LEBANON — Drew Davis had no problem getting comfortable inhis new role, and his Mercer County teammates had his back.
Davis made his debut at quarterback a little earlier than expected Friday night and admitted to a having a bad case of nerves when he took the field. But the freshman settled in quickly to give Mercer its best passing game of the season in its 55-0 rout of Marion County at Boswell Field.
A number of other Titans also made big plays to make Davis’ job easier. James Johnson ran for four touchdowns and the Mercer offense produced a season-high 235 passing yards. Meanwhile, the Mercer defense forced five turnovers, scored on two of them and bottled up Marion’s option offense.
The result was the Titans’ first shutout victory in 50 games since a 47-0 win over Lincoln County in 2008, and their largest victory since a 68-7 victory over North Oldham in 2006.
“I’m glad that we were able to pull out and win,” Mercer coach Chris Pardue said. “I didn’t think that we could pull away from them like we did. I knew that they were a young ballclub, but when I watched the film I knew that they were very aggressive, especially inside, and I thought our kids did a good job.”
It was an impressive debut for Davis, who became the fourth quarterback for Mercer (4-3, 1-1 Class AAAA, District 5) since the start of preseason practice. He came out for the Titans’ second offensive play after starter Darion Lewis suffered a minor injury.
“I planned on playing Drew some, but I didn’t plan on playing him that early in the game,” Pardue said. “He made a couple freshman mistakes, but he also made some nice throws, some nice plays.”
Davis said he knew his chance was coming, but he didn’t expect it so soon.
“I was really nervous. They hit Darion, and I was like, ‘I didn’t think they’d hit that hard,’” he said. “But it was fine after that first play.”
Davis’ first two passes were completions to Chris Crawley-Goodman that went for 30 and 22 yards as part of an seven-play, 67-yard drive on Mercer’s first possession, and he went on to complete seven of 10 throws for 195 yards and a touchdown.
“He got his chance tonight, and he really did his thing out there. He delivered the ball and gave us a chance to make a play on it,” said Crawley-Goodman, who caught six passes for 165 yards. “He’s a lot more mature than he seems to be. He’s calm out there, (and) he was ready to go when he got out there.”
Pardue said Mercer’s defense made its share of big plays as well, particularly early in the game to help the Titans overcome a couple of missteps at the start.
Marion (2-5, 1-1) recovered a fumble on an onside kick at the Mercer 41-yard line to open the game, then moved up 5 yards when Mercer was called for being offsides before the first snap. But the Knights moved only 9 yards before the Titans stopped them on downs.
And on the first play after Johnson scored on Mercer’s opening drive, Crawley-Goodman pounced on a fumble by Marion quarterback Hayden Taylor and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown that gave the Titans a 13-0 lead.
“Our defense had to step up tonight and make a play. We had to bring the intensity and get some momentum to build off of,” Crawley-Goodman said.
That was just what Pardue was looking for.
“I thought the defense set the tone for the ballgame. We started off a little shaky ... then we got some nice hits on some guys in there and just started playing great. They got that turnover and scored on defense, and that was huge,” he said. “They played defense like that most of the week in practice, and it carried over and I’m so proud of that.”
Marion had negative rushing yardage at halftime, and Mercer held the Knights to 165 total yards.
“We’re always pretty solid against run teams, so that was an advantage, because we didn’t expect much out of their passing game,” Crawley-Goodman said. “I feel like we’ve always done a good job against option. We’ve seen in against pretty much every team we’ve played this season, and it’s always been one of our strong points on the defensive side. As long as we stick to our responsibilities, we get the job done.”
On the other side of the ball, Mercer displayed a more balanced offense.