Prep Football: Mercer beats Allen 33-20 in Pardue's debut with Titans
Mercer County defenders gang up to tackle an Allen County-Scottsville runner in the third quarter of the Titans¿ 33-20 win in the Stuart Powell Ford Tough Bowl at Rebel Stadium. The Mercer defense forced six turnovers Saturday. (Clay Jackson / August 26, 2012)
The Titans scored on the opening play of the game — and twice in the first seven minutes — and coasted to a 33-20 win over Allen County-Scottsville on Saturday in the opening game of Boyle County's Stuart Powell Ford-Tough Classic at Rebel Stadium.
Pardue made his first call at Mercer a memorable one when sophomore quarterback Austin Sparrow, playing in place of Long, threw behind the line of scrimmage to Darion Lewis, who then found Lane Peavler open for a 50-yard scoring toss. The play worked so well that Peavler was 20-yards behind Allen County's defenders and coasted in for the score. Stetson Cooley tacked on the conversion and Mercer led 7-0 just 22 seconds into the game.
"We knew we were going to run the play in practice and Darion (Lewis) put it right on the money," said Peavler. "It loosened us up."
"We needed a play that would calm our quarterback down and loosen us up," the Mercer coach said. "He was a nervous wreck before the game, but that play gave him a lot of confidence. He made some huge passes, and our receivers made some great catches in traffic."
After a Patriot quick kick to the Mercer 29, the Titans wasted little time scoring again. The Titans went 71 yards in just seven plays. Sparrow connected for 30 yards to junior Russell Sims to keep the drive alive, then found Chris Goodman open on a perfectly executed bubble screen for a 40-yard score. Cooley again added the PAT and Mercer led 14-0 with 7 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first period.
Mercer had one score called back due to a procedure penalty when Lewis caught a pass over the middle for what looked like a 69-yard score.
Later in the half, Peavler fumbled when he was nailed on a double-reverse, and Allen County reached the end zone six plays later when senior quarterback scored on fourth down from 4 yards out. Caleb Hunt's extra point kick cut the lead to 20-7 at the half.
In fact, Mercer's turnovers and penalties were its worst nightmare. Sparrow was able to be interception-free throughout the game, but the Titans fumbled seven times while losing five and were penalized 15 times for 163 yards.
"We have to get that corrected," Pardue said. "I'm really disappointed. We thought we would make a few mistakes with a new quarterback, but he wasn't the problem. I made some mistakes, too. But if we learn from this, we'll be okay as the season goes along."
Pardue was so confident in the way his defense was playing that he started the second half with an on-sides kick and Mercer recovered after it hit an Allen County player at the Patriots' 46
Things were going so well for Sparrow, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 161 yards, that he threw into double coverage at the Allen 15 on the opening drive of the third quarter, but Lewis bailed him out when he wrestled away the ball from both defenders and completed a 46-yard, seven-play drive for the 15-yard touchdown catch to give Mercer a 26-7 lead.
Later in the quarter, Allen recovered another fumble and, after another major Mercer penalty, scored on the next play when quarterback Conner Ross connected with Austin Napier in the back of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 26-13.
It took just 15 seconds for Mercer to get the points back.
Peavler took the ensuing kickoff at his 7 yard line and found an opening along the sideline to go the distance and give the Titans their 20-point lead back at 33-13.
"That was a huge play. (Allen) had some momentum and we were not taking care of the ball, but Lane did a great job of reading his blocks to get the points back and swing the momentum back in our favor," Pardue said.
Ross scored on a 9-yard run following another Mercer turnover to cut the lead to 33-20, and were prepared to scored again, but Lewis made up a lot of ground to intercept a pass in the back of the end zone to preserve the margin with four minutes to play.
"Man, I got beat on the play, but I was athletic enough to make up some ground," Lewis said.