Owensboro overcame three turnovers in the first half, making big plays when they needed them most in all three phases of the game, to outlast Graves County for a 28-21 home victory to claim a district championship in the 5A state football playoffs.
It was the closest final score this year for the Red Devils, but OHS head coach Jay Fallin wasn’t overly surprised by how tight the contest proved to be.
“I think there was a feeling maybe among some people that this was going to be a three- or four-score margin. We made some big plays in special teams in that first game that made the margin not really indicative of how close that game was,” he said. “We knew that it was going to be a competitive game. But if not for our three turnovers, I think it probably ends up being a little wider margin.”
The Red Devils threatened to score early, but quarterback Gavin Wimsatt fumbled on the 3-yard line and the ball bounced through the end zone for a Graves County touchback. On Owensboro’s next drive, an interception gave Graves County possession on the OHS 28.
Four plays later, Clint McKee scored on a four-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 11:16 left in the second quarter.
OHS fumbled in the red zone for the second time with 1:48 to play in the half, but Graves County couldn’t pick up a first down. Zach Clark then blocked the Eagles’ punt, and two plays later Treyvon Tinsley pulled in a highlight-reel catch in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard score — knotting the game at 7-7 with 1:09 until halftime.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Maurice Moorman intercepted a deep pass to give the Red Devils possession on their own 28. They had a look at the end zone just before halftime but ultimately went into the break tied.
“There’s just a huge difference between going in down 7-0 and going in tied 7-7,” Fallin said. “Treyvon made a tremendous catch on a tremendous pass by Gavin in the corner to get our first score.”
The Red Devils started the second half with another highlight play, as Kenyata Carbon returned the opening kickoff 81 yards to paydirt.
“We felt like if they continued to kick it deep to us, we were going to be able to scheme up a return based on how we block and what they do and it was going to give us an opportunity for another special teams touchdown, and sure enough it happened,” Fallin said. “That was a great play by him and he picked up a lot of great blocks en route to the end zone to be able to push that one across.”
Owensboro went up 21-7 on a 16-yard touchdown catch by Ben Flaherty with 5:04 left in the third quarter before Graves County put together back-to-back scoring drives.
On 4th-and-3 from the 26, Graves County’s Race Richards got free in the middle of the field for a touchdown. The Eagles recovered an onside kick to set up their final score.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, McKee scored from one yard out to tie the game at 21-21.
Owensboro made all the right plays down the stretch. A 10-play drive ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tinsley with 8:25 to play.
Graves County pounded their way down to the OHS 20-yard-line before the Red Devils got a sack and fourth-down stop with about 3 minutes to go.
Wimsatt and running back Ethan Avery were able to pick up enough first downs for the Red Devils to run out the clock.
“Our defense bowed their neck to get the ball back and our offense came out to execute and get the first downs we needed,” Fallin said.
Though he had a pick and fumble, Wimsatt finished with an otherwise impressive night. He went 26-for-36 with 286 yards and three scores through the air, also rushing 12 times for 25 yards.
Tinsley had 11 catches for 135 yards and two scores. Avery chipped in 68 rushing yards on 10 carries and 87 receiving yards on seven catches. Flaherty added three catches for 30 yards.
“Definitely not displeased with the offensive production from a yardage or points standpoint, but we have to do a better job of establishing drives in the first half and a better job of finishing drives in the end zone,” Fallin said.
McKee led the Eagles with 207 rushing yards on 47 carries, added 38 yards on two catches. Richards had a pair of catches for 28 yards.
The Red Devils will stay home next week to host Faridale in the third round of the playoffs.
“Overall I’m proud of our kids,” Fallin said. “We’re one of the last eight teams in 5A playing. We’ve got an opportunity to be in the last four if we can get another win. We’re just excited about the opportunity.”