The McLean County High School football team accomplished a feat last Friday night that had not been done since 1980, a win over Grayson County.
McLean County won 22-14 in overtime against the visiting Cougars at Paulsen Stadium on Sept. 2.
McLean County rushed for 245 yards while holding Grayson County to only 77 yards on the ground. The Cougars were led by senior Zach Clayton on both sides of the ball. Clayton rushed for 93 yards and had 13 tackles including a sack in the game. He was also responsible for causing three passes to fall incomplete.
The initial kickoff went to McLean, but possession changed back and forth several times as both teams struggled to gain any significant ground. The home-team defense came alive with sacks by Will Taylor, Whit Searcy and Lucas Mauzy as the game rolled into the second quarter with no points on the board.
The McLean County defense continued to work with stops by Ayden Rice, Aden Bolden, Colten Free and Jace Crawford before a pass was broken up by Clayton to end the series with another turnover on downs.
Clayton remained on the field and jump started the offense on the very first play with a run up the middle, side-stepping a tackle and shaking the defender off his ankle like a pesky Chihuahua for a 17-yard gain. Clayton moved the chains again with a 22-yard jog before Mauzy brought the ball inside the red zone.
Elijah Baldwin carried the ball to first and goal with a 10-yard gain and teed up Clayton to finish off with a touchdown to put the first points on the board with just 1:22 left in the half. Jacob Capps sent it through the uprights and the home team was on top 7-0.
Grayson County quickly moved into McLean County territory with a couple successful passes that were both stopped by Bolden on the ground. Baldwin and Evan Ward teamed up with a touchdown-saving tackle on the next play before Searcy batted down a pass. The next pass was caught, but an immediate attack on the receiver by Clayton caused it to fall incomplete.
The visiting Cougars found the end zone on the next play with a 25-yard pass, but a pass attempt for the conversion was intercepted by Bolden. Grayson County had scored with only seconds left in the half and the board showed 7-6 at intermission.
The second half kickoff went to Grayson, but the McLean defense allowed no advance and the series was ended with a punt. Baldwin, Mauzy and Clayton got down to business covering a lot of real estate before Mauzy dove over a pile, landing in the end zone.
A successful kick by Capps put McLean out front 14-6 with 3:05 left in the third quarter.
Grayson County attempted to answer back immediately with a big return on the next kickoff, but a touchdown-saving tackle by Isaiah Algood shut it down.
A couple of passes fell incomplete and Clayton delivered a sack, but a touchdown and successful conversion tied the game up at 14 early in the final quarter.
The next several minutes was a battle as both teams strove to break the tie with some notable plays by McLean. Quarterback Brodie Cline took a keeper 24 yards.
Mauzy ran into traffic on the sideline and immediately turned infield to gain a few more yards. Ethan Crowe slung down a runner behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of three yards.
The home team had possession again with just over a minute left in the game. Will Taylor moved the ball before Cline zig-zagged through traffic to take it into Grayson County territory with an 18-yard scamper. Cline then completed a 24-yard pass to Clayton with just 10 seconds left.
Another big pass by Cline was intercepted in the end zone, sending the game into overtime. McLean County had the first four downs from the 10-yard line and Clayton cut the distance in half on the first play.
Cline then flipped the pigskin to Clayton as he was being hit by a defender and Baldwin juked his way across the line on the third down. Taylor simply refused to be stopped on the conversion and McLean was ahead 22-14.
Grayson County began their series with a fall behind the line of scrimmage as Taylor closed in, followed by a sack from Mauzy to set them back another eight yards.
A keeper brought the ball to the five yard line with one final attempt to go. The McLean County players on the field raised their hands enthusiastically, calling the fans to their feet as the entire stadium began to ring with the thunderous sound of a multitude of cowbells. The hometown Cougars bared their claws and the pass attempt fell incomplete, sealing the long-awaited victory for McLean County.
“This was a good, hard-fought win against a very physical team,” said head coach Zach Wagner. “Our offense had some early mental mistakes, but was able to overcome them when called upon and the defense stepped up big in overtime. We have to get back to work this week and remain focused on our team goals.”
The Cougars will be on the road to Muhlenberg County on Friday, Sept. 9. Kickoff against the Mustangs is at 7 p.m.
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