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By David Sharp
Knox County’s defense shone as brightly as the full moon that hovered over Ella Campbell Field during October 2, 2020 varsity football play. The Eagles held an explosive Salisbury Panther offense to 49 yards rushing and 189 total yards from scrimmage in a 40-12 win.
Senior Conner Hayes passed for 210 yards and four touchdowns along with 93 yards rushing and another KCHS touchdown. Knox County (2-4, 2-3) grabbed an 18 point first quarter lead.
The opening possession of the contest sputtered when the Eagles lost a fumble on the Salisbury 45 yard line. Knox County got a defensive stop and scored on the subsequent drive.
Branson Miller hauled in the first of three Knox County touchdown receptions. The 35 yard pass capped a 45 yard drive. Knox County enjoyed good field position most of the night largely because of their defensive dominance.
Braxton McCurren recovered a fumble on the Panther 46 yard line. Conner Hayes raced 49 yards for a touchdown with 4:18 remaining in the first quarter. The two point pass failed leaving Knox County ahead by a 12-0 margin.
Salisbury (0-6, 0-5) was forced to punt on their next possession. Braydon Miller shook loose in the Panther secondary. Conner Hayes found the receiver for a 69 yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds to play in the first quarter. The conversion run was no good for an 18-0 lead after one quarter of football.
Panther quarterback Grant Biere found his favorite receiver Jackson King for a 52 yard touchdown pass with 10:39 to play in the second quarter. The two point conversion was unsuccessful for an 18-6 score in favor of Knox County.
Branson Miller ran the ensuing kickoff back 30 yards to the Salisbury 37 yard line. The Panther defense stepped up and stopped the Eagles on their 28 yard line. Salisbury could not move the ball and punted.
Branson Miller hauled in a well thrown 15 yard pass into the corner of the end zone for a Knox County touchdown with 2:54 to play in the first half. The reception capped a 66 yard scoring drive.
The two point run failed for a 24-6 Knox County edge. Defenses created three possession changes in the final 2:52 of the half. Knox County held a 12-3 advantage in first downs at intermission.
The Eagles outgained Salisbury by a 101 to minus five yards rushing in the first half. Knox County won the passing yard battle by a 173-78 yard margin in the first two quarters. The Eagles outgained Salisbury 274-73 yards rushing in the first half.
“When you are losing and those drops happen, it just magnifies it,” Salisbury coach Mitchell Green said lamenting dropped passes that cost his team first downs and points.
“A lot of the guys out there dropping passes are normally sure handed. They are frustrated at themselves,” Mitchell Green said. “They are going to work hard to get better at it. I am sure they will be practicing hard, so they don’t do it again next week.”
“We had opportunities to make plays. We had opportunities to stop plays,” Coach Green said. “We just have to make sure we are wrapping up and making tackles and stopping plays.”
Salisbury played without receiver Cooper Francis who missed the contest with a leg injury. “We had guys get out of position. We were replacing a kid that was injured with another kid that just came back from an injury,” Mitchell Green said.
“They cleaned it up at halftime. At least we had guys there on some of those passes,” Coach Green said. “We are learning. We are getting better. I thought we have gotten better every week.”
Defense dominated the first three possessions in the second half. Branson Miller made a great run after the catch during a 25 yard touchdown pass from Conner Hayes at the 4:27 mark of the third quarter.
Keaton Strange ran in the two point conversion for a 32-6 Knox County lead. Jackson King intercepted a Knox County pass. Grant Biere scored from two yards out for a 32-12 Knox County lead with 1:03 to play in the third period. The score stayed the same entering the fourth quarter.
Branson Miller scored on a 36 yard run with 11:52 to play in the fourth quarter. Branson Miller ran in the two point conversion for a 40-12 Eagle lead. Both defenses stiffened, preventing further scoring.
Knox County rushed 33 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Elliott Ogden had a 13-49 yard night on the ground. Branson Miller was 6-46 yards rushing with a touchdown. Keaton Strange was 8-15 yards rushing.
Conner Hayes was 13-23 passing for 210 yards and four touchdowns. Hayes had an interception against to Jackson King in the second half.
Knox County gained 413 total yards from scrimmage. The Eagles had five penalties for 55 yards. Branson Miller had nine catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. Tanner Gillaspy had a 19 yard catch. Carter Marble caught a pass for ten yards.
Knox County recovered three of their own fumbles and lost one. Braxton McCurren had a KCHS fumble recovery. Knox County finished with a 19-10 advantage in first downs.
Grant Biere led Salisbury in rushing with six attempts for 28 yards and a touchdown. Salisbury was 25-49 yards rushing with a touchdown. Grant Biere was 14-31 passing for 140 yards and a touchdown. Knox County held a 413-189 total yards from scrimmage advantage at the close of play.
Jackson King had seven catches for 86 yards and a Salisbury touchdown. The Panthers had three penalties for 35 yards on the night. Knox County travels to Scotland County for another Lewis and Clark Conference game on Friday, October 9, 2020.
“We are excited about the good things,” Knox County coach Bruce Vannoy said. “We had a good week of practice and we were able to take it out on the field tonight. A couple of weeks it was Coltin (Morrow),” Coach Vannoy said in response to a reporter’s question about several very good performances in this game.