NICHOLASVILLE — Mercer County and West Jessamine each came into Friday’s matchup desperate for their first win of the season, but it was the Titans who rose to the occasion.
Mercer scored 22 points in less than eight minutes in the third quarter and went on to defeat West Jessamine 45-27 for its first win under coach Paul Rains.
“It’s huge (to get this first win),” Rains said. “Even though you have a new staff in and the staff has had success everywhere else they’ve been ... it was good to see us come out and play fairly mistake-free football and be able to come out with a win.”
Isaiah Burrus scored on a 54-yard run on the first play of the second half and J.T. Long threw two of his three touchdown passes in a period in which the Titans scored more points than their combined total in their first two games.
Mercer (1-2) held a slim 20-14 lead over West Jessamine (0-4) at halftime, but that margin would be doubled on the first play of the second half as Burrus took an end-around 54 yards for a touchdown.
“We drew up a nice play, caught West in a formation it’s not used to, and and that really showed,” Rains said. “I think (the big play) put a big wet blanket on their enthusiasm and set the tempo for the second half.”
The Titans were driving to score again when their drive stalled at the West Jessamine 2-yard line and they turned the ball over on downs. Buried at its own 2, West Jessamine could not get past the Mercer defense, which snuffed up Romando Tatum and dragged him down in the end zone for a safety that made up for two missed extra points earlier in the game and gave Mercer a 28-14 advantage.
“All night I was proud of our defense. The field position, the turnovers we created, the safety, you can’t beat that,” Rains said.
Following the free kick, Burrus found his way to the end zone again, this time on a 42-yard reception from Long. The pass wasn’t intented for Burrus, but for another receiver about 10 yards upfield. Two West Jessamine defenders and a Mercer receiver tipped the ball, which eventually fell into the waiting arms of Burrus.
The Colts’ offense continued to struggle to move the ball in the third quarter, as on their first play following the kickoff, quarterback Ryan Horne fumbled and Mercer recovered the ball at the West Jessamine 17.
Mercer was in the end zone again after a five-play drive when Long hit Tyler Devine with a 1-yard touchdown strike.
West Jessamine’s Devin Taylor did his best to keep the game from getting out of control. He scored on a 35-yard run and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Horne to pull the Colts to within two possessions at 42-27.
Mercer had two drives in the in the fourth quarter ended by turnovers when Long was picked off by Jonah Gentry, and Travis Hooper fumbled into the end zone before Rett Pigman tacked on a late 24-yard field goal.
The Titans took an early lead thanks to their defense. On West Jessamine’s second possession, Horne was blindsided by Tyler Dunn and dropped the ball, and Tre Harris scooped it up at and returned it 30 yards for a score.
Horne scored on a 4-yard run on the Colts’ next possession, giving them a 7-6 advantage, and they took a 14-6 lead at the start of the second quarter on a 29-yard run by Romando Tatum.
Long found Devine for a 20-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter and James Johnson ran for a touchdown to give Mercer a 20-14 lead with 2:42 remaining in the first half.
“That was huge momentum-wise, and we’ve been needing a couple breaks here or there (this season),” Rains said. “For us to go into half with some momentum and have a little bit of confidence (was huge).”
Long went 13 for 26 for 215 yards, Burrus had 164 combined rushing and receiving yards and Johnson rushed 20 times for 64 yards for Mercer.
Mercer County 6 14 22 3 — 45
West Jessamine 7 7 6 7 — 27
Mercer — Tre Harris 30 fumble recovery (kick blocked), 6:50.
West Jessamine — Ryan Horne 4 run (Mark Comley kick), 4:02.
West Jessamine — Romando Tatum 29 run (Comley kick), 11:13.
Mercer — Tyler Devine 20 pass from J.T. Long (Rett Pigman kick), 6:31.
Mercer — James Johnson 1 run (Pigman kick), 2:42.
Mercer — Isaiah Burrus 54 run (kick failed), 11:42.
Mercer — Safety, 6:44.
Mercer — Burrus 42 pass from Long (Pigman kick), 6:33.
Mercer — Devine 1 pass from Long (Pigman kick), 4:19.
West Jessamine — Devin Taylor 35 run (kick failed), 1:21.
West Jessamine — Taylor 20 pass from Horne (Comley kick), 7:29.
Mercer —¿FG¿Pigman 24, 1:07.
First downs 11 8
Rushes-yards 38-159 40-221
Passing 215 42
Total Net Yards 374 263
Comp-Att-Int 13-26-2 6-15-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-30 4-30
RUSHING—Mercer, Isaiah Burrus 3-80, James Johnson 20-64, Travis Hooper 7-18, J.T. Long 8-minus 3. West Jessamine, Romando Tatum 21-135, Devin Taylor 5-47, Ryan Horne 13-37, Hunter Knuckles 1-2.
PASSING—Mercer, Long 13-26-2-215. West Jessamine, Horne 6-15-0-42.
RECEIVING—Mercer, Burrus 6-84, Russell Sims 3-78, Aaron Miller 2-22, Tyler Devine 2-21. West Jessamine, Taylor 3-40, Tatum 2-7, Devin Olique 1-minus 5.