6-0 Grayson.
In their first series of the game Edmonson lost their momentum and ended up punting, but first game jitters and all.
On the home side of the field, a Grayson County player on punt coverage essentially tackled and sat on top of an Edmonson player and when the ball bounced in, it landed off the back of the Grayson player onto the legs held in the air of the Edmonson player as other Wildcats picked up the ball.
Fourth down conversion, check.
The Wildcats would stall-out again, and the end of the first half had Grayson County up 14-0.
“It wasn’t so much of an adjustment as it was a motivational speech,” head coach Zach Vincent said about the discussion with his team in the locker room after the first half.
The second half, the Wildcats came out with a sense of purpose.
“I think we are in better shape,” Vincent said. “We’re more physical. That first half killed us.”
Starting on their own 30-yard line with 5:40 left in the third quarter, the Wildcats began their drive with senior running back Michael Mills. Mills was able to achieve a first down to the 40. Mills’ next run netted 7 yards. From the 47, Mills was able to, from some key blocks, explode through the Grayson defense playing their men mostly in the box with none on long coverage.
Mills scored the first and only touchdown for Edmonson County on a 53-yard run with 4:26 left in the third quarter. The score was now 14-7 in favor of Grayson.
Perhaps a little late, there was still fight left in the Wildcats, and surrender is not in their vocabulary.
“You can tell these kids have grown since last year considering where we started last year,” Vincent said.
With only eight seniors on the squad this year, after 11 graduated last year, Edmonson County feels good about where they are headed.
“It was really slow in the beginning,” Vincent said. “We’ve got the fight in there and we are in better shape physically.”
They were somber when they came out, Vincent said, and he feels they need to look deep inside themselves to find what motivates them to come out strong.
Despite being a KHSAA Division 5A team, with a school size more similar to a Warren County school, Vincent said he was pleased with how the team executed against Grayson in the second half.
Senior quarterback Noah Meredith acknowledges the team came out “sluggish” in the first half, maybe only giving a 70 percent, he said.
“I feel like we acted like we did rally in the second half,” Meredith said. “They didn’t score a touchdown, our line blocked really good. We had a good run by Michael, number 24, he bounced it out for a big long touchdown. It was a hard-fought loss.”
Meredith feels, like his coach, they need to come out stronger in the beginning of the game.
“We have to come out strong in the first half,” Meredith said. “If we don’t, it’s going to happen every time.”
Edmonson is home at Wildcat Stadium again next week, Friday, August 25 at 7PM versus Metcalfe County.