Mason County football

Mason County's Caleb Boyd and Malkolm Devine make a tackle on Harrison County's Buddy Burns in the first half.

Evan Dennison, The Ledger Independent

CYNTHIANA - The game had it all.

A 59 point first half. Fumbles. Interceptions. Onside kicks. A 19-point comeback in the fourth quarter. Double overtime.

It was one of those that will be tough to forget.

But Mason County fought, scratched and clawed their way to a 54-48, double overtime win over Harrison County Friday night in Cynthiana.

"It was nuts. I'm just very, very proud of our kids," Royals coach Jonathan Thomas said. It wasn't just one kid that got us going, it was every single one of those kids."

Facing a 40-21 deficit with less than eight minutes to play, the Royals rallied, sent the game to overtime and eventually recovered a fumble in the second extra frame to walk out of Thorobred country with a district win.

The end result looked like an impossibility in the first half. Harrison scored on six of their seven possessions in the half, taking a 38-21 lead into the break.

"I'm not happy with the way we played in the first half at all," Thomas said. "But for our kids to battle back and we've seen that every week with this bunch. They are a scrappy bunch with a lot of will. I couldn't be happier with all of them."

In their first seven games of the season, the Thorobreds had tallied just 59 points. But the running of Chase Blanton and the precision of quarterback Ben VanHook showed that Harrison was everything but an 0-7 football team.

But the Royals adjusted in the second half, shutting out the Thorobreds offensively, as a safety late in the third quarter was their only points of the half.

"We made a few minor adjustments, but more than anything we knew we had to stop the run. We were going to live with them passing the ball if that's what they were going to decide to do. They made it work and made all those plays," Thomas said. 

Starting off the rally was a Jaylen Lofton interception, who missed the last game with an injury.

"I was surprised they threw it there. I read a run read and was behind. I just jumped as high as I could and I grabbed it," Lofton said.

Lofton also recovered a fumble and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the contest.

"We went in the locker room and came together at the half. Our front stepped it up big time in the second half. Came out, did our job and it paid off," Lofton said.

That was quickly followed by a 11-yard touchdown pass from Chandler Dunaway to Jeremiah Jones, making it a 40-28 ball game with 7:59 to play.

Then Mario Soto perfected an onside kick with a perfect hop that landed in Dunaway's hands. Three plays later, Dunaway connected with Jones again for a 44-yard touchdown strike, suddenly making the Royals deficit 40-34 with 7:38 to play, cutting an 18-point deficit to six in a span of 21 seconds.

"Jeremiah is very talented. He hung right in there. Coach (Dean) Ravencraft has always raved about him. It took me a little while to kind of trust a freshman, but he's definitely won me over," Thomas said.

After the Royals defense was able to get their fifth stop of the second half, they drove 76 yards down the field, capped off by a Tykeise Henry 27-yard touchdown run. Henry had ron one in from 20 yards out on the previous play to tie the game, but it was called back due to a hold.

"I saw the penalty late, I was celebrating and everything and thought I had a touchdown. Coach said do it again next play, next play went and did it," Henry said. "As soon as I saw that end zone, nothing was stopping me."

As more shenanigans ensued, Brock Gilligan's extra point attempt hit off the crossbar of the field goal post and back into the field of play, keeping the score at 40-40 with two minutes to play.

The defense would step up to the plate again as Harrison was forced to punt, giving the Royals one last shot from their own 16-yard line with 1:14 to play. With 10 seconds remaining and the ball at the Thorobreds 39, Dunaway scrambled all the way to the Thorobreds six-yard line before being brought down as time expired.

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The two would head to overtime.

After Harrison won the toss, they were able to convert a score on their first play as Blanton ran one in from 10 yards out. As they had done all night, they elected to go for two and Blanton was able to score on the two-point try making it 48-40.

Here the Royals were again, needing a score in either regulation or overtime for their third straight game to try and either extend the game or win.

Malkolm Devine quickly quelled any worries, scoring on the first play from 10 yards out. Devine would convert the two point try to even things up at 48-48, sending the game into a second overtime.

With the order flipped of who would get the ball, Mason County needed three plays on their next possession, as Dunaway scored on a QB sneak from a yard out. But on this two-point try, Devine was stopped inches shy of the goal line, making it 54-48 with the 'Breds an opportunity to win the game.

Their first play was stuffed for no gain as Blanton was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. On the next play the Royals broke through the line of scrimmage, stripped Blanton and Nailen Billie recovered, sending the Royals to ecstasy with the improbable come-from-behind victory. 

"It was exciting," Billie said. "I think Malkolm stripped it and the ball just kind of went in my hand."

With their playoff hopes in danger with nine minutes to play, the Royals now have an opportunity to clinch at least the third seed in the district with a win at Holmes next Friday.

"With the week we had in practice I wasn't surprised we came out and played that way," Thomas said. "So hopefully we'll be able to watch and figure this out and come out next week and fight for that three seed, possibly go out to Ashland and not have to worry about going out to Johnson Central."

Devine ended up with 203 yards rushing in the contest and two touchdowns. Dunaway tallied 125 yards passing with three touchdowns and ran for another 107 yards and two touchdowns. Jones was the leading receiver with 55 yards receiving and the two touchdowns.  

The Thorobreds are now left to play the role of spolier in the district as they have been eliminated from playoff contention. They close out district play with Bourbon County October 20.

VanHook threw for 99 yards and three scores while running for 17 yards and a touchdown. Blanton was the workhorse on the night, carrying the ball 31 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns while also catching two touchdown passes.

This will definitely be a game all involved will remember for quite some time.


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