Cougars cough it up five times in 27-20 loss to Mercer County
By MIKE LANDIS
Galva News editor
The Mid-County Cougars were in a giving mood and the Mercer County Golden Eagles were happy to take away their first win of the season.
The Cougars turned the ball over five times and Trey Essig scored four touchdowns as the Golden Eagles prevailed 27-20 in Friday night’s Lincoln Trail Conference opener at Adams Field.
“The turnover battle was huge,” Mercer County coach Andrew Hofer said. “We were able to get some stops on defense and the picks set us up with some good field position.”
“We turned the ball over,” Mid-County coach Gary Denhart said after his team dropped to 1-2 on the season. “We played good defense again but you just can’t turn the ball over.”
Mid-County fumbled the ball away twice in the first half and Mercer County picked off three passes in the second half, including two by Jaden Dellitt and another from Rashaun King in the closing seconds to seal the win.
Mercer County enjoyed a 13-12 edge at the break and Dellitt set up a short field with an interception return to Mid-County’s 22 on the first series of the second half.
Essig capped the short drive with a 3-yard TD catch from King. The Kings — Rashaun to Quinton — connected on the two-point conversion pass and the Golden Eagles were on top 21-12.
The Cougars trimmed the deficit to a point early in the fourth quarter as Tucker Sams hauled in a 14-yard scoring toss from Jacob Varner, and Varner added the two-point run to pull the Cougars within 21-20 with 9:26 remaining.
Quinton King took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a late flag nullified the score and set up the Mercer County offense at the M-C 29. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over on downs and the Cougars were 75 yards from the winning score, but could only manage one first down as Mercer County regained the ball on downs at the M-C 43.
The Golden Eagles took precious time off the clock and Essig punched in his final score on a 2-yard plunge to make it 27-20 with 42 ticks left.
Rashaun King preserved the win by picking off a Varner heave in the closing seconds.
“It just felt like we were right there ready to push over the edge and then we would have another turnover,” Denhart said. “They’re a good team and we played them hard.”
“It was a dogfight. Those guys battled and our guys battled,” Hofer said.
Mercer County’s one-point halftime lead was courtesy of scoring catches of 7 and 6 yards from Essig. Mid-County countered with a 92-yard Bret Woodside touchdown burst and a 1-yard sneak from Varner that gave the Cougars their lone lead of the night, 12-7 with 4:10 remaining before halftime.
Woodside finished with 145 yards on 15 carries, while Essig countered with 73 yards rushing and five catches for 42 yards.
Rashaun King completed 13 of 21 passes for 135 yards and three scores.
The Golden Eagles, now 1-2 overall, return home and host Stark County, while Mid-County travels to Cambridge to face a winless Ridgewood squad.