Cory Davenport said he and his Bell County teammates had a few jitters playing under the bright lights in Lexington in the iHigh Football Frenzy Friday night.
Davenport and the Bobcats got over their stage fright in impressive style, however, as they outscored host Lafayette 18-0 in the second half to beat the Generals 32-26.
Davenport, a speedy, hard-to-grab 5-foot-9 senior, led the comeback. He rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns in the second half to give Wayne Mills his first victory as Bell County coach.
"I love it, I love it," said Mills, who succeeded Dudley Hilton as boss of the Bobcats. "It's a great feeling, and I'm just so appreciative."
Mills is more than appreciative of Davenport, who finished with 275 all-purpose yards, including an 82-yard kickoff return for a score in the first half.
"If he's not a Mr. Football candidate, I don't know who is," Mills said. "I challenge anybody in the state to show me anybody better running the football. I think he's one of the best around."
Bell County could have had its spirit crushed by the way the first half ended. The Bobcats had a punt blocked and fumbled a kickoff to set up two Lafayette touchdowns in the last minute of the half.
The Generals took advantage, with Bubba Johnson scoring on a short run, and Jeremy Smith hitting Brandon Epps with a 12-yard TD pass to make it 26-14.
Davenport said he "fired up" the Bobcats at halftime, telling his young teammates they had to "grow up."
Davenport showed the way. His 9-yard scoring run pulled Bell County to within 26-20 midway through the third quarter, and his 45-yard TD run tied it early in the fourth.
Lafayette had a chance to regain the lead, but Nathan Gillespie, who had a pair of field goals in the first quarter, missed a 36-yarder with five minutes left.
That gave Bell County the ball at its own 20. The Bobcats took it and drove for the go-ahead score. Davenport's 35-yard run set up his decisive TD with 2:17 left.
Lafayette's last hope died when Dakota Collett intercepted Smith near midfield.
The Bobcats got all of their offense on the ground — 313 yards, including 77 by Jonathan Polly. They were 0-for-2 passing.
"We wanted to run the football; that's all we know," Davenport said.
Bell County knows defense, too. Led by Jeffrey Saylor, Eric Miller and D.J. Warrwick, the Bobcats limited Lafayette to 60 yards in the second half.
The Generals had 219 total yards. Smith completed nine of 22 passes for 114 yards and two TDs. Darius Hughes, Tray Chester and Curtis Yates combined for seven catches and 90 yards.
Johnson led the running game with 54 yards on 11 carries, but he was sidelined with cramps down the stretch.
Lafayette hosts Lexington Catholic next Friday. The Knights beat Bell County 33-27 in their season opener.
Bell County 6 8 6 12—32
Lafayette 6 20 0 0—26
L—Nathan Gillespie 29 field goal. L—Gillespie 28 field goal. BC—Cory Davenport 82 kickoff return (run failed). L—Tray Chester 30 pass from Jeremy Smith (Gillespie kick). BC—Corey Oslonian 1 run (Davenport run). L—Bubba Johnson 2 run (run failed). L—Brandon Epps 12 pass from Smith (Gillespie kick). BC—Davenport 9 run (run failed). BC—Davenport 45 run (run failed). BC—Davenport 1 run (kick failed).
Records—Bell County 1-1, Lafayette 1-1.