Anderson bows to Kings in ECC matchup

KINGS MILLS – Friday’s contest between Eastern Cincinnati Conference foes Anderson and Kings wasn’t the prettiest at times, but it was an intriguing, high-octane affair nonetheless.

In a duel between two junior quarterbacks who combined for nearly 800 yards – it was Kings who managed to surge ahead at the end, escaping with a 35-28 victory over the visiting Raptors at Kings Stadium on Friday night.

For Kings, in particular, they endured a less than ideal start to the contest.

A couple of early scores – the first on a 2-yard rushing score by Anderson senior Evan Upchurch, the other a 70-plus yard pick-six by senior defensive back Jack Ledford – put the Raptors in the driver’s seat with an early 14-0 first-quarter lead.

Evan Upchurch (6) makes a first-down catch for Anderson as Aidan Guckenberger looks to defend for Kings, Sept. 10, 2021.

Despite the early deficit, Kings High School Football Coach Alex Garvin stayed confident in his team’s ability and preparation, citing they knew they’d be in for a fight against this gritty group of Raptors.

“Anderson’s such a tough team,” Garvin said. “Coach [Evan] Dreyer does such a great job with them, we knew all week it was going to be a battle.”

The Knights gained a much-needed momentum boost just seconds into the second quarter when junior Will Kocher connected with senior Andy Bauman for a 30-yard score. Just as it felt the hosting Kings were finding their rhythm, however, Anderson answered back.

Kings quarterback Will Kocher powers his way to a first down, Sept. 10, 2021.

Raptors junior quarterback Griffin Scalf connected with junior wideout Santos Alvarez for a 69-yard bomb, setting the score to a 21-7 advantage for the visiting Raptors.

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To Kocher’s credit, he and the hosting Knights never waivered in their approach but continued to make adjustments and convert some crucial plays. Kocher tossed a pair of touchdown passes, one a key 25-yard score on a fourth down to junior Michael Mussari, the other a 34-yard strike to junior Jake Cameron.

Michael Musari (2) celebrates with Jake Cameron (5) of Kings after a touchdown, Sept. 10, 2021.

Despite a high-scoring first 18 minutes, both teams became turnover-riddled and missed some tremendous opportunities as a result of the 9 (!!) combined turnovers between the two schools – five attributed to Anderson, whereas the Knights accounted for four.

Exiting intermission even at 21-21, it felt as if the Knights began to key in on much of the Raptor gameplan. The Knights’ secondary and linebacker core became noticeably more aggressive in pursuit of Anderson’s schemed quick hitters and screens.

“We tried to mix it up a bit with our fronts, played a lot more man and just tried to get home. But man, they just kept hitting those little dinks and dunks. They’ve got a lot of good players, hats off to them too.”

Michael Mussari (2) hauls in a touchdown pass for Kings as Anderson's, Brandon Pitts defends, Sept. 10, 2021.

Kocher – who tossed for 434 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions – threaded a beautifully placed ball to Mussari mid-way through the third quarter, giving the Knights a 28-21 lead and 21 unanswered points.

Following a pair of takeaways, sophomore tailback Brodey Berg made his presence felt by carrying a pair of Knight tacklers into the endzone for the game-tying score on a crucial fourth-down conversion at the goal line. Now knotted at 28-28 even with just over eight minutes remaining, the two teams were locked in for an entertaining finish.

Just two plays later, however, Kocher struck back. The junior quarterback once again connected with Cameron, this time on a 63-yard strike – one which would prove to be the game-winning score – and a deflating score for the visiting Raptors.

Anderson quarterback Griffin Scalf launches a pass for a first down, Sept. 10, 2021.

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Anderson’s ensuing drive was derailed by a slew of penalties, all but putting the finishing touches on the contest.

Even in defeat, Anderson’s Scalf more than impressed in the quarterback duel. The junior quarterback tossed for 346 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions – though the vast majority of the blemishes came on batted balls in the air. Senior wideout Joey Faulkner was a frequent safety blanket for Scalf on the night, hauling in 16 receptions for 136 yards.

Mussari and Cameron each finished with more than 150 receiving yards for Kings in the victory, with the receiver tandem combining for four touchdowns.

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For Kings, this was just an overall solid victory, and one which marks the second consecutive season a Knights group has begun the season 4-0. More importantly, they stand alone at the top of the ECC standings following tonight’s results.

“We can celebrate tonight but there’s really no off week in the ECC,” Garvin said. “We have a lot of respect for Walnut Hills too. Then West Clermont coming up and Loveland. We just have to get back to work tomorrow and be ready to fight on Monday.”

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