In its previous two wins this season, Mason County has had to fight through stretches coach David Buchanan characterized as “awful.”
And like the Royals' victories against Harrison County and East Carter, Lewis County made things interesting early in the third quarter Friday night.
But Mason County's response was sufficient to lock up a 32-8 victory in Class AAA, District 6 play on homecoming night in the Brian Payne State Farm Classic.
“We did not have that spurt that we were just terrible,” Buchanan said. “That did not happen.”
Rashon Nelson ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns, Michael Strawn ran for 61 yards and a score, and Jake O'Mara threw for 91 yards and a touchdown to Ryan Johnson to provide the Royals (3-4) offense.
Lions quarterback Levi Clark threw for 141 yards, 78 of them to Nick Ruark. Cory Christy ran for the lone Lewis County (1-5) touchdown.
Christy was one of four backs who had at least four carries for Lewis County, including fullback Mason Thurman.
“I thought we had success with our fullback, and we're a running team,” Lions coach Josh Hughes said. “We told 'em at halftime that we're gonna get back into it, and Mason runs the ball so hard, the last two weeks I think he's had the best games for us, and he deserved to have the football.”
Lewis County was blanked in the first half, but established some quick momentum with its first drive of the second half, marching 80 yards on 11 plays, taking five minutes off the clock and scoring eight points.
Christy capped the drive by juking 14 yards up the middle for a touchdown at the 7:01 mark. He then took a pitch and ran just inside the right pylon to cut Mason County's lead to 18-8.
Those were the Lions' last points, while Mason County was able to penetrate the goal line twice more.
The Royals' Bradley Boone recovered Lewis County's onside kick after its touchdown, and one play after Nelson converted a fourth-and-inches play with a 16-yard run to the Lions' 11, Nelson fought his way over the left side for a touchdown. Jacob Tompkins converted the point-after to stretch Mason County's lead to 25-8.
Nelson added the final score on a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:11 to play after the Royals took over deep in Lions territory. Tompkins set the final count at 32-8.
Mason County squandered excellent field position on its first two drives with a turnover on downs and then a turnover, but got two big plays on its next two trips to forge its lead.
O'Mara rolled left on first-and-10 and hit an outstretched Johnson for a 68-yard TD down the left sideline with eight minutes gone in the game.
“It's a really good thing for a quarterback to have a good run game, and when he can make a play when he's called upon and his receivers can, it's awful good,” Buchanan said. “I think overall we're making a lot of improvement.”
Lewis County punted on its ensuing possession, and Strawn burst free for a 48-yard dash to paydirt to double Mason County's lead.
The Royals' third TD of the first half came a bit more methodically. Nelson powered over the left side for a 5-yard score with 5:47 remaining in the half.
Meanwhile, the Lions punted on six of their seven full possessions of the first half.
On its other trip, Lewis County reached the Royals' 11-yard line thanks to an 18-yard completion from Clark to Ruark and a pair of Mason County personal fouls.
But Tompkins picked Clark to end that drive.
Next up for the Royals is a trip to Russell and veteran coach Ivan McGlone, which is also 2-0 in district play after dropping Fleming County 35-6 on Friday.
“They're undefeated, we're undefeated (and) going to one of my favorite places in the world, Flatwoods, Ky.,” Buchanan said. “I may pack my bags and leave tonight.”
Lewis County, the defending district champs still looking for their first district win of this campaign, take on an East Carter club that's had some rough going in the win column but has improved over the past couple years.
“I've told people and they think I'm crazy, they're 0-16 the last two years, I think they're the best 0-16 team,” Hughes said. “I think they've deserved to win some games they haven't won, and I think they're a good football team, and we better not look at that as a team that hasn't won a game. We better look at that as a game we better play as hard as we can play and as well as we can play.”
Lewis County 0 0 8 0 – 8
Mason County 12 6 7 7 – 32
MC – Johnson 68 pass from O'Mara (Tompkins kick failed), 4:00
MC – Strawn 48 run (Tompkins kick failed), 1:48
MC – Nelson 5 run (pass failed), 5:47
LC – Christy 14 run (Christy run), 7:01
MC – Nelson 11 run (Tompkins kick), 4:47
MC – Nelson 1 run (Tompkins kick), 7:11
Rushing: LC – Thurman 7 carries-25 yards, McCann 9-21, Darling 4-21, Christy 8-19, Parker 2-10, Clark 2-(-10); MC – Nelson 20-117, Strawn 5-61, Jones 4-17, Lofton 2-11, Childers 4-(-2), O'Mara 6-(-2).
Passing: LC – Clark 17 completions-37 attempts-141 yards-1 interception; MC -- O'Mara 5-8-91-1, Frame 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: LC -- Ruark 6 receptions-78 yards, Hunt 3-27, Christy 3-20, Mustard 4-16, Parker 2-8; MC – Johnson 1-68, T. King 2-24, Frame 1-4, Nelson 1-(-5).
Records: Lewis County 1-5, Mason County 3-4.