It may have been a 19-14 Homecoming and Senior Night win for McCracken County over Christian County on Friday at Marquette Stadium, but there was hardly jubilance from the Mustangs after the final horn.
That's because the team's bellcow running back, Hunter Bradley, absorbed a nasty lower leg injury on his 12th carry of the night -- and was soon carted off the field and carried away by ambulance.
Even the announcement of Owensboro's 22-16 over Henderson County, securing another Class 6A, District 1 title for the Mustangs, did little to lift the mood.
"I love Hunter Bradley," noted McCracken wideout Franklin Hayes, who had all three Mustangs touchdowns. "He was a valuable piece for us. He's the reason that I've had the fantastic season that I've had. Prayers to him and his family."
See Colonels/Page B3
The Mustangs (7-3) had to overcome a lost fumble, frigid temperatures, two uncharacteristic interceptions from quarterback Elijah Wheat and a slew of penalties (19 for the Colonels, 16 for the Mustangs) on top of Bradley's devastating injury, too, making the contest a brutal slog for even the toughest of teams.
But as sure as it's been all season, the Wheat-to-Hayes connection was terrific, with the tandem dancing for a 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter, a 23-yard touchdown in the second quarter -- and basically a game-winning 61-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, giving the Mustangs a 19-7 lead with 9:03 left in regulation.
"We just gutted it out for him, you know?" Wheat said. "As a team, we all love him here. Respect him. We all wish him the best. I wish him the best. I hope he's fine. Nasty injury. It happens. But we just came together as a team, and we just have to fight it out for him."
Defensively, the Mustangs overcame three turnovers by coming away with a fumble recovery and an interception of Donta Abren, who was able to connect on two touchdown passes to L'Ray Coleman (17 carries, 133 yards).
Now, however, the Mustangs turn to the first round of the playoffs next week (against Apollo, which beat Owensboro Catholic on Friday) without one of its top players.
"We've gotten a lot of good production from a lot of guys this year, and in particular Elijah and Frank," noted MCHS coach Marc Clark. "Now we've just got to reload. The goals are still the same, but we've got to change our trajectory to get to those goals. And the gameplan some, really. I just hate it for the kid. But the kids persevered, and made just enough plays to win tonight."
MCCRACKEN COUNTY 19, CHRISTIAN COUNTY 14
Christian County 0 7 0 7 -- 14
McCracken County 6 7 0 6 -- 19
MC Franklin Hayes 23 pass from Elijah Wheat (2 pt. run fails), 6-0, 7:25 1Q
CC L'Ray Coleman 8 pass from Donta Abren (Rubio PAT), 7-6, 8:23 2Q
MC Franklin Hayes 23 pass from Elijah Wheat (Ben Schofield PAT), 13-7, :28.6 2Q
MC Franklin Hayes 61 pass from Elijah Wheat (2pt. pass fails), 19-7, 9:03 4Q
CC L'Ray Coleman 22 pass from Donta Abren (Rubio PAT), 19-14, 5:27 4Q
MC Elijah Wheat 13-21-189-2-3; CC Donta Abren 13-22-177-1-2
MC Hunter Bradley 12-64, Franklin Hayes 4-15, Elijah Wheat 5-6, Jeremiah Hughes 1-5; CC L'Ray Coleman 17-133, Ty Douglas 2-7, Donta Abren 14-6, George Forrest 3-3, Brennan Metz-Spears 1-(minus 9)
MC Franklin Hayes 3-107-3, Zander Mayes 3-44, Hunter Bradley 4-20, Pete Holmes 1-11, Jeremiah Hughes 2-7; CC Cam Coleman 4-66, L'Ray Coleman 3-41-2, Kwy Pollard 1-34, Ty Douglas 3-13, JT Adams 2-41
MC 7-3, CC 0-9