Playing without four starters, the Fort Knox Eagles were already shorthanded for Friday’s game against Todd County Central.

It didn’t help matters that three more players – senior quarterback Maleeq Walters, senior running back Julian Gillens and junior back Jerome Jones – got hurt during the Rebels’ 26-6 victory at McAdams Field.

Even Coach Sam Wilson suffered an injury, getting caught up in a tussle on the sideline between Fort Knox senior running back Kaylon Luster and a Todd County Central defender in the first quarter. Wilson injured his left knee and wore a brace on it for the rest of the game.

“It was rough,” Wilson said. “We started the game shorthanded, missing a couple, and then we came out with all these injuries. But the kids kept fighting.”

Senior lineman Christian Castro, who left the game twice but returned after sitting out one play both times, said the injuries revealed just how much heart and determination the Eagles have.

“We had some injuries throughout the game, but we didn’t let that adversity stop us. Coach Wilson got hurt, and that just pumped us up,” he said.

“They showed me that heart and team means everything. I’ve played with three different teams and, to be quite honest, I’ve never seen more heart on one team than right here at Fort Knox.”

Luster, who along with the Todd County Central player was called for a personal foul when Wilson got hurt, said he let the heat of the moment get to him.

He was carrying the ball toward Fort Knox’s sideline, and the defender appeared to push him after the play ended.

“I just have so much blood pumping through my veins and I’m just focused on winning the game,” Luster said. “Sometimes I just get so hyped that I let little things bother me in my mind and I’m in aggression mode and I don’t really think straight. But after that, I calmed down and got my mind together and I was good.”

Todd County Central used its triple option attack to ground-and-pound the way to its second straight win. The Rebels finished with 262 yards and didn’t attempt a pass.

Senior running back MaQureim Mimms led the way with 127 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while senior running back Isaiah Fingers added 71 yards and a score on three touches.

After a scoreless first quarter, Todd County Central crossed the goal line three times in the second period.

With 11:15 to go before halftime, junior quarterback Asa Young scored on a 2-yard keeper and Fingers ran in the conversion to stake the Rebels to an 8-0 lead.

The Eagles’ drive stalled, but they caught a break when the Rebels muffed a punt and Fort Knox recovered at its own 42-yard line. The Eagles, though, turned the ball over on downs after three more plays.

Three plays later, Fingers broke loose for a 50-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 14-0 with 5:39 left in the half.

On the ensuing drive, the Eagles had two touchdowns wiped out because of holding penalties. Walters broke free from 46 yards and then 35, but both were called back.

“We had a lot of good drives,” Wilson said. “We had two touchdowns that were called back, and we missed a wide-open pass that might have been a touchdown.

“Sure, it’s frustrating. It’s always frustrating when you have penalties like that. But I won’t harp on it, because the guys tried. They tried. And as long as they continue to do that, good things are going to happen.”

Fort Knox eventually turned the ball over on downs, and Todd County Central wasted little time tacking on to its lead.

With 1:39 left in the half, Mimms weaved his way through the defense for a 65-yard touchdown to make it 20-0.

“We just needed to keep our heads up,” Luster said of the deficit. “Not everything is going to go perfect in a game, but what matters is how you respond to what happens within the game. (The coaches) just want us to put our hearts out there and play 100 percent all the time and just don’t give up.”

Todd County Central scored its final touchdown in the fourth quarter, a 12-yard keeper by Young.

The Eagles got on the board with 58 seconds left, putting together a 10-play, 65-yard drive. On fourth-and-7 from the 22, Luster escaped pressure in the backfield and got some big blocks on his way to the end zone.

“The whole time we had confidence,” Castro said. “If you were watching from the sidelines last game, we were putting our heads down and we weren’t communicating when we realized the game was out of reach. But this game, we never let that bother us because we knew that it doesn’t matter what it says on the scoreboard.”

Injuries are the biggest concern for Fort Knox. Walters left the game just before halftime with an apparent ankle injury. He jogged on the sideline coming out of the break, but Wilson said he wasn’t going to play no matter what.

“No, not tonight,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that to him. Even if he asked, he wasn’t going back in tonight. We’ve got a lot of football to play.”

UP NEXT: Fort Knox plays at Eminence at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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