CANNONSBURG — Boyd County and Mason County fought tooth and nail for the first 47 minutes Friday night.
The Lions had driven into Royals territory at the 40 on six plays covering 30 yards. They were now facing fourth-and-1 with a minute to play.
The Royals defensive front rose to the occasion, stopping Dakota Thompson for no gain to improve to a perfect 4-0 with a 13-12 victory.
“We put our bigger defensive line in on the play,” Mason County coach Joe Wynn said. “We submarined them and Brady Sanders made the big tackle to seal the win. He is a senior and made a huge play for us.”
The game was evenly matched throughout the contest, as evidenced by the offensive statistics. Boyd County finished with 345 total yards to Mason County’s 328. The Royals committed two turnovers, while Boyd County was flagged six times for 69 yards.
Only one extra point was converted, and that proved to be the difference. Austin Moreland made an extra point on the Royals’ second touchdown of the game. Boyd County star kicker Cole Thompson had an extra point blocked and a botched snap cost the Lions a chance to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter.
“If one man leaks, it can cause problems in the kicking game,” Lions coach Evan Ferguson said. “It is frustrating. We rep it and go over it a lot in practice. Special teams wins and loses a lot of games, and tonight it cost us one.”
Following a scoreless first quarter, Mason County’s running backs gashed the Lion defense on three long runs for the game’s first score. Sanders ripped off runs of 25 and 14 yards before Clark Caden-Roberts rumbled 41 yards to paydirt to give the Royals a 6-0 lead at the 10:51 mark of the second quarter.
Mason County’s defense was stout throughout the first half and was aided by two holding penalties and an intentional grounding by the Lions. The Royals missed a 23-yard field goal, but promptly forced a Boyd County turnover one play later to set up their second and final score of the night.
The Royals capitalized on a 15-yard Lion penalty and scored on the next snap. Quarterback Keshaun Thomas found wideout Isaac Marshall in the end zone for a TD. Moreland added the PAT for a 13-0 Mason County halftime lead.
Boyd County stormed back into the contest on its opening drive of the second half. Two Malachi Wheeler runs produced a quick first down for the home team. Rhett Holbrook completed three straight passes, two to brother Trey and one to Josh Thornton, to set up his offense first-and-goal.
Two Mason County penalties moved the ball to the 1-yard line, from where Thompson went in for the score. The Royals blocked the PAT to keep the score 13-6 with 9:00 to play in the third quarter.
The Lions’ bend-but-don’t-break defense continued to keep Mason County out of the end zone. The Royals ran 10 plays on their next drive before stalling at the Lion 31.
Wynn lamented his team’s inability to add to their halftime lead.
“We were very sloppy in some areas tonight,” he said. “We moved the ball well at times, but made mistakes to hurt ourselves. The best thing about tonight is we came out 1-0.”
Trey Holbrook came up with a huge defensive play in the early minutes of the final stanza. He picked off a Thomas pass and returned it to the Lion 47.
Rhett Holbrook scrambled for 17 yards to convert a third-and-16 and Boyd County was back in business. Wheeler went for 23 yards and Holbrook then found Thornton streaking across the middle of the field for an 18-yard touchdown strike to pull the Lions within 13-12 with 7:13 to play. The conversion try failed for the Lions.
Mason County converted three first downs on its next drive. Once again, the Lion defense rose to the occasion and a sack of Thomas gave the Lions one final chance at victory.
Boyd County (3-2) drove 30 yards before Sanders’s big play ended the drive at the Royal 40.
Ferguson still believes in the Lions.
“Mason County has a great football team,” he said. “I think we have a very good football team. We talked last week after our win over Greenup how we would have lost those games in the past. Tonight, we hung around and played tough till the end. We just have to find a way to win these one-point games.”
Wynn is just happy the Royals finally get to play a home game next week.
“We have traveled about 600 miles in the first five weeks of the season,” he said. “We want to start off district play well next week at home.”
Thomas was 16 of 24 for 152 yards to five different Royal receivers. Sanders and Clark-Roberts combined for 122 on the ground in Mason County’s balanced offensive attack.
Rhett Holbrook threw for 230 yards on 15-of-23 passing. Wheeler rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries, while Thornton hauled in nine passes for 95 yards for Boyd County.
Mason County 0 13 0 0 13
Boyd County 0 0 6 6 12
MC— Caden Clark-Roberts 41 run (pass failed) 10:51
MC— Isaac Marshall 15 yd pass from Keshaun Thomas (Moreland kick) 2:25
BC— Dakota Thompson 1 run (kick blocked) 9:00
BC— 18 pass Josh Thornton from Rhett Holbrook (conversion failed) 7:13
First Downs 18 12
Rushes-Yards 28-176 22-115
Comp-Att-Int 16-24-1 15-23-0
Passing Yards 152 230
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Punts-Avg. 2-34.0 5-33.4
Penalties-Yards 4-27 6-69
Mason County rushing: Sanders 12-65, Clark-Roberts 4-57, Walker 4-23, Walton 4-21, Thomas 4-0.
Boyd County rushing: Wheeler 14-100, R. Holbrook 5-15, Thompson 2-0.
Mason County passing: Thomas 16 of 24 for 152 yards, 1 interception.
Boyd County passing: R. Holbrook 15 of 23 for 230 yards.
Mason County receiving: Marshall 6-67, Walton 5-36, Walker 2-20, Pugh 2-11, Sanders 1-2.
Boyd County receiving: Thornton 9-94, T. Holbrook 2-37, Butler 2-27, Waulk 1-15, Wheeler 1-3.