Sitting pretty at halftime, Ryle had to fend off a Henry Clay comeback to come away with an 34-28 victory in the first game of the Traditional Bank Bluegrass Bowl at Lexington Catholic on Friday night.
Henry Clay couldn’t pull out the win, but Coach Sam Simpson was thrilled with how his guys battled.
“We were a better football team in the second half than we were the first half,” Simpson said. “If we keep improving that much when we come out on the field, watch out for us ’cause we’ll be all right.”
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Tanner Morgan, who's committed to Western Michigan, took some time to get going but led two scoring drives inside the final three minutes of the first half to give Ryle an 18-0 advantage at the break.
Henry Clay’s defense had only yielded a field goal until that quick burst by the Raiders in the second quarter. Simpson, who in the preseason emphasized how quickly his defensive unit was coming along, was proud of what it accomplished as a whole Friday night.
“I went over and told our defense at halftime, ‘Guys you didn’t play a bad half,’” Simpson said. “‘We gave (Ryle) the ball in bad situations for you. That’s what happened.’ My guys played good. They played hard.”
An 98-yard kickoff return by Langston Jackson sparked a 21-0 Henry Clay run beginning in the third quarter. The insertion of sophomore Montaveon Bean seemed to spark the offense after junior starter Greg Couch had a rough start, going 5-for-13 with an interception that was returned for a score.
Bean threw two touchdowns — a 21-yarder to Charles Davis and a 57-yarder to Demarcus Tyler — and rushed for another during the run. Simpson was quick to praise Couch’s character after he was removed from the game.
“You know who the first person that congratulated Montaveon when he made the touchdown pass (to Davis)? Greg Couch,” Simpson said of the nephew of Tim Couch, the former Kentucky Wildcats star quarterback. “What does that say about that young man?”
Henry Clay had a chance to go ahead but couldn’t convert on its final offensive possession. Ryle moved the chains on a third-and-4 attempt with about a minute left to allow itself to get into victory formation.
Morgan finished 15 -for-25 passing for 147 yards with one TD. Bean went 4-for-6 for 113 yards and rushed for 20 yards.
Jacob Chisolm stole the show for Ryle. He rushed for 132 yards and two TDs on 18 attempts, and had three catches go for 42 yards.
Next up for Henry Clay? A visit to Clark County, which opened at Anderson County on Friday.
“I’m praising ’em and I’m patting ’em on the back, but we’re 0-1,” Simpson said. “ … I like my team, and by gosh we’re gonna strap it up and keep it going next week. I guaran-dadblum-tee you that.”
Ryle 34, Henry Clay 28
R—Mason Molique 21 field goal; R—Jacob Chisolm 15 run (Molique kick); R—Bryce Ashley 5 pass from Tanner Morgan (Jake Long pass from Morgan; R—Molique 21 field goal; R—Josh Sandmann 23 interception return (Molique kick); HC—Charles Davis 21 pass from Montaveon Bean (Evan Works kick); R—Chisolm 4 run (kick blocked); HC—Langston Jackson 98 kickoff return (Works kick); HC—Bean 1 run (Works kick); HC—Demarcus Tyler 57 pass from Bean (Works kick).
Records: Ryle 2-0, Henry Clay 0-1.