The McLean County High School football team is 4-0 for the first time since 2008 after a 43-14 victory Sept. 9 at Muhlenberg County.
McLean County had 427 yards in offense. The Cougars rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns. They went 3-5 passing for 38 yards and two touchdowns. Evan Ward had all three receptions in the game.
Aden Bolden led the Cougars with 114 yards rushing and an interception returned for 31 yards. Zach Clayton had 78 yards and a touchdown. Elijah Baldwin carried for 50 yards with two trips to the end zone.
Baldwin led the team on defense with 12 tackles, 2.5 of those for a loss. Clayton had 11 stops, while Will Taylor had 10 tackles, including a sack. Bolden and Ward each had nine tackles. Coby Dant and Lucas Mauzy both had 1.5 sacks on the night.
The Cougar defense held the Mustangs to only 150 yards rushing and 109 yards passing. In addition to Bolden’s interception, McLean County had a fumble recovery by Jayden Wright. The fumble was forced by Isaiah Algood and Jackson Reynolds.
McLean County won the coin toss and elected to receive. The Cougars wasted no time getting down to business. Taylor and Mauzy moved the ball before a keeper by Brodie Cline brought it just outside the red zone. Baldwin then moved the chains and set Clayton up for a 15-yard scoring run just over four minutes into the game.
McLean County pushed the Mustangs back with several quick attacks, but facing 3rd-and-16, Muhlenberg connected on a 57-yard pass for a touchdown to take a 7-6 with 4:53 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars answered back in just five plays to jump back out front when Cline took a keeper across the goal line from eight yards out. Mauzy ran in the conversion and the score was 14-7.
Dant, Taylor and Whit Searcy served up quick stops on the Mustangs and Ayden Rice pressured the quarterback causing a pass to fall incomplete. But Muhlenberg once again found the end zone, this time on a 17-yard throw, to tie the game at 14 early in the second quarter.
Taylor immediately busted up the middle on the Cougars’ next possession for a 36-yard gain on the first play. Rice took it five more yards before Cline found Evan Ward with a 21-yard dart for a touchdown. Clayton carried in the conversion and the Cougars were ahead again 22-14 with 7:15 left in the half.
The next series for the Mustangs ended with a punt and McLean set up on their own 32-yard line. Bolden moved the ball 24 yards on the first play followed by double-digit runs by both Clayton and Baldwin. Rice carried eight yards and Cline found Ward again with a 12-yard jump pass to score another six. McLean now doubled the points of the Mustangs, 28-14.
Another punt ended the next series for Muhlenberg and Bolden went all the way to the end zone from 26-yards out, but the points were lost due to a penalty. Time ran out at the half and the score remained 28-14.
The second half kickoff went to the Mustangs and although they retained possession for the entire third quarter, they were unable to cross the goal line. The Cougars’ defense held them off at every turn and delivered a sack by Taylor and Dant for a loss of 11 yards on the final play of the quarter.
A pass defended by Ward shut off Muhlenberg with a turnover on downs and McLean took over on their own 12-yard line. It only took three plays for the Cougars to reach pay dirt. Bolden went along the near side, juking around defenders and avoiding tackles for a 31-yard gain. Clayton then carried for 30 yards and Baldwin finished off with a 27-yard scoring play. Another successful conversion by Mauzy bumped the score 36-14 early in the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs nearly got away on the next kickoff, but Algood stopped the return with a touchdown-saving tackle. Ward stood tall and simply bear hugged the ball carrier on the next play, walking him backwards until the whistle blew. Bolden then snagged an interception with a 31-yard return to bring the ball back to the Cougars.
Muhlenberg County recovered a fumble, but their possession was short-lived. Taylor delivered a sack causing the quarterback to lose the ball, but they scrambled to pick it up and Bolden took down the runner immediately for a loss. Baldwin then had a stop for a loss of six and followed with a quick tackle on a pass receiver to set them back again. The Mustangs punted from a fourth and forever position and Baldwin returned it 11 yards.
McLean County took over on their own 39 and Bolden carried it deep into Mustang territory on the first play with a 59-yard run. Baldwin simply trotted across the goal line from two yards out on the next play. Capps put it through the uprights and the score was 43-14 with 3:34 left to play.
The Cougars snatched the ball back almost immediately with a tackle from Algood and Jackson Reynolds that forced a fumble. Jayden Wright recovered that fumble and McLean County moved the ball until the clock ran out.
The Cougars sealed the win 43-14 over the Mustangs and retained the Battle of the Bridge trophy for another season. The trophy surfaced in 2019 and has remained with McLean County since.
“Defensively we had a few breakdowns, but were able to overcome those in the second half to keep Muhlenberg off the scoreboard,” Defensive Coordinator Justin Cook said. “Offensively, we have to do a better job of picking up assignments. We played well in spurts on both sides of the ball, but have to have better focus moving forward.”
The Cougars will host Todd County Central on Friday, Sept. 16, for Homecoming. Homecoming court will be held at 6:30 p.m. followed by kickoff at 7 p.m.
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