LAWRENCEBURG — A tight, perfect spiral that looked like it had touchdown written all over it rolled off the tips of Grant Cox's fingers.
But quarterback Jake Russell didn't hesitate to throw it back to the receiver on the next play, which Cox turned into a 70-yard touchdown to give Anderson County a decisive lead Friday night.
"Me and him are best friends off the field, and I'll go back to him every time," Russell said of Cox. "Even if he drops every pass in a game, he thinks he'll catch the next one every time."
The duo's connection off the field equalled big connections on the field as they led unbeaten Anderson County to a 42-21 win over Mercer County in a renewal of a once heated rivalry.
Russell and Cox connected on touchdown scores of 46, 70 and 76 yards. The final two came in the second half when the Bearcats broke the game open with several eye-popping touchdown plays.
"They were huge, huge," Coach Mark Peach said of the big yardage plays, "because it seemed like every time they scored, we found an answer."
On several plays, Mercer County went without a safety in the back, and Anderson County took advantage.
"Jake's one of the best quarterbacks in Kentucky, and Grant's one of the better receivers," Peach said. "When we've got one-on-one with them, we feel pretty good about that matchup."
Cox finished with five catches for 228 yards and three touchdowns. The senior said the scores of 70 and 76 yards felt especially good.
"There's nothing like it," he said. "They're what I live for. The days of the week we're not playing, it's hard, but I practice for those plays. There's nothing better."
The game was close at the half after Mercer County opened the game with a score before Anderson answered with two of its own.
Then Russell, who threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns, made a big play all on his own with a 75-yard scamper down the middle of the field on the first play of the second half to make it 21-7 Bearcats.
"They did a great job of blocking, I just had to try not to get caught," said Russell, who ran for 77 yards in all.
It was the renewal of a rivalry for two teams who hadn't played since 2005, and the win ended a five-game losing streak to Mercer County for Anderson County, which held the Titans (0-4) to 226 yards of total offense.
Tre Dunn led the Titans with 120 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he had a team-high eight tackles.
The Bearcats' defense was led by Hunter Lilly, who had 13 tackles, including two for a loss. Josh Peach, who had eight tackles, lived a defensive lineman's fantasy when he picked up a fumble and ran it in 11 yards for Anderson's final score of the game.
Anderson co. 42, mercer co. 21
Mercer Co.. 0 7 7 7—21
Anderson Co. 0 14 21 7—42
MC—Jamel Taylor 39 pass from Tre Dunn (J.J. Blau kick); AC—Dustin Combs 8 run (Bill Rose kick); AC—Grant Cox 47 pass from Jake Russell (Rose kick); AC—Russell 75 run (Rose kick); AC—Cox 76 pass from Russell (Rose kick); MC—Isiah Burrus 37 pass from Dunn (Blau kick); AC—Cox 70 pass from Russell (Rose kick); MC—Dunn 2 run (Blau kick); AC—Josh Peach 11 fumble recovery (Rose kick).
Records—Mercer County 0-4, Anderson County 3-0.