By Gary R. Rasberry
FORT RECOVERY -- It was a day of frustration for the Mercer County Cougars semipro football team.
The Cougars had the better of the stats against the Hendricks County Generals and held the ball for over 31 minutes of the 48-minute game.
But Mercer County could only break the plane for a touchdown once in the game, getting stopped on three other chances.
Three big plays for the Generals made the difference as the Cougars lost for the first time this season by a 20-8 margin at Barrenbrugge Park in Fort Recovery. Both teams run their records to 2-1 on the season.
Four times the Cougars were inside the 20-yard line of the Generals, but a nine-yard touchdown pass from Adam Wenning to Kirk Link was the only successful mission in the red zone. The first lost opportunity came as the second quarter began. The Cougars were able to get down to the five-yard line but were stopped three times. On the fourth, Wenning fumbled the snap and was sacked nine yards back.
The second came in the third quarter. This time the Cougars got as close as the third but were looking at third and goal from the five when Wenning fumbled again. This time the Generals' Mike Buerle picked up the ball and dashed away, scoring on a 93-yard fumble return to make the score 14-6 after the Dean Stevens kick.
The final effort came in the fourth quarter as the Cougars were helped by several clutch catches and a late hit call on the Generals. The Cougars were down to fourth-and-8 from the 11 when Wenning tried to find Craig Schwieterman, but the throw was short and Hendricks County took over.
"That's something we definitely have to work on," said fullback/linebacker Jose Faller. "I think we were running the ball very well, but we struggled when we got down to the red zone."
The Generals did not have an easy time on offense as the Cougar defense allowed just nine rushing yards in the game and just 201 total compared to 284 for Mercer County.
The other two scores for the Generals came on big plays. The first coming late in the first half when quarterback Jeremiah Crouch fired a floater to Levi Griggs, who got past the coverage and scampered home for a 90-yard score with 1:09 to go in the half.
The second was the final nail for the Cougars when Crouch found Korey Miller for a 70-yard run when Miller beat the coverage to make it 20-6.
The final score of the game came when the Generals tried to punt from the 26. The snap went over the head of Stevens. It looked like Collin Bechtol would recover in the end zone for the touchdown but the ball slipped away. Backup quarterback James Croomer fell on the ball to give up the safety with 48 seconds left in the game.
"The defense played well the whole game," said Faller. "Three big plays is what they scored on. Other than that, our defense shut them down."
The Cougars dominated the stats in both rushing and passing. Running back Chad Timmerman found holes early in the game, resulting in big gains. The Generals were able to get some control on Timmerman, but not before he finished with 92 yards on 25 carries.
"The line really opened some holes," said the Fort Recovery graduate. "It's just the linebackers keyed up and were getting up there better."
Wenning showed signs of wear in the second half after breaking up the secondary in the first. Wenning passed for 177 yards in the game, but after going 10-for-16 in the first half, Wenning was just 6-of-17 in the second half.
Schwieterman led the team in receiving with four catches for 71 yards. Link finished with 42 yards.
The Cougars return to action this Saturday as they host the South Central Broncos at Barrenbrugge Park. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. Admission to the game is $3