LEBANON – Western Boone defense coordinator Travis Brunes had been waiting for the game when his defense would step up and get some takeaways.
Heading into Friday night’s season finale against Lebanon, the Stars had forced just four turnovers on the season, collecting two fumbles and picking off two passes.
But playing on their rival’s field, the Stars defense rose to their coaches’ challenge. Western Boone’s defense forced six turnovers on the night, and led the team to a 21-6 victory over Lebanon.
“I am super proud of these guys,” Brunes said. “We were without three starters tonight, who were out with Covid stuff – nothing’s wrong with them they were just close to people who had it. For the guys to step up and replace those guys was huge. Every week we are getting better. We are growing up, are able to make adjustments in the game – which is what has made us successful in the past.”
The Stars defense was especially stout in the second half.
Lebanon had the ball five times in the second half, and turned it over four.
After allowing 145 yards in the first half, WeBo allowed 81 in the second half.
“We made just a little tweak defensively in the second half,” Brunes said. “I have a lot of respect for (Lebanon receiver) J.C. Reese, I think he is one of the best athletes in the conference. We were trying to cover him too much in the first half, and that left some other guys open. In the second half, we focused more on stopping the run and it paid off.”
For Lebanon, it was the same problem that has plagued them in losses all year.
In the Tigers four losses this season, they have turned it over 11 times.
“You aren’t going to turn the ball over that many times against a good football team and expect to win,” Lebanon head coach Jeff Smock said. “Our defense did a good job for the most part in some tight spots, and kept us in there, but eventually those turnovers will get you.”
Western Boone struck first in the game.
On their second drive of the game, Western Boone went 7-0 on a 3-yard run by Robby Taylor.
Lebanon controlled most of the second quarter, but got little to show for it.
Still down 7-0, Lebanon drove to the Lebanon 26, but fumbled for the first time. After a three-and-out, Lebanon did get on the board, when Trevor Winkles capped off a 14-play drive with a 1-yard run, but the extra point was no good.
Lebanon forced a three-and-out and were driving to take the lead before halftime, but after getting to the Stars’ 26, threw an interception in the end zone.
“Those are tough,” Smock said of the turnovers in opponent’s territory. “We know what we have to do. There is going to be a lot of ball security drills on Monday. That’s something as a coach, the player’s know they fumbled the ball, you don’t have to dig in on them. We are going to continue to ride them and they will be big parts of us next week.”
The Tigers got the opening kick-off in the second half, but fumbled on the third play from scrimmage.
The Stars couldn’t capitalize on that turnover, turning it over on downs, but forced another fumble on the Tigers’ next play.
This time WeBo converted the turnover into points, when Luke Marsh ran it in from 8 yards out.
Down 14-6, the Tigers had the ball at the WeBo 39 yard line early in the fourth quarter, but fumbled for the third time in the half.
WeBo then went 60 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a 1-yard sneak by Elliott Young. The big play in the drive came when 6:18 left, when Young found Connor Garrity for a 27-yard completion on a post route on third and 12.
Young was just 7 of 13 for 69 yards, but that throw really sealed the win.
“He has improved every game,” Western Boone head coach Justin Pelley said. “Last week, we had to throw it a little too much. We were more predictable tonight, they took some things away from us, but Elliott has grown up. He’s resilient.”
Robby Taylor had 27 carries for 134 yards and a score for the Stars. Marsh had 44 yards on 7 carries.
Trevor Winkles had 24 carries for 70 yards for the Tigers. Garrett Harker was 11 of 21 for 132 yards.
Lebanon hosts Frankfort next week in the opening round of the sectional.
The two teams didn’t play in the regular season due to Lebanon being in quarantine.
“They are much improved,” Smock said. “We haven’t seen much of them yet, but especially on their offensive and defensive line, they look really improved. There is no doubt about it, we have to come out and clean some things up from tonight, and if we do that we give ourselves a shot next week.”
Western Boone will travel to Speedway on Friday.
Brunes said the way the defense and Stars as a whole bounced back from a tough loss to Danville was the right way to end the regular season.
“Any win with this young group is big for us,” Brunes said. “We were right there at .500, 4-4, and really wanted to get over that hump. We haven’t had a season under .500 in over a decade, so the guys really wanted to get this win and it is huge for us moving forward.”
Article courtesy of Will Willems