Despite being held to 59 total yards, Capital was somehow hanging around with Kentucky power Johnson Central in the fourth quarter Friday night, trailing just 21-13. Then the Golden Eagles put the hammer down.
Johnson Central drove 84 yards on 13 running plays to score the game’s final touchdown, whittling six minutes and 34 seconds off the clock to salt away a 28-13 revenge victory over the debuting Cougars at University of Charleston Stadium.
Capital took a 28-21 win in Paintsville, Kentucky, last season, one of just eight losses for the Golden Eagles over the past five seasons.
Senior quarterback Ryley Preece, a four-year starter who played on the 2016 Kentucky 4A championship team, ran 14 and 2 yards for a pair of Johnson Central touchdowns and also threw for a pair of scores.
Preece said he and the Golden Eagles (2-0) felt like they owed one to Capital.
“I think last year we came out and got up 21-7 at the half, just like this game,’’ Preece said, “and we gave last year’s game away. This year we did a better job and came out and executed in the second half.’’
Preece said the final drive, in which JC marched nearly the length of the field to score with 3:12 remaining, was a trademark of the team.
“That’s just Johnson Central football,’’ he said. “That’s what we do. Our offense is made to chew up the clock like that, and we ended up wearing them down as the game went on. They just didn’t want it any more.’’
Capital never got anything going on the ground, finishing with minus-31 yards on 19 carries. That included six sacks of sophomore quarterback Evan Landers and a bad snap over Landers’ head that resulted in a loss of 24 yards. They didn’t get a single first down in the second half. Shawn James scored on an 11-yard run in the first half.
Still, the Cougars found themselves down just 21-13 with less than 10 minutes remaining after senior Chance Knox scooted 85 yards for a touchdown on a punt return.
However, by the time they got the ball back, it was all but over. Johnson Central masterfully rolled down the field with a running game than ended with 251 yards on 49 carries.
“They’re a great team,’’ said Capital coach Jon Carpenter. “They’ll play in a championship game again. They’re a machine, and a tough one to get ready for in Week 1.
“But we’re inches away from being really good, and that comes down to coaching. I know it’s hard, you want to be in shape and you want to execute plays, and we didn’t get enough of either one.’’
Carpenter felt like his team’s lack of preparation was costly. Full-contact drills were limited this month due to the ongoing improvements and repairs being done at UC Stadium.
“It’s kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’’ Carpenter said. “You look on one side and you see our kids gut it out like that, and that’s what we’ve got, a good football team. We’ve got tough kids. But know I didn’t have them prepared. One of the worst weeks of my life as a coach.’’
The Golden Eagles led 21-7 at halftime as Preece threw for two touchdowns and ran 14 yards for another score.
Johnson Central moved 80 yards on seven plays on its first possession — all runs — to go up 7-0. Preece only attempted two passes in the first half, but both resulted in touchdowns. He found Seth Dalton wide open down the middle of the field for a 76-yard score in the opening period and then, with 27 seconds until halftime, hit Keygen Pelfrey with a 15-yarder for a TD.
The Preece-to-Pelfrey touchdown came after Dillon Preston blocked a Capital punt, allowing the Eagles to take over at the Cougars 42. Preston later partially blocked a Cougars extra point attempt.
Capital’s lone score in the first half was an 11-yard run by sophomore Shawn James. That play was set up by a 17-yard punt return by Knox to the JC 35.
The Cougars managed only 15 yards on 11 rushing plays in the first half. Landers was sacked three times for minus-21 yards before the break. He finished 8 of 20 for 90 yards, with four completions to K.J. Taylor for 64 yards.
Devin Johnson led JC with 88 yards on 14 carries. Preece hit on 3 of 4 passes for 113 yards.
The interstate matchup paired programs that have known nothing but success in recent seasons.
Johnson Central is 51-8 over the previous four years with four straight trips to the Kentucky 4A finals, winning in 2016. Capital has gone 63-16 during the last six seasons with a Class AAA title in 2014, a runner-up finish in 2015 and six straight playoff semifinal appearances.
Capital hosts South Charleston next Friday. In two weeks, Johnson Central visits SC.