Thomas’ 5-TD night sends Bobcats to win over Knox

Published 8:50 am Tuesday, October 10, 2023

By Hayden Canady

Contributing writer

It was a game within a game Friday on Log Mountain as two of the state’s top offensive players squared off. Bell County’s Daniel Thomas ran for 251 yards on 22 carries while Knox Central’s Steve Partin gained 139 yards on 31 carries, but Thomas put up 36 points on five touchdowns and three two-point conversions in the Bobcats’ 52-28 victory.

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Bell County got on the board first in the APEX Physical Therapy Bowl after making Knox Central punt the ball on its first possession. Thomas didn’t get the first score of the game. Those honors went to Kaleb Miller when he took the Blake Burnett screen pass 39 yards. The two-point conversion attempt failed.

Partin answered on the next drive. Knox Central’s running back was able to cap off an impressive drive with a 2-yard run. He followed it up with a two-point conversion run as Knox led 8-6 with 10:15 to play in the second quarter.

Bell scored on the next drive, but Thomas would still have to wait to get his big night started as Burnett ran it in from 6 yards away and then added the two-pointer himself giving Bell County a 14-8 lead with 7:22 to play in the half.

Knox Central mishandled the kickoff and Bell’s Hagen Neal recovered it on the Knox Central 30. The mistake proved costly because Thomas heated up and the Bobcats never looked back.  Thomas ran twice for 30 yards on the drive giving the Bobcats a 20-8 lead after the conversion failed.

Knox Central and Partin didn’t stop fighting after the shift in momentum.  They went on a 17-play drive and Partin dove into the end zone to complete a 6-yard touchdown. The conversion failed and the teams went into the locker rooms with Bell leading 20-14.

Bell County picked up where it left off when the Cats took only two plays to score on the opening drive of second half. Burnett had a 29-yard run on the first play and Thomas matched that on his second touchdown run of 29 yards run to complete the quick drive. Thomas added the two-pointer and Bell led 28-14.

Knox took the ball and fought back to cut the Bell lead to eight after Partin threw a halfback pass to Landen Daughtry to cover 6 yards for the score. Their conversion attempt failed and with 4:31 left in the third it was Bell on top at 28-20

Thomas and his offensive line then went on a tear as he scored two more rushing touchdowns in the third quarter and also added two conversions in that frame to make the score 44-20 at the end of the third.  The touchdowns covered 5 and 12 yards, respectively.

Both teams got on the board one time each in the fourth quarter. For Knox, it was Nathan Dunn on the receiving end of a 5-yard pass from Mason Griffin.  Gavin Mircle added the conversion. For Bell, the final score came on Thomas’ fifth score of the night.  He scored from 6 yards out and Burnett connected with Hayden Damron for the two-pointer.

For Bell County, the only player to run the ball besides Thomas was Blake Burnett. He rushed for 83 yards on five attempts. He also passed for 48 yards on two completions out of his three attempts. Miller’s TD accounted for most of those yards and the remaining nine came on a reception by Elijah Hampton.

Burnett had two interceptions to lead the defense. Blake Evans led in tackles with 19 tackles, followed by Josh Owens with 14 and Hayden Damron with 10.

Partin got help from his quarterback, Griffin, who rushed for 23 yards on nine carries. Jacob Smith, Zach Carrol and Braydon Sizemore all had two carries each gaining zero, six and nine yards, respectively.   Griffin passed for 115 yards going 17-25.

Bell County (7-1, 2-1 in district play) is open this week.  Knox Central (4-4, 1-1 in district play) will host Rockcastle County.

Bell County receiver Elijah Hampton picked up yardage after a catch in Friday’s 52-28 win over Knox Central. Photo by Scott Warren