HARRODSBURG - In every conceivable way, Anderson County outplayed Mercer County on Friday night.
The Bearcats scored on five of their first six possessions, led by 27 points at the half and routed the host Titans 48-7.
“They got after us, they whipped us, they outcoached us, everything. There’s not much you can say about it,” Mercer coach Chris Pardue said. “We’ve got to go in and re-evaluate how we’re coaching and what were coaching and a lot of things.”
Anderson rolled up 417 yards of offense thanks to a huge night from quarterback Zach Carmichael. He was 12 for 16 for 257 yards and four touchdowns at halftime and finished 16 for 22 for 309 yards.
Anderson (3-1) did not do anything Pardue didn’t expect, but the Bearcats simply did it really well.
“They ran the ball a lot their first game, but they’ve gone to the pass more and more,” he said. “They do a good job of getting those good players the ball in the open field, and we really didn’t do a good job of covering them.”
Anderson went to the air early and often.
Carmichael completed passes for 25 and 29 yards to Ross Cox, then hit Dusty Puckett for a 15-yard score on the Bearcats’ first drive to give them a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter.
But Mercer (2-2) came right back.On third-and-2 from the Anderson 45-yard line, James Johnson took a handoff to the left and outran the Bearcats’ defense for a 55-yard score. Stetson Cooley’s extra point made it 7-all with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
But that was about all that went well for the Titans, and Anderson took over from there.
On the Bearcats’ next play, Carmichael hit Puckett for a 65-yard scoring bomb to give them a 14-7 lead. Early in the second quarter, Carmichael and Puckett hooked up again. Under pressure, Carmichael threw up a ball into the end zone and Puckett simply run under it all alone for the score to give Anderson a 20-7 lead with 9:32 left in the first half.
Mercer fumbled once and Austin Sparrow was sacked to stall another drive, and Anderson took over at the Titans’ 45. That set up Carmichael’s final touchdown throw of the half, an 18-yard strike to Tristin Ashburn to cap a six-play drive and make it 27-7.
Another bad punt gave Anderson the ball at the Mercer 45. Carmichael hit Cox for 30 yards and scrambled for 11 more, and Chris Toomey then scored on a 4-yard run as Anderson took a 34-7 halftime lead.
Granville Hayes had a 5-yard scoring run in the third quarter and Toomey scored on a 2-yard run in the fourth to cap the scoring for the Bearcats.
The game was a far cry from Mercer’s thrilling comeback win over West Jessamine a week earlier, and Pardue had hoped to build on that momentum.
“I thought we had a better week of practice this week. But we’re still a long, long way from learning how to practice and learning how to get things done,” he said. “And the West game, we didn’t play well, we just found a way to get things done. I told the kids against a good team you can’t do that.
“And Anderson’s a good football team. I told the kids all week Anderson wasn’t going to make mistakes that was going beat themselves, and it was going to come down to who was going to do things right. We laid the ball on the ground, had double figures in penalties, all those things you can’t do in big games.”
The Titans fumbled the ball five times, losing two of them, and had 11 penalties for 85 yards.
After his initial 55-yard burst, Johnson finished with 56 yards on eight carries. Sparrow had minus-53 yards rushing thanks to sacks and bobbles and high snaps and completed four of 14 passes for 57 yards with two interceptions.
One bright spot was the running of freshman Kobe Ford, who had 11 carries for 124 yards in the second half. But even when things went right, they turned out bad, as Ford fumbled the ball away on a 63-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Anderson County 14 20 7 7 — 48
Mercer County 7 0 0 0 — 7
Anderson — Dusty Puckett 15 pass from Zach Carmichael (Jordan Morgan kick), 8:27.
Mercer — James Johnson 55 run (Stetson Cooley kick), 6:44.
Anderson — Puckett 65 pass from Carmichael (Morgan kick), 6:28.
Anderson — Puckett 24 pass from Carmichael (run failed), 9:32.
Anderson — Tristin Ashburn 24 pass from Carmichael (Morgan kick), 9:32.
Anderson — Chris Toomey 4 run (Morgan kick), 2:56.
Anderson — Granville Hayes 5 run (Morgan kick), 5:17.
Anderson — Toomey 2 run (Morgan kick), 9:34.
First downs 22 9
Rushes-yards 35-98 33-149
Passing 309 57
Total Net Yards 417 206
Comp-Att-Int 16-22-0 4-14-2
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 5-2
Penalties-Yards 2-20 11-85
RUSHING—Anderson, Zach Carmichael 8-29, Granville Hayes 10-25, Austin Phillips 6-14, Ryan McGregor 5-9, Chris Toomey 3-9, Ross Cox 2-6, Ryan Martin 1-6. Mercer, Kobe Ford 11-124, James Johnson 8-56, Chris Goodman 1-12, Braxton Bradshaw 5-10, Austin Sparrow 7-minus 53.
PASSING—Anderson, Carmichael 16-22-0-309. Mercer, Sparrow 4-14-2-57.
RECEIVING—Anderson, Cox 5-111, Dusty Puckett 4-109, Toomey 2-28, McGregor 2-14, Tristin Ashburn 1-18, Hayes 1-14, Austin Hall 1-13. Mercer, Lane Peavler 2-40, Johnson 1-15, Darion¿Lewis 1-2.