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Defense stands tall in Mercer County’s epic win over Anderson County

Dismuke’s late interception, Drakeford’s three takeaways seals big win for Mercer County

Mercer County senior Isaiah Dismuke celebrates with the turnover belt after sealing the victory with a late interception against Anderson County on Friday, Sept. 6. (photo by Arpan Dixit)

Arpan Dixit
Herald Staff      

The Mercer County Titans football team achieved something in the David Buchanan era that they haven’t achieved before, and that’s starting the season off with three straight wins, their best start since 2013. They won a 15-13 defensive battle against the Anderson County Bearcats (2-1) on Friday, Sept. 6.

The Titans handed the Bearcats their first regular season loss since Oct. 20, 2017.

“We haven’t been 3-0 very much. This is the first time in my five years here that we’ve started the season off with three victories,” said Buchanan. “I’m really sort of speechless, but I will say this, we really believe we’ve got a lot of good football players. We believe that’s the formula for us to win. We play all our good players and I think tonight was one of those nights. I think they (Anderson) have some really good players, I just think we have more.”

Buchanan hopes this victory sparks momentum for the rest of the season.

“We’re going to try to continue this the best we can and repeat our performance,” he said. “We’re going to try to use the really good players that we’ve got and try to find a way to win. That’s what our guys did tonight.”

Mercer County had lost nine of the last 10 matchups with the Bearcats since the annual meeting of the two teams resumed in 2009.

This was the second win in four years over the Bearcats.

Buchanan said hopefully this sparks a rivalry from the two schools, separated by only 18 miles.

“We have won two of the last four, so maybe we can turn it into a rivalry,” he said. “We need to win to say it’s a rivalry, and thank goodness we found a way to win.”

The game-saving interception was made by senior lineman Isaiah Dismuke after the Bearcats had scored with just over two minutes to play in the game, with the score at 15-13 in favor of Mercer County.

Prior to that drive that ended with an interception by Dismuke, the Bearcats recovered an onside kick at the Mercer 22-yard line. Anderson County got to the 7-yard line before a holding penalty brought them back to the 18.

On third-and-goal, Mercer County senior defensive end Darrian Baker bulldozed his way past the line to put pressure on Anderson quarterback Jagger Gillis, who threw a ball that swirled in the air for what seemed like forever, right into Dismuke’s hands.

If the Gillis name sounds familiar, it should. Jagger is the younger brother of former Mercer County quarterback, Gunnar Gillis.

Gillis threw for 234 yards, but had three costly interceptions.

Senior quarterback and defensive back Kaelin Drakeford had himself a game on the defensive side of the ball.

Drakeford had two interceptions, both inside the 5-yard line that stopped two Anderson scores. His third takeaway of the day came at a crucial time.

With just over seven minutes to play, senior Dillon Warren speared Anderson’s Sam Harrod, which caused a fumble. Drakeford recovered the ball and ran it back to the Anderson 30 for a 40-yard return. A personal foul on Anderson spotted the ball at the 15 with just under seven minutes to play in the game. The Bearcats didn’t help themselves either. They had 18 penalties for 160 yards on the night, and the Titans took full advantage of the Bearcat mistakes.

That drive was capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by sophomore Brayden Dunn. He ran the ball for 44 yards on six carries for the night. Dunn also had a huge play on defense. After Gillis found Harrod for a 15-yard touchdown with 2:32 left to play, Dunn made a huge stop to prevent the two-point conversion, maintaining the Titans 15-13 lead.

Senior Malachi Yulee, Mercer County’s leading rusher on the season, finished the game with 102 rushing yards on 16 carries, scoring the Titans first touchdown on a 20-yard scamper in the first quarter after Anderson County scored on an 82-yard punt return by Kynan Russell just minutes into the game.

The Titans’ longest play of the game came on a pass from Drakeford to senior Jamisen Lewis for 34 yards.

Mercer County’s offensive attack has mainly been on the ground this season. Out of their 185 total offensive yards, 146 of them came on the ground.

Despite getting out-gained 311-185 in total yardage, the Titans found a way to win.


Passing – Drakeford (4-for-15, 39 yards, 1 INT).Rushing – Yulee (15 carries, 102 yards, 1 TD); Dunn (6 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD); Owens (3 carries, 7 yards); Warren (1 carry, 3 yards); Bryson Yeast (2 carries, 1 yard).

Receiving – Lewis (2 catches, 34 yards); Warren (2 catches, 5 yards).

Defense – Dunn (15 tackles, 1 sack); Yeast (10 tackles); Drakeford (10 tackles, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery); Warren (10 tackles, 1 forced fumble); Browning (6 tackles); Walton (6 tackles); Horn (5 tackles); Macias (4 tackles); Sheperson (3 tackles); Sanford (3 tackles); Sewell (3 tackles); Lukitsch (2 tackles); Yulee (2 tackles); Yulee (2 tackles); Davis (2 tackles); R. Peavler (1 tackle); Dismuke (1 tackle, 1 INT).


Mercer County senior Dillon Warren (left) makes a big hit on Anderson County’s Sam Harrod (3) that caused a fumble, which senior Kaelin Drakeford (14) eventually recovered, which led to the Titans’ second score of the game in their win over Anderson County on Friday, Sept. 6.

Mercer County senior lineman Noah Sewell (79) anticipates the next play against Anderson County on Friday, Sept. 6.

Mercer County junior Noah Davis shows off his strong leg, punting the ball deep in Bearcat territory against Anderson County on Friday, Sept. 6.

Mercer County senior Dillon Warren (left) makes a big hit on Anderson County’s Sam Harrod (3) that caused a fumble, which senior Kaelin Drakeford (14) eventually recovered, which led to the Titans’ second score of the game in their win over Anderson County on Friday, Sept. 6.

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