The McLean County High School football team hosted the Butler County Bears on Sept. 24. The back-and-forth affair remained close all night, with the Cougars falling just shy, 22-20.
McLean County rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns. The Cougars were 3-for-10 passing for 56 yards. Zach Clayton led with 92 rushing yards, and Lucas Mauzy added 81 yards rushing.
Wesley Wells and Noah Coleman both led the Cougar defense with 10 tackles. Clayton followed with nine stops. Preston Morris had eight tackles, and Will Taylor added seven. James Haerle and Ayden Rice each had a sack and an interception. Brodie Cline and Brady Dame also snagged interceptions in the game. Dame and Landen Goodwin each had a fumble recovery.
The initial kickoff went to McLean County, but the first quarter was a stalemate, with neither team reaching the end zone. The fumble recovery by Goodwin gave the Cougars possession on the Bears’ 40 yard line to start the second quarter, and quarterback Brodie Cline sailed a 32-yard pass to Dame on the very first play of the series. Clayton finished off the drive with a touchdown from eight yards out, and McLean was on the board, 6-0.
Butler County answered back almost immediately, and a successful conversion gave the Bears the advantage, 8-6.
The next possession by the Cougars had Mauzy and Clayton moving the ball on the ground, as well as a 24-yard pass completed from Cline to Haerle under heavy pressure, but the drive ended with a turnover on downs. The McLean County defense held strong and regained possession quickly after very little gain for the Bears, but the next series ended with a punt by Haerle. Butler County scored again after a big pass moved them into position, and the two-point conversion put them out front 16-6 at the half.
The second half kickoff went to the Bears, but Cline quickly snagged an interception that he returned 42 yards, and McLean County set up just outside the red zone. Mauzy, Clayton and Haerle moved the ball steadily before Mauzy finished off with a three-yard scoring play to narrow the gap to 16-12 midway through the third quarter.
The Cougar defense amped up as several Butler County passes fell incomplete. Ayden Rice delivered a sack before Dame batted down another pass attempt as the game rolled into the final quarter. Rice snagged his interception with a short return that set McLean County up on its own 15-yard line. Mauzy carried the rock before Haerle took a turn, twisting out of tackles for a 12-yard gain. Clayton then barreled his way through tackles and kept going for a big 45-yard run that teed up Mauzy for another touchdown. A successful conversion by Mauzy put the Cougars ahead, 20-16, with 9:15 left to play.
The next kickoff by Jacob Capps was stopped quickly on the return by Whit Searcy and Edwin Millay. A couple passes fell incomplete before Dame picked one off to bring possession back to McLean at its own 15-yard line with 4:15 left on the clock.
A fumble was recovered by the Bears at the edge of the red zone, and while the Cougar defense held them off for several plays, Butler County managed to score and regain the lead with 1:05 left. The conversion pass was intercepted by Haerle, and he followed with a return on the next kickoff to midfield. The clock was ticking as the McLean County offense quickly covered half the distance to the goal, but time ran out and the Bears sealed the win, 22-20.
“It was a tough game that we had our chances to win,” McLean County head coach Zach Wagner said. “Our guys played hard and physical, but made too many mistakes and committed too many turnovers to get the win.”
The Cougars will host Allen County-Scottsville at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1. The 50th Anniversary Teams for football and cheerleading will be recognized at halftime.