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BUCKNER – Oldham County had to wait an extra two hours to start the Mike Shatzer era Friday.
After a tough loss, the Colonels will have to wait at least another week for their first Shatzer-era win.
Iroquois took a 22-19 lead with less than three minutes left on a long Larry Jackson touchdown run, then sealed the game with a Germone Kohn interception return touchdown to beat OC 29-19 at Bell Field.
The loss was the first at OC for Shatzer, hired during the offseason to replace Matt Brown.
After the game he shouldered the entire blame for the defeat.
“It’s unfortunate because these kids have worked so hard that I don’t want them to feel like it’s their fault that we didn’t play well,” he said. “I want them to know that it starts at the top and trickles down. “We’re accountable about our program so I’m going to take full blame for this. But we’re going to get back to work for next Friday against North Oldham.”
Friday’s game was delayed two hours by lingering lightning that stayed in the area after a thunderstorm moved through between 6:30 and 7 p.m.
After two hours of waiting and mulling over options, including possibly pushing the game to Saturday, both sides made the decision to play the game that night.
The Colonels were positioned to win the game in the fourth quarter, up 12-10 with the ball.
Facing a 3rd and 9, Shatzer called a pass play where quarterback James Harding threw to tight end Isiah Kelly over the middle.
But the Raider defense seemed to know what was coming and had several defenders crowding the middle of the field.
Iroquois’ Malik Saunders intercepted Harding’s pass to Kelly, ran right, got some blocks to get him to the edge and went into the end zone to give the Raiders a 16-12 lead.
“We made some great plays but that first pick-six we threw, that was just a poor call on my part,” Shatzer said. “We probably should’ve stayed on the ground and just played it safe.
“We had the lead at the time and we got greedy. I’ll take the full responsibility for that.”
The interception was one of five turnovers for the Colonels Friday and the first of three in the fourth quarter.
Harding put his team back in front on its next possession.
With a 3rd and 7 at the 50, Harding found receiver Allan Farrow, who had beaten the Iroquois secondary on a slant route.
Farrow caught Harding’s pass in stride and sped away to the end zone, giving OC a 19-16 advantage with 7:54 left.
The Colonel defense, which had allowed just one offensive touchdown up to that point, stood tall again and held the Raiders to a three-and-out.
OC got the ball back but couldn’t put the game away, failing to pick up a first down on the ground and having to punt. Iroquois took back over on its 20-yard line with 4:18 to play.
After an illegal substitution, an 11-yard Saunders run and a 2-yard Jackson run, it was 3rd and 2 for the Raiders at their 28.
Saunders tossed the ball to Jackson, coming out of the backfield and going left.
Jackson got a seam around the numbers and hit the gap sprinting 72 yards untouched into the end zone for the go-ahead score. A converted extra point put Iroquois up 22-19 with 2:36 left in the game.
“Really we felt like, at least defensively, all we needed was a chance to make a play,” said linebacker Brian Barmantje, who led OC with 10 tackles. “All we needed was a lead. We felt like we could hold it.
“We felt like we were doing a good job and then we go and give up that sweep for 70 yards – give up contain or whatever. That’s all the defense’s fault.”
OC took over on its own 39 with a chance to drive for the game-tying field goal or the go-ahead touchdown. But after two incompletions and a false start, the Colonels faced a 3rd and 15.
Harding looked for a receiver on the right side on another slant route, but the pass was high and behind his target.
The ball hit Kohn, the Raider cornerback, right in the hands. He dashed 44 yards untouched to the end zone for the backbreaking final score.
Harding finished the game 8-for-15 for 206 yards with three touchdowns and the aforementioned two interceptions.
He threw an 8-yard first-quarter touchdown to Trey Tucker and a 54-yard score right before halftime on a deep ball to Carson Axtell.
Axtell caught two passes for a team-high 109 yards and that touchdown. He also notched six tackles on defense.
The Colonels, who’ve made running the ball an emphasis during fall camp, struggled to do so, tallying just 57 yards on 27 carries.
Jason Henry ran 20 times for 66 yards.
OC must rebound from the disappointing loss and get ready to travel to North Oldham Friday.
OC has never beaten the Mustangs in three tries, losing 31-28 last year at Bell Field.
Shatzer said his team will be ready for that game and will be out to bounce back with a win.
“You’ve just got to reassure them that they’re doing the right things,” he said. “We didn’t beat them down.
“I hurt for them. I know they’re upset. They put so much effort into this season. We want them to be successful and it’s going to take time. I don’t know what we can do to make them that way but we don’t want them to be down on themselves.”
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