PINEVILLE — The Pineville Mountain Lions continued their strong play in the second half of the season Friday night as they rolled to a 42-12 win over Leslie County on Senior Night.
The win evens the Lions’ record at 5-5 and gives the team a lot of momentum heading into next Friday’s playoff game at Campbellsville.
“We’ve been playing well the last five weeks, even though we didn’t always get a win to show for it,” said Pineville coach Bart Elam. “I can’t say enough about how our seniors have stuck with it. After Lynn Camp beat us early in the season, a lot of guys would have just called it in. Instead week-by-week we’ve gotten better to the point that now we’re pretty good football team. We go into every week expecting to win no matter who we’re playing and that’s the important thing.”
Friday Pineville did most of their damage on the ground as Tanner Mike, Connor Ford and Andrew Douglas chewed up lots of yardage behind a strong effort for the offensive line.
Ford returned the opening kick 24 yards into Leslie territory. Though that drive stalled out and the Lions withstood a 12-play march by the Eagles led by a series of short passes from Ethan Horton to Eric Hubbard and Chuckie Sandlin. Leslie advanced from their own 12 to the Lion 30 but Pineville forced an incompletion, threw Sandlin for a loss of two and, after a false start penalty, forced another incompletion.
A short punt gave the Lions the ball at their own 15 and they drove 85 yards on ten plays. Ford started it with a 10-yard run and finished it with a 21-yard scamper after breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage. In between Jamie Roan hit Byron Asher for a 15-yard gain and Mike picked up 22 yards on three carries. The conversion try was no good so the Lion lead was 6-0 with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Pineville defense forced another punt and the Lions went 69 yards on nine plays. Roan opened the drive by hitting Douglas out of the backfield for nine yards and a 15-yard facemask penalty moved the ball to the Eagle 44. From there Ford ran it three times for 20 yards, Mike had an 8-yard run, Jared Philpot caught a pass for seven yards and Douglas gained nine yards on three carries, including a one-yard TD for a 12-0 lead.
“We won this game up front and with our defense,” said Elam. “Even though we were tight early on, we did a great job against a pretty dynamic offense that’s been hard for a lot of teams to stop.”
Roan intercepted a deep ball over the middle to end the next Leslie drive and Pineville took over at their own 42. Following an illegal block penalty that set the Lions back, Roan went 14 yards on a draw play and Mike got loose for a 37-yard gain on a sweep right for a first down at the Eagle 19. Two runs from Douglas and one from Ford picked up a first down at the eight, but a personal foul after the play pushed the Lions back out to the 24. Mike ran it once for 15 yards and again for a 9-yard touchdown and an 18-0 lead.
“Mike ran like crazy, Ford and Dougie did a good job of finding room inside. When you’re able to pick up four or five yards on those dive plays it just opens everything else up,” Elam said.
Leslie answered as Horton hooked up with big tight end Blake Asher for a 31-yard gain all the way down to Pineville’s 14. Hubbard ran for 11 yards and then a 3-yard touchdown. Philpot intercepted Horton’s pass on the conversion attempt and the Lions led 18-6 with 2:35 remaining in the half.
Mike returned the kick off 70 yards all the way to the Leslie seven, but Pineville couldn’t capitalize and turned the ball over on downs at the two.
It was still 18-6 at the half and the Pineville defense made a pair of stands on their side of the field early in the third quarter to keep the score that way. Another touchdown from Ford pushed the lead out to 26-6 after three quarters and the Lions put the game away when Asher hauled in a touchdown pass from Roan on a 4th and long play early in the fourth.
Pineville went on to the 42-12 win.
“I challenge our offensive line at halftime to put the game on their backs. Once we got our bearings in the third quarter we scored every time we had ball from there,” Elam said. “The line played a dandy game tonight. We didn’t have any turnovers and that was really big.
“I’m excited to get a convincing win over a quality opponent. People don’t realize that we’ve got a good team ourselves. We feel like we can play with anybody.”
The Lions (5-5) will visit Campbellsville next week for a first round playoff game while Leslie County (5-5) hosts Lexington Christian in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
Campbellsville is 4-6, but are riding a three-game winning streak.
“They’ve got a solid football team,” Elam said of those Eagles. “Anytime you’re a three seed going to play a two seed, you know you’re playing a good team. It’s a long, long trip over there but we just want to keep this momentum going. Our kids are going in feeling confident.”