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By David Sharp
Northwest Hughesville (2-2) used a combination of first half line of scrimmage advantage and big plays to hand Knox County (3-1) their first loss in eight man football by a 40-28 final score at NW Hughesville.
The Mustangs were ranked as highly as tenth in the state earlier in the season. Much like Knox County, injuries to skill position players slowed their performance. Knox County was without starting quarterback Rylan Roberts and running back/linebacker Keaton Strange due to season ending knee injuries.
Roberts and Strange were scheduled to undergo corrective surgical procedures on September 20.
The opening portion of the contest was riddled with turnovers. Caden Crooker intercepted a Collin Hayes pass on the first series of downs. Branson Miller returned the favor, picking off Mustang quarterback Tanner David on the Knox County 35 yard line.
Nicholas Crosswhite sacked Knox County quarterback Branson Miller. NW Hughesville fumbled the ball to Robert Dooley. Knox County turned the ball over on downs.
Isaac Nieters threw a 50 yard touchdown pass to Pierson Tichenor with 5:32 to play in the first quarter. Nicholas Crosswhite ran in the two point conversion for an 8-0 Mustang lead.
Knox County could not move the football and was forced to punt. Hughesville took over on their 38 yard line. Pierson Tichenor caught another pass from Isaac Nieters for a 34 yard touchdown with 2:33 remaining in the first quarter. The two point pass failed leaving the Mustangs ahead by a 14-0 margin.
Pierson Tichenor made his presence felt again, this time with a pass interception on the Knox County 25 yard line. The Eagle defense held, forcing a turnover on downs at the KCHS 16.
NW Hughesville was beating Knox County on the line of scrimmage. The Eagle running game was shut down early on. Pierson Tichenor intercepted his second pass of the first half on the KC ten yard line.
The Mustangs cashed in their short field opportunity. Isaac Nieters passed to Nicholas Crosswhite with 9:25 to play in the first half. The two point run failed. NW Hughesville led by a 20-0 margin.
The Eagles turned the ball over on downs. Braxton McCurren intercepted a pass on the Eagle 34 yard line.
Knox County made adjustments and began the process of getting back into the game. Austin Jansen scored on a 45 yard run with 5:56 remaining in the second quarter. The conversion run failed, leaving the Mustangs up by a 20-6 margin.
Knox County’s defense forced another turnover. Austin Jansen recovered a fumble on the Hughesville 20 yard line. Branson Miller ran one yard for a touchdown with 1:42 to play in the second period. Branson Miller ran in the two point conversion for a 20-16 lead.
The Eagles left too much time on the clock. Pierson Tichenor made a nice catch and run, setting up a touchdown with seven second to play. Pierson Tichenor caught his third touchdown pass of the first half from Isaac Nieters.
The two point pass failed leaving the score at 26-16 NW Hughesville at halftime. Hughesville held an 8-7 first down advantage at intermission. The Mustangs outgained Knox County 212-140 at the half.
Knox County battled back from being pushed around the lines early in the game for a 130-129 yards rushing edge at halftime. Hughesville was 6-13 for 83 yards and four touchdowns at intermission.
Knox County was 1-8 passing for ten yards and three interceptions against. NW Hughesville likely missed a chance to put the Eagles away in the first half with four turnovers in the opening 24 minutes.
Knox County had three turnovers, all pass interceptions against in the first two quarters.
The Mustangs took the second half kickoff and drove 44 yards for a touchdown. Tanner David scored on a one yard run with 9:19 to play in the third quarter. The two point pass failed for a 32-16 Mustang lead.
Knox County answered with a 38 yard touchdown drive. Tanner Gillaspy broke free behind the Mustang secondary for a 26 yard catch with 7:39 to play in the third quarter for a 32-22 Hughesville lead. Branson Miller threw the KCHS touchdown pass. The two point run failed.
The sometimes wide open nature of eight man football showed itself to Knox County fans on the next series of downs. The Mustangs regained possession on their 20 yard line.
A bad snap from center resulted in NW Hughesville recovering a fumble on their one yard line. Isaac Nieters eluded the Eagle pass rush and threw a long pass to Pierson Tichenor.
The Mustang senior receiver made a nice catch over a Knox County defender. Tichenor ran into the end zone with a 79 yard touchdown pass reception with 39.3 seconds to play in the third quarter. Jason Bass ran the two point conversion for a 40-22 lead.
Branson Miller found Braydon Miller for a 26 yard touchdown pass with 6:30 to play in the fourth quarter. The two point pass was unsuccessful. Knox County’s defense played better as the game went on.
Branson Miller fired a 39 yard pass to Braydon Miller on the Mustang 15 yard line. The Hughesville defense stood up and sacked Branson Miller. Knox County turned the ball over on downs.
The Mustangs ran out the remaining time for the 40-28 win. Knox County could not get out of the hole NW Hughesville put them in early in the game. The Eagles got too far behind to beat a solid football team on their field.
Hughesville outgained Knox County by a 362-331 margin in total yards from scrimmage. The Mustangs held a 16-12 first down edge at the end of the night. Knox County rushed 34 times for 212 yards unofficially. Branson Miller led the Eagles in rushing with 20 carries for 108 yards. Austin Jansen rushed seven times for 90 yards. Jansen and Branson Miller had a touchdown each.
Branson Miller was 6-15 for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Knox County hurt themselves with penalties. The Eagles had 13 penalties for 115 yards unofficially. Many of the penalties were holding violations along the offensive line. Braydon Miller had four catches for 83 yards and a score.
Isaac Neiters led NW Hughesville in rushing with 11 carries for 101 yards. Nieters passed 8-15 for 169 yards and five touchdowns. Pierson Tichenor had five catches for 132 yards and four scores.
NW Hughesville had their share of penalties. The Mustangs had eight penalties for 70 yards unofficially. The Mustangs went 15-26 passing as a team for 203 yards. Hughesville rushed 31 times for 159 yards.
Knox County will get their stiffest challenge to date when the Eagles travel to North Shelby on September 24, 2021. The Raiders have built one of the top eight man football programs in Missouri.
The football loving North Shelby community saw their football program rebuilt from a 56 game losing streak when the Raiders played 11 man football in the Tri-Rivers Conference with Knox County and Schuyler County.
North Shelby currently is undefeated at 4-0 and ranked fifth in eight man football. The Raiders currently sit on top of their district standings.