The McLean County High School football team ended the 2021 season with a 4-6 record after a 49-34 loss at Hopkins County Central on Oct. 29.

The Cougars’ 31 sacks ranks second in the state for Class 2A and 12th overall. James Haerle is ranked 12th in Class 2A for sacks with six, and Noah Coleman had 5.5 sacks, ranking 15th.

Brady Dame is ranked sixth in Class 2A in interceptions with four returned for a total of 127 yards, including two pick-sixes. The Cougars are ranked 11th in team interceptions with eight. Dame is also ranked 10th in receiving with 27 catches for 654 yards and six touchdowns.

Lucas Mauzy is ranked 13th in scoring for Class 2A with 96 points from 14 rushing touchdowns and six two-point conversions. The Cougars are ranked 14th in team rushing with 2,061 yards and 17th in scoring with 260 points.

Quarterback Brodie Cline is ranked 17th in passing with 810 yards and four touchdowns from only nine games. The Cougars are also ranked 17th in passing with 1,147 yards.

The game last Friday had the Cougars rushing for 195 yards on 47 carries, scoring four touchdowns and two extra points. The team was 9-for-17 passing with 231 yards and a touchdown.

Zach Clayton led on the ground with 75 yards rushing. Lucas Mauzy added 68 yards, including three touchdowns.

Wes “Bigfoot” Wells led the Cougar defense with 10 tackles. Coleman had seven, while Haerle and Coby Dant each added six. Zach Clayton, Elijah Baldwin and Ayden Rice each had five stops. The team had five sacks in the game, one each from Wells, Dant, Cameron Dukes, Will Taylor and one shared by Clayton and Landen Goodwin.

The initial kickoff was returned by Baldwin for 15 yards, but a fumble on the first play was recovered by the Storm and they scored. Dame blocked the kick attempt, and McLean County had possession again after kickoff. Clayton went to the far side, strong arming defenders for a 22-yard gain. Cline then pitched to Haerle, who launched a rocket to Dame for a 41-yard pass and run. Mauzy crossed the goal line and carried in the conversion to put McLean on top 8-6 just over one minute into play.

The Cougar offense struggled on their next possessions, but the defense served up a couple sacks, with one by Taylor resulting in an 11-yard loss. However, the Storm managed to score twice more before the end of the quarter and the score was 20-8.

Baldwin ran down a receiver and made a shoestring tackle that prevented a touchdown, but Hopkins Central scored a few plays later and advanced their lead 28-8. Baldwin returned the next kickoff 19 yards, and Clayton moved the ball to midfield on the next play. Cline then made a pass to Haerle for a 37-yard gain, and Clayton carried it in on the following play, but a penalty cost the Cougars the points and set them up back on the 15-yard line. Mauzy and Clayton covered that distance quickly, and Haerle finished off the drive with a touchdown from one yard out. Mauzy added the conversion, and the score was 28-16 with 8:17 left in the second quarter.

The next kickoff return was interrupted abruptly by Dant before Clayton, Wells and Landen Goodwin teamed up for a tackle in the backfield with a loss of five yards. Coleman and Wells then made a stop that resulted in a fumble recovered by Haerle. The Cougars went to work moving the ball on the ground before Cline sailed a 28-yard pass to Baldwin that he carried to the edge of the red zone. Cline made another big toss to Clayton before a little pitch to Haerle, who followed with a pass to Dame for a touchdown with just 2.3 seconds left. McLean County had narrowed the gap to 28-22 by the half.

The kickoff for the second half was stopped by Edwin Millay. A pass and run by the Storm was cut short by Caleb Stein before Dukes delivered a sack for a loss of three, but Hopkins Central scored on a later play. Baldwin returned the next kickoff 20 yards, and Cline went straight to Dame with a successful 29-yard pass under double coverage. An encore from Cline to Dame for 21 yards teed up Mauzy for a scoring play from three yards out, and the score was 34-28 in favor of the Storm with 8:18 left in the third.

Hopkins Central scored again on their next possession to make it 42-28, and Baldwin returned the kickoff 21 yards. Cline was under heavy pressure and managed to make a successful 16-yard pass to Haerle, who was also covered up on the catch. Taylor then moved the chains, but a fumble was recovered by the Storm on a later play. The Cougar defense buckled down, and the next series by Hopkins Central ended with a turnover on downs after a sack by Wells and Goodwin.

A big run by Haerle for 23 yards followed by a couple good gains from Mauzy moved the ball into Storm territory as the game rolled into the final quarter. Hopkins Central got possession back and scored for a 49-28 lead after a successful kick with 9:18 left to play.

Haerle returned the next kickoff 24 yards, and Taylor went to the far side for a 21-yard gain on the very first play. Cline then shot a big 30-yard pass to Baldwin who snagged it among a crowd of defenders to bring the ball inside the 10. Mauzy crossed the goal line, and the score was 49-34 with 6:25 left in the game.

The next kickoff by Jacob Capps was downed, and the Storm took possession on their own 47-yard line. The Cougar defense had them rattled and a penalty set them back five yards before a fumbled snap cost them 14 more yards after a sack by Dant. Taylor, Rice and Dant made some more stops before a touchdown-saving tackle was delivered by Coleman at the edge of the red zone. Time ran out, and the game ended 49-34 in favor of Hopkins County Central.

The season did not go the way anyone in the program had predicted according to head coach Zach Wagner. “To say there was disappointment is an understatement, but that is football. This is mentally, physically and emotionally taxing on the body and mind, unlike any other sport. Every week we came back to work in anticipation of getting better, and I would like to think that we are all walking away better young men because of this game.”

In the last nine seasons there has been a certain expectation set here at McLean County. Coach Wagner shared, “We know what that expectation is, and we look forward to working to achieve it come next month when we go back to work.”

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