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Western Hills wins shootout at Garrard County

By MIKE MARSEE

Contributing Writer

LANCASTER – In a shootout between two teams with very different arsenals, Western Hills had one too many bullets for Garrard County.

Garrard’s offense misfired at the start Friday night at Dyehouse Stadium, and that allowed Western Hills to build a two-touchdown lead that the Golden Lions were unable to overcome.

The Lions played the Wolverines and star running back Wandale Robinson on even terms after the first four minutes, but they fell 42-34 for their third consecutive loss.

Robinson rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns, but Garrard’s David Pennington ran for 172 yards and three TDs. And while Robinson and running mate Logan Bell gave Western Hills a decided edge in speed, the Wolverines had just as much trouble stopping the wishbone offense that allowed the Lions to control the ball and the clock.

Garrard coach Jerry Perry said he only wishes he had gone to the wishbone sooner.

“I should have started the game in ‘bone.’ I was trying to get some other kids on the field and to save some lineman,” Perry said. “I should have been in ‘bone’ the whole time, and then it would have been a shootout.

Garrard (2-6, 0-2 District 3A-4) effectively traded scores with Western Hills (6-2, 1-1) after the Wolverines took a 14-0 lead 3:54 into the game. The Lions switched to the wishbone on their second possession after going three-and-out on the first.

“I knew we were going to struggle to stop them, but I knew if we just stopped them once or twice we’d have a shot,” Perry said.

Garrard ran 47 more plays than Western Hills – 76 to 29 – and the Lions outgained the Wolverines 328 yards to 322. But while Western Hills had seven plays of 20 yards or more, Garrard had only two.

And the Lions’ defense couldn’t get the stops they needed to get over the hump. One critical example of that came early in the fourth quarter, after Garrard had scored to pull within 34-28.

Western Hills answered in just 76 seconds, as Robinson ran for 22 and 21 yards and Bell ran for 29 to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Robinson that made it 42-28 with 9:54 remaining.

Four of Robinson’s 16 rushing attempts went for more than 20 yards – including a 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter – and he averaged 10.9 yards per carry.

“We just struggle on the perimeter, because we’re just not very fast,” Perry said. “We can’t replicate any speed in practice … and it just puts you in a tough situation and there’s nothing you can do about it. And then when you’re playing possibly the best pound-for-pound player in the country, it makes it very difficult.”

Garrard managed one more score, but the Lions needed nearly nine minutes to get it. Pennington and Hacker split most of the carries on a 16-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:48 and ended with Brice Burkhart’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Willie Rader. The Lions were unable to recover an onside kick, and Western Hills ran out the final 1:05.

Perry said the Lions can’t become something they’re not on offense – even when time is not on their side.

“We can’t line up in spread,” he said “Did you see Wandale come through the line (to sack Burkhart) when we tried to throw it (in the third quarter)? You’ve got to know who you are.”

Pennington scored on runs of 17, 6 and 3 yards for Garrard, which got 284 yards on the ground. Rader ran 17 times for 81 yards – all in the first half – and Hacker had 65 yards on 15 carries – all in the second half.

“We were just being aggressive, being physical and going north and south. We can’t run east and west. We’re a north-and-south team. This is what we are, this is what we have to do,” Perry said.

Burkhart was 2 for 3 for 44 passing yards.

Robinson hooked up with Bell on a 35-yard pass play to open the scoring, and he scored on runs of 1 and 3 yards in the second quarter to stake Western Hills to a 34-20 halftime lead.

Garrard had the ball for all but 1:49 in the third quarter. Its first series of the second half ended with an interception, but the second ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Hacker and a two-point conversion pass from Rader to John Ball 50 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“I’m proud of the kids,” Perry said. “I thought they executed  well, and they played hard the whole game, and now it’s on to Lexington Catholic.”