Story and photos by Joseph Barkoff.
It was a tough night.
Edmonson County Wildcat football traveled south to Clarksville Tennessee Friday, September 30 to face a 2-0 in class 2A (4-3 overall) Fort Campbell Falcons. The Falcons were victorious against the visiting Wildcats 37-8.
"I haven’t seen anyone run faster since the ice cream truck was giving away free popsicles and Granville (Meredith) ran ‘em down," said Edmonson Voice play-by-play announcer Scott Lindsey after the ensuing kickoff ran off just 11 seconds before the Falcons were on the board.
After a successful kick, it was 7-0 Falcons with 11:49 left in the first quarter.
Edmonson County would start with the ball on their own 32-yard line and on the first play, a hand off to the workhorse senior Michael Mills, a gash by his offensive line, with a final lunge carrying would-be tacklers, gave him a 10-yard gain and a Wildcat first down.
Fort Campbell does not read the Edmonson Voice, as they began the game in a 3-4 defensive formation. The formation has only three down defensive lineman, in comparison to the 6-2, with six down defensive lineman utilized by Clinton County in the previous week.
The second play from scrimmage was similar to the first. This time, without the misdirection of shotgun pro formation with junior running back Carter Swihart on senior quarterback Noah Meredith’s left and Mills to his right, running right before the snap and Mills attacking the two-hole, Swihart stood firm and Mills went off right tackle for six yards.
The next play, the Falcons used four down lineman and a missed block by the Wildcats left Swihart tackled for a 6-yard loss heading left.
Again, against four defensive linemen, Meredith handed off to Mills off the center’s hip for a gain of 7 yards, bringing up fourth and three.
True to form and believing in the line, head coach Zach Vincent went for it and from an "I" formation, Meredith handed off to Mills still against a 4-3 for another 7 yards and first down.
The Falcons showed a three-down front, but with a delayed blitz from a middle linebacker who was not picked up, Swihart was tackled for a loss.
On fourth down with nine yards to go, the Wildcats were unsuccessful and turned over the ball on downs after nine plays, and almost five minutes of game clock management.
There was a play-clock ticking to begin the game and Edmonson County was able to utilize every tick without being rushed; Fort Campbell had an efficient play-calling system in the hurry-up style of offense, with plays being called by code the moment the whistle blew dead the last play.
The play clock had issues and despite its discontinuation, the hurry up offense continued.
After a goal line stand from Edmonson County on the half-yard line form a 43-yard pass from Fort Campbell, the Falcons scored again from five yards out. After the extra point it, was 14-0 in favor of the home team with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
Three down linemen for the Falcons with no blitzing and extra rushers, Mills, on the first play after the kick return gained 11 up the gut.
Again Meredith looked down the throat of a 3-4 defensive set, and with the middle linebacker not on a delayed blitz, a hand off to Mills gained another four up the gut.
The next two plays had Meredith keep on both against a blitzing 3-4 and moved the chains where the Wildcats let the time run out on the first quarter only down two touchdowns.
The second quarter started with moments of brilliance. These Wildcats boys can play. After a penalty brought them back, Meredith made a couple passes to begin an assault of the Falcon red zone with a first and 10 from the 15-yard line.
After running almost three minutes off the clock, Edmonson County turned over the ball on downs making a first and 10 for Fort Campbell on the 10-and-one-half yard line with 9:10 to go in the half.
Edmonson County still only down two scores.
With only 13 seconds left in the half down two scores Meredith rolls out, but is sacked and the half ended with Edmonson County down 14-0 to Fort Campbell.
The second half was more of the same.
One large factor causing adversity with the Wildcats, though you would never hear it from them, is when the game switches from offense to defense, often only two players are replaced.
Compounding the issue specifically against their current adversary, Fort Campbell, the no-huddle offense is taking its toll on the never say die Edmonson County.
Fort Campbell scored again in the third quarter, but three scores is not an insurmountable task, especially for the explosive Edmonson County. They just didn’t get the one break they needed.
Mills would score from the red zone, and after a two-point conversion, the third quarter would end with Edmonson County down 21-8.
The fourth quarter, with the combination of a previous no-huddle offense from Fort Campbell for the past three, Edmonson County finally started to show, not a breaking point, but a limit at to which they could no longer completely contain Fort Campbell’s onslaught.
To say Edmonson did not play valiantly, bravely and even humbly is an understatement.
At one point in the game Meredith had to come out from injury. At another point the back of Mills’ head was hit so hard he had to be helped off the field where he stood with an ice pack on his neck until he convinced the medical staff he was all right to play more.
There was no flag thrown on the play when Mills was hit with what looked like what is defined as a “targeting” shot.
Mills used to be able to sit out defense, but since the loss of junior linebacker Colton White, he has been playing both ways.
The final play of the game saw Swihart run down to the Fort Campbell 4-yard line, but with 15 seconds remaining, despite two timeouts left, Edmonson County was down 37-8 and realizing the time and punishment they took, Edmonson County headed off the field allowing the final seconds to tick off, signifying the end of the game.
“I love you boys,” Vincent said after the game in the post game huddle in the defending end zone.
These young men are not like others covered when they get down in points. They do not chirp at each other or coaches, or officials. They often pat their opponents on the back even after an attempted lethal blow is applied. Their loyalty to each other, the coaching staff and community is almost an immeasurable, intangible thing.
It doesn’t amount to wins though.
Love may not get a team wins. After the football season ends, after high school ends, the heart these student athletes at Edmonson County have been able to grow, the skills in play written on the backs of their adversary’s Army sponsors shirts and in their doctrine; loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage, could not be more accurate to describe the next generation of leaders and members in the community of Edmonson County.
There is a bye week next week and Edmonson County resumes the season against Owensboro Catholic October 13 at 7 p.m. in Owensboro.
Replays of all games can be found on the Edmonson Voice under the drop down under sports labeled recorded game videos.