Cline, Cougars race past Hornets

Sep. 9—HAWESVILLE — Brodie Cline scored three touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 8:50 left to play, to lead McLean County High School to a 20-18 district victory against Hancock County on a picturesque Friday night at GN Excavating Stadium.

Cline racked up 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 rushing attempts, along with a 2-of-4 passing performance with 56 yards and an additional score through the air.

"He ran really, really hard," McLean County coach Zach Wagner said of his senior quarterback. "We knew, to have some success, he'd have to rip off a few big runs for us."

Cline wasted little time out of the gate, leading the Cougars (3-1, 1-0 in Class 3-A, District 1) to a scoring drive on their opening possession. On 3rd-and-9 from midfield, Cline broke loose up the middle for a 50-yard scamper that put his team on top 6-0 with 7:28 left in the first quarter.

McLean County forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but Hancock County (3-1, 0-1) came up with a fourth-down stop on its own 12-yard-line. Neither team found much rhythm again until the Hornets struck on a 39-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Dylan Morris to senior running back Landen Garrison with 10:41 left in the first half for a 6-6 tie.

Hancock County reached the red zone on its next two possessions, but McLean County forced fourth-down stops on both trips — including a goal-line stand at the end of the first half to preserve the tie at intermission.

The Hornets refused to be denied, though, opening the second half on an eight-play, 54-yard drive before sophomore running back Jack Roberts punched in a 1-yard TD for a 12-6 lead.

The Cougars answered less than four minutes later when Cline, after moving the chains on a crucial 4th-and-1 conversion, ran to his left on a sweep before finding junior wideout H.B. Whitaker open down the sideline for a 47-yard scoring pass. Following the failed 2-point try, the score stood at 12-12 with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

"Usually, we want him to run that," Wagner said, with a laugh. "H.B.'s always an option there, and Brodie did a heck of a job to notice he was open and get him the ball. It quacked a little bit on the way, but it got there."

McLean County held the Hornets to a punt on their next possession, then pieced together an 11-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped off by Cline's 1-yard run with 8:50 to play. On the 2-point conversion, Cline rolled out to his right and connected with junior running back Ayden Rice for the 20-12 lead.

The Hornets responded with a scoring drive of their own — marching 65 yards in 13 plays as Garrison carried in a 5-yard TD. Hancock County was unable to cash in on the 2-point conversion, however, and trailed 20-18 with 3:01 remaining.

The Hornets recovered the onside kick to retain possession and reached the McLean County 30, but consecutive incomplete passes ended Hancock County's possession and allowed the Cougars to run out the rest of the game clock.

Senior running back Baldwin tallied 44 yards on 15 carries, and sophomore running back Aden Bolden added 42 yards on nine rushes for McLean County, which finished with 279 yards of total offense.

Morris led Hancock's offense with 162 passing yards and a touchdown on 14-of-25 completions, while Jack Roberts had 83 yards and a score on 12 rushes with seven receptions for 62 yards through the air. The Hornets finished with 296 yards of total offense.

"The kids played hard," HCHS coach Bobby Eubanks said. "We just came up short. We had some opportunities to tie and/or win the game but couldn't capitalize. It was a good football game, and both teams fought to the end."

Wagner credited his defense for making tough stops at crucial moments.

"We had one goal-line stand at the end of the first half, and that was very big for us to go into half keeping it tied," he said. "Then, of course, stopping them on that 2-point conversion.

"It was big because we responded. I feel like we didn't play very well against Grayson County (last week). Grayson played very physical, and we did not. The kids responded, had a very good week of practice and persevered in some tough situations."

Both teams play again next Friday, with McLean County hosting Todd County Central and Hancock County traveling to rival Tell City (Ind.).

McLEAN COUNTY 6 0 6 8 — 20

HANCOCK COUNTY 0 6 6 6 — 18

M-Cline 50 run (run failed)

H-Garrison 39 pass from Morris (run failed)

H-Roberts 1 run (pass failed)

M-Whitaker 47 pass from Cline (run failed)

M-Cline 1 run (Rice pass from Cline)

H-Garrison 5 run (run failed)