Thomas’ 5-TDs propel Bobcats past Whitley

Published 5:47 pm Monday, September 18, 2023

By Hayden Canady

Contributing writer

WILLIAMSBURG — There has been a lot of talk lately about the improvement of the Whitley County Colonels under the leadership of new head coach Matt Rymer. Bell County witnessed that improvement first hand Friday night as the Bobcats had a battle on their hands before winning a 48-42 shootout.

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Mr. Football candidate Daniel Thomas put on a show once again with 357 yards on 30 carries and five touchdowns.

Down 28-26 with 10:55 left the Bobcats (5-0) went for it on fourth and long deep in their own territory. Thomas’ number was called on a sweep to the left side and he delivered a huge first down run. That set up the go-ahead score later in the drive with nine minutes left in the third as Thomas ran in from 30 yards out. Blake Burnett threw his first of two two-point conversion passes to Hayden Damron to give the Bobcats the lead at 34-28.

Thomas wasn’t the only star running back on the field Friday night. Whitley County had one of its own. Dee Parker rushed for over 150 yards and contributed three touchdowns for the Colonels. He had several long runs and key plays that helped to keep his team in the game. He announced himself as a factor in the game when he got Whitley on the board at the 2:37. mark of the first quarter.

On the previous drive, Bell County sophomore, Hunter Everage dove into the end zone after a 5-yard run on a quick pitch. That score gave Bell a 6-0 lead. Parker’s first score and a Whitley County extra point made it 7-6.

Both teams were hard to stop from that point on with Bell having a short punt and Whitley having a fumble being the only miscues for both teams.

Bell County racked up 470 rushing yards and 33 passing yards. To add to Thomas’ huge totals, Blake Evans had 27 yards on four rushes. Burnett contributed 16 yards on seven carries while. Everage had seven yards on two carries. Burnett threw one pass to Damron for 24 yards and to Elijah Hampton for nine yards. Whitley accounted for over 400 total yards of offense with 370 rushing and 54 passing.

Burnett helped Bell County take the lead back after the Whitley fumble. His 1-yard run made the score 12-7. Bell again failed on the two-point play.

Parker helped get Whitley right back into scoring position. He capitalized on the opportunity with his 7-yard run with 4:25 to go in the half. Another Whitley County extra point made the score 14-12.

Bell answered in quick fashion when Thomas scored his first touchdown of the evening on a 29-yard romp with 1:33 left half to put Bell ahead 18-14. Bell missed on another two-point attempt.

Whitley wasn’t content to go in at the half with that being the score. Parker ripped the Bell County defense for a 59-yard touchdown. It was his third of the game and it gave Whitley the halftime lead. The Colonels kicked their third extra point and went into the locker room with a three-point advantage.

The Colonels received the second half kickoff and picked up right where they left off. This time quarterback Tye Hamblin was the Colonel to run it in on a crucial fourth-and-one situation on the goal line. They had a 28-18 lead after successfully kicking another extra point.

Thomas was able to continue his outstanding night by scoring from 10 yards out and also adding the two-pointer on the very next drive. He was beginning to pile up the yardage and make huge play after huge play. With the score now 28-26, Bell County kicked off in desperate need of a stop.

Bell County got the stop they needed but it was neither quick nor easy. Whitley drove down and had goal to go once again. However, the Colonels had a devastating holding penalty that pushed them back and put them in a passing situation. Hamblin’s first pass of the night fell into the arms of Bell County’s Burnett. After the turnover, the Daniel Thomas show continued.

After making the huge conversion on the sweep on fourth and long, he continued to dominate as he made the go ahead score.

Following that score, Whitley mishandled the kickoff and Bell recovered deep in Whitley territory. Thomas scored his fourth touchdown of the night to cap off the short drive. The score covered six yards on the ground. After the touchdown and a second two-point conversion pass from Burnett to Damron, the score was 42-28.

Bell County stretched their lead to 48-28 following Burnett’s second interception of the night. Thomas made Whitley pay for the turnover by rushing in from 3 yards this time. The two-point play failed.

Whitley County did not quit despite the seemingly insurmountable Bobcat lead. The Colonels got the ball and drove the field to allow Hunter Smith to score on a 10yard run. Trace Miller added his fifth extra point of the night to make the score 48-35.