Allen County-Scottsville finds its groove, rambles past dogged Warren Central squad

Allen County-Scottsville coach Brad Hood addresses his team after Friday night’s win over Warren Central

You hear it from football coaches all the time.

Win the kicking game. Force opponent’s mistakes. Bow up and knock somebody on their keister. Avoid penalties and turnovers.

What did the late, great Bob Neyland tell his boys back in the day, in that godawful shade of orange, when the Tennessee Volunteers were actually winning games?

“Mistakes, breaks, protect the kicker, the WINNING EDGE, the kicking game, AGAIN, take the fight to ’em …”

Something like that.

That’s what the Allen County-Scottsville High School football squad did Friday night, outslugging the Warren Central Dragons 63-18. It was a competitive game for a while, definitely, but when the breaks started happenin’ … well, you get the idea.

Allen County-Scottsville coach Brad Hood, an affable, colorful cat in his mid-’40s, stays up late after games while grading film. Gives his kids the weekend off. Lets them rest their bodies. The Patriots know they’re gonna be gettin’ after it on Monday afternoon.

Traditional rival Franklin-Simpson is next on the docket.

“Mark Nelson knows how to build a program,” Hood said in a raspy tone on Saturday morning. “I thought we played well. We knew we had to be careful with Warren Central’s speed … I was proud of how our kids composed themselves, how they competed later in the game.”

The Patriots are now 2-2 on the season and, more important, 1-0 in KHSAA 1st Region, Class 2-4A play.

Allen County-Scottsville coaches greet their Warren Central counterparts after the Patriots’ 63-18 win Friday night.

Warren Central High School, to say the least, is at the other end of the equation.

The Dragons have now lost 53 consecutive games. They’re 0-3 this year and 0-1 in KHSAA 1st Region, Class 2-4A play. They’ve gone through a few coaches since winning their last game on October 6, 2015, when President Obama was still in office and Tom Brady was caught deflating footballs but still winning championships anyway.

Mark Nelson, his colleagues in South Central Kentucky will tell you, is the right man for this construction project. Normally, you might say it’s a rebuild. But it’s more than that on the WCHS campus on Morgantown Road. It’s building a culture. It’s making football fun, even though it’s a demanding sport for teenagers. It’s REALLY fun when you find a way to win a game, which, at Warren Central, has been a long time coming.

Nelson knows how to make that happen. He’s won games, at Greenwood High School, and when South Warren opened its doors in 2010.

Nelson, 62, likes to grade his game film early Saturday mornings. He managed to injure his right knee on the sideline during Friday night’s game, hoping it’s nothing more than a sprain. He’s a Pennsylvania guy who wound up in Bowling Green as a walk-on WKU football player in 1978. He knows plenty about being the underdog.

Warren Central is the ultimate underdog in KHSAA football. The Dragons get another shot at a victory when they travel to play Russell County on Friday night in Russell Springs, Kentucky.

The Lakers are 1-2, after a blowout loss to Warren East on Friday night, and they’ve had two games scrapped because of the KHSAA’s COVID-19 protocol.

Allen County-Scottsville used the passing of junior quarterback Payton Cope and a strong run game to knock off Warren Central 63-18.

Allen County-Scottsville junior Payton Cope is in his first season as the Patriots’ starting quarterback.

The opportunity awaits.

“That first (AC-S) score, on special teams, that’s on us,” Nelson said. “You give up a touchdown like that, right away, you put yourselves in a bad spot … This is the learning process. That’s going to take some time.

“We try to get it across to these kids. When you’re married, and have a family, your wife is going to tell you what to do. When you’re in the workforce, and you’ve got to provide for a family, your boss is going to tell you what to do …

“This is a part of growing up. My mind isn’t seared into the scoreboard. It’s how we fight, how we compete, on the field, in the classroom, in the community.”

Nelson and the WCHS coaching staff are working with a senior class of six or seven players. There’s 45, maybe 50 kids in the entire Warren Central program, so the Dragons can only field varsity and JV teams.

There’s a lot of international students enrolled at Warren Central, and most of those children didn’t grow up watching college football and the NFL. No doubt there’s teenagers enrolled at Warren Central who could possibly help the football program, but they’re discouraged by the Dragons’ struggle to get back in the win column.

They find something else to do.

Being a football player is a commitment. There’s only 10, maybe 12 linemen in the entire Warren Central program. In Friday night’s game, Nelson and his coaches had to move two fullbacks to the offensive line. Nelson held out several players in the first quarter against AC-S, because they didn’t have excused absences to miss practice.

The way Nelson sees it, it all starts on the practice field.

“When people get tougher, they fight harder,” Nelson said. “Building these blocks … Right now, it might seem like a sore tooth. My first goal, coming in, was to improve the blocking and tackling. We missed a lot of tackles against (Allen County-Scottsville) … Change is hard. Once you accept it, you understand you’re going to do it … It becomes easier.”

Nothing came easy for the Dragons on Friday night. They did catch a break, on the old hook-and-ladder play that made it 21-12 early in the second quarter, when WCHS quarterback Kayumba Jean Aime fired a sideline pass to teammate Omar Glover. Glover made the catch, only to fumble the ball in his haste to get upfield.

Warren Central’s Demetrius Barnett made the recovery and found an opening on the left sideline for an 85-yard touchdown catch-and-fumble-and-run.

AC-S back/receiver Jax Cooper later scored on a 2-yard sweep to the right side with 3:44 left in the half, and the Dragons trailed 28-12. Then, in the final minute of the half, Warren Central had a breakdown in the secondary, and AC-S quarterback Payton Cote unloaded a 54-yard touchdown pass to Cooper, and the extra point made it 35-12 at the half.

“I feel like we started playing up more to our potential,” Cote said. “When we get the ball in the right hands, we can make some things happen.”

AC-S coach Brad Hood would be inclined to agree, but the Dragons’ hook-and-ladder-and-fumble for a score was still sticking in his craw.

“I’ve seen a lot of hook-and-ladders,” Hood said, “and I’ve seen a lot of hook-and-ladders go for big plays and touchdowns. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hook-and-ladder get fumbled, and picked up to go for a touchdown. Our corner was just standing there. He thought the play was over …”

AC-S fulllback Chase Ross had a couple scoring runs in the fourth quarter, the second and final one on a nifty 53-yard scoring dash. The Patriots’ Karson Gentz scored the game’s first points when Warren Central fumbled the snap in punt formation and Gentz delivered a scoop-and-score. Cooper had a big night catching the football, but the Patriots were ready to turn their attention to rival Franklin-Simpson, and Friday night’s game in Scottsville.

“We didn’t want to be the team that snapped the Warren Central streak, yeah, we talked about that,” AC-S senior linebacker Will Moore said. “We think this was something we can build on.”

AC-S resumes district play at home on Friday against Franklin-Simpson; Warren Central will travel to Russell County.