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Conner quarterback’s snap decision scores winning touchdown in playoff game against Cooper

Conner tight end Tate Niederman catches a pass as Cooper defensive back Joe Poage comes up to make a tackle. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

By Terry Boehmker

NKyTribune sports reporter

Conner’s football coaching staff showed how much confidence it has in junior quarterback Jared Hicks on a crucial play in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Class 6A playoff game against Cooper.

The Cougars were five points behind and needed to pick up four yards on third down to maintain possession. The coaches sent in a play where Hicks had the option of running or passing the ball depending on what the defense showed him.

Conner quarterback Jared Hicks is brought down by two Cooper defensive players (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The first-year starting quarterback made a snap decision that scored an unusual touchdown and Conner came away with a 20-19 victory.

Hicks started to run the ball, stopped when a linebacker closed in on him and tossed a short jump pass to senior Tate Niederman, who raced to the end zone to complete the 68-yard scoring play that put the home team on top.

“That was really just a backyard play,” Hicks said. “It was something we just pulled out of the hat in the moment and it was awesome.”

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Cooper wide receiver Mikey Armour caught a long pass from quarterback Jeremiah Lee and took it to end zone. But that touchdown was called back due to an illegal receiver downfield penalty.

“I didn’t see it so I don’t know if it was a good call or bad call,” said Cooper coach Randy Borchers. “We just have to live with it.”

The Jaguars ended up punting on that series and then turned the ball over on downs on their final possession of the game. Conner was able to run out the clock after Hicks picked up a first down with a little over a minute remaining.

“We just needed to find a way to make one more play,” Borchers said. “We had a number of opportunities, but my hat’s off to Conner. They’ve got a good football team and they just made one more play than we did.”

Conner (9-3) advances to the Class 6A regional finals and plays at Madison Central (9-3) next Friday. Cooper ends the season with a 5-7 record.

The margin of victory in seven of the last eight games between Conner and Cooper has been six points or less. In a district game a few weeks ago, Conner came from behind to post a 19-15 victory over its county rival.

Cooper quarterback Jeremiah Lee dives for a short gain on the muddy field. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The playing conditions for Friday’s game at Conner were far from ideal. There was more mud than grass down the middle of the field and players often slipped or lost their footing.

Conner managed to get 237 total yards in the sloppy conditions compared to Cooper’s 165. Their totals would’ve been almost even without that run-option touchdown play.

“We’ve played seven home games in pouring rains and on a mud-slopped field and it doesn’t stop us,” said Conner coach Dave Trosper. “Our practice field is mud-slopped and our game field is mud-slopped. We just keep playing.”

Cooper lost a fumble on the opening kickoff, but the Jaguars scored on their next two possessions to open up a 13-0 lead. Lee got the first touchdown on an 11-yard run and he threw a 38-yard TD pass to Michael Spencer on the next series.

Conner turned the ball over on downs twice in Conner territory before putting together a 66-yard scoring drive in the final minutes of the first half. It ended with Douglas Abdon’s 4-yard run into the end zone.

In the third quarter, the Jaguars extended their lead to 19-7 when Dillon Perry pulled down a 25-yard touchdown pass even though he was closely guarded by a defensive player.

Conner came right back with a 65-yard drive that was mainly power rushing plays. On fourth down from the 2-yard line, Abdon plowed through a wall of players for his second TD and Teddy Schul kicked the extra point to make it 19-14.

“They really got it done on that drive,” Hicks said of Conner’s offensive linemen. “I came into the huddle and screamed, ‘We’ve got to get one in,’ and they got it done for us with that touchdown.”

That set the stage for the winning score that came on the run-pass option by Hicks, who ended up with 132 yards passing and 42 yards rushing on the night.

“We use run-pass option all the time,” coach Trosper said. “He had the option to throw it and saw something quick. He dumped it out there and Tate Niederman took care of the rest.”

CONNER   0  7  7  6 — 20
COOPER   6  7  6  0 — 19

COO – Lee 11 run (kick failed)
COO – Spencer 38 pass from Lee (Warth kick)
CON – Abdon 4 run (Schul kick)
COO – Perry 25 pass from Lee (pass failed)
CON – Abdon 2 run (Schul kick)
CON – Niederman 68 pass from Hicks (kick failed)
RECORDS: Conner 9-3, Cooper 5-7.

Friday’s football playoff scores

Frankfort 60, Ludlow 42
Beechwood 50, Kentucky Country Day 6
Walton-Verona 35, Monroe County 6
Louisville DeSales 21, Newport Central Catholic 14
Christian Academy of Louisville 39, Lloyd 0
Johnson Central 50, Scott 7
Covington Catholic 43, Montgomery County 15
Highlands 14, Anderson County 10
Conner 20, Cooper 19
Simon Kenton 25, Lexington Henry Clay 7

Regional finals on Friday, Nov. 16

Frankfort (8-3) at Beechwood (9-2), 7:30 p.m.
Glasgow (11-1) at Walton-Verona, 7:30 p.m.
Highlands (10-2) at Covington Catholic (12-0), 7:30 p.m.
Conner (9-3) at Madison Central (9-3), 7:30 p.m.
Scott County (9-3) at Simon Kenton (10-2), 7:30 p.m.

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  1. Amber says:

    That’s not at all what happened and I’ll gladly show the film to any sports writer. If your gonna report, at least report with accuracy.

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