Noah Mize’s big-play ability was on full display Friday night.
The Hancock County senior rushed only seven times for 125 yards and a touchdown, including a 52-yard breakaway score in the final minutes that helped lift the Hornets to a 22-12 win over district rival McLean County at Schafer-Glover Field.
“We could just tell in the first half that he was a little bit quicker than everybody else,” HCHS coach Bobby Eubanks said of Mize, who also had two rushing scores waived off due to back-to-back penalties in the red zone. “We wanted to try to give him the ball a bit more in the second half, knowing that, and he did a good job reading his blocks and getting to the corner and taking them to the house.”
The Hornets (6-2, 2-1 in Class 2-A, District 2) wasted little time out of the gate, scoring on their first two possessions of the contest.
After taking a short opening kickoff, Hancock County quarterback Cole Dixon directed a 60-yard scoring drive that included a 31-yard completion to wideout Austin Volocko and a 22-yard scoring scamper by Dixon. Fullback Logan Willis ran in the two-point conversion for an early 8-0 advantage.
The Cougars (4-4, 1-2) answered with a productive drive of their own, highlighted by a 33-yard completion from quarterback Ayden Rice to Zach Clayton on fourth down, but the drive stalled at the 4-yard-line — ultimately resulting in a fumble recovered by Hancock County’s Jake Frames.
Eleven plays later, Hornets reserve signal-caller Drew Lyday — who subbed in after Dixon went down with a leg injury during the drive — tossed a screen pass out to Volocko, who carried it 31 yards for a score and a 14-0 lead with 9:38 left in the second quarter.
“Drew came in at quarterback and led us on a drive to score and go up 14-0 at the half,” Eubanks said. “We were real proud of him coming out.”
The second half opened with consecutive turnovers on downs by both teams, but McLean County regrouped early in the fourth quarter with a 16-play, 78-yard drive capped off by a 1-yard scoring run by Clayton on fourth down. The two-point conversion was no good, leaving the Cougars down 14-6 with 7:57 left to play.
After holding the Hornets to a punt on their next drive, McLean County had an opportunity at tying the game, but Hancock County’s Kaleb Keown intercepted a pass and pitched it to Christian Richards for a substantial return. On the very next play, Mize broke through the defense for his 52-yard TD run and a subsequent 22-6 lead with 2:58 remaining.
“The interception by Kaleb was huge, and that kind of shut their attack down,” Eubanks said. “Then the big return and the lateral to Christian, he just wasn’t going to go down. Then that very next play, Noah catches it on the edge and scores there. That was big, momentum-wise.
“We kind of dipped a little bit in the third quarter, but our defense stayed strong. Bend, don’t break. We were able to eat some of the clock, and that big rocket pitch to Noah out there to go up two scores was big.”
Not to be outdone, the Cougars responded two plays later. Rice threw a 46-yard bomb to Clayton, who then carried in a 7-yard TD to bring his team within 10 points with 2:37 left to play.
From there, however, Hancock County recovered the onside kick attempt and ran out the clock for the win.
For the game, Lyday completed 6-of-6 pass attempts for 64 yards and a score, while Dixon was 3-for-6 with 72 yards and ran for 29 yards before he left the contest. Willis rumbled for 35 yards on 12 rushing attempts and reeled in four passes for 66 yards. Volocko finished with four catches for 65 yards and a score. As a team, Hancock County racked up 337 yards of total offense, including 201 on the ground.
Defensively, Aiden Weatherholt produced two sacks for HCHS.
McLean County was led by Clayton, who rushed 14 times for 66 yards and two touchdowns while also catching two passes for 79 yards. James Haerle and Lucas Mauzy posted 39 and 25 yards rushing, respectively, and Rice connected on 5-of-6 pass attempts for 93 yards and an interception. The Cougars finished with 220 yards of total offense.
“Kudos to Hancock County, they came out and played hard,” MCHS coach Zach Wagner said. “We dug ourselves a hole early and were not able to get ourselves out.
“Offensively, we were able to move the ball in the second half, but you can’t put yourself behind an 8-ball against good teams.”
Both teams return to district action next week, with Hancock County hosting Todd County Central and McLean County hosting Owensboro Catholic.
“Hopefully we’ve done enough to lock down the No. 2 seed for the district and get our playoff picture situated,” Eubanks said. “We’ve still got to finish business next week with Todd County, and then we’ll see where we stand.”
McLEAN COUNTY 0 0 0 12 — 12
HANCOCK COUNTY 8 6 0 8 — 22
H-Dixon 22 run (Willis run)
H-Volocko 31 pass from Lyday (run failed)
M-Clayton 1 run (pass failed)
H-Mize 52 run (Willis run)
M-Clayton 7 run (run failed)