Mercer County at Knox Central
Where: Panther Stadium
Date: Friday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Team Records: Titans 6-4, Panthers 9-1
The inside scoop: Knox Central coach Scottie Russell was quick to the point when asked about his team’s Class 4A first round match-up with Mercer County — “I tell you what, they’re one of the better three seeds in the entire state. It’s not going to be an easy game for us.”
The Titans will enter today’s contest against the Panthers (9-1) with a 6-4 record while winning four of their last five games, including last week’s 54-14 thumping of Class 6A’s Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“They are good, very good,” Russell said. “We know we’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ll be ready. Our kids are excited for the playoffs to begin.”
After losing to Russell County two weeks ago, Knox Central picked up some much-needed confidence and momentum this past week during the Panthers’ come from behind win against Class 6A’s Madison Central.
Russell’s squad trailed 36-14 in the fourth quarter before rallying to win in overtime, 44-36.
“We really needed that win,” Russell admitted. “It gave us some momentum and confidence and we need both of those going into the playoffs. We didn’t really play well for three quarters, but we realized what we could do and probably played the best quarter of football we have this season. Now we’ve got to put together four good quarters against Mercer County.”
The Titans’ resume during the regular season is a good one. They’ve got wins over Allen County (33-20), West Jessamine (31-28), Nelson County (48-28), Marion County (55-0), Taylor County (72-31) and Dunbar.
But they do have one loss that will catch Knox Central’s fans’ eyes — a 19-13 road loss to Madison Central on Aug. 31, the same team the Panthers beat last week by eight points.
“They’ve got some good wins and they’ve played some very good teams,” Russell said.
Mercer County also has losses against Anderson County (48-7), Lexington Catholic (34-16) and Boyle County (59-19).
The Titans are led by a three-headed quarterback attack, as Drew Davis leads the way with 764 passing yards and five touchdowns. Austin Sparrow has thrown for 525 yards and three touchdowns and Darion Lewis has completed 10-of-27 pass attempts for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
“They like to mix things up throwing the ball,” Russell said. “They also have some players that are very explosive.”
James Johnson is Mercer County’s main threat running the ball. He leads the Titans with 1,462 yards on the ground and 27 touchdowns. Lewis has run for 370 yards while Kobe Ford has 193 rushing yards.
“They are going to be tough to stop,” Russell admitted. “They have put up some big numbers and they’ve got a pretty scrappy defense.”
Russell said it’s no secret what his team must do to advance to the second round of the playoffs — “We’ve got to ground and pound” — and the Panthers have the weapons to do just that.
Knox Central is led by Jeffrey Canady’s 1,683 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns while Jonathan Gist has 1,053 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns.
Quarterback Devon Evans has completed 70-of-120 pass attempts for 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns while Matthew Barger leads the way at the receiver position with 42 receptions, 695 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.
“We are at home and that’s big and for us to win, we’ve got to establish ball-control on offense,” Russell said. “The kids are ready to play and we’ve got to ground and pound. Turnovers could also play a big role in this game, too. We’ve got to continue to do what has won us games this season.”
Fear "Les" Prediction: Knox Central 35, Mercer County 27
Jenkins at Williamsburg
Where: Rose-Stanfield Stadium
Date: Friday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Team Records: Cavs 4-6, Jackets 9-1
The inside scoop: The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets will be facing a familiar foe today during first round action of the Class A playoffs.
For the second year in a row, Jenkins will be paying a visit to Rose-Stanfill Stadium and Williamsburg is hoping to get the same result it got in 2011 — a win.
The Yellow Jackets (9-1) cruised to an easy 40-0 win over the Cavaliers last season, which included seeing the Yellow Jackets total 290 passing yards while then-freshman Skyler Griffith was on the receiving end of six receptions, 179 yards receiving and two scores.
Each team will enter Friday’s game going in opposite directions with the Yellow Jackets hoping to extend their five-game win streak while Jenkins looking to snap a five-game losing skid.
“They were on fire the beginning of the season, but since then they’ve had a few kids go down and their season changed a bit,” Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron said. “They play very hard, but now they are down to around 19 players.”
The Cavaliers opened the season in grand fashion, winning four of their first five games by defeating Phelps (43-6), Allen Central (38-16), Paintsville (28-22) and Jackson County (21-0). But since their win against the Generals on Sept. 21, things have gone downhill for Eric Ratliff’s squad.
They’ve been shut out twice during their five-game skid while only averaging 10 points a game on offense during the stretch. Defensively, Jenkins has struggled as well, allowing 46 points per game during the five-game skid.
“We’re not going to overlook them,” Herron said. “They do a lot of good things and our guys know this is a new season. You lose and you go home and we don’t want to be cleaning our lockers out Monday.
“Nothing is a lock once post-season play begins,” he added. “We know that anything can happen in the playoffs.”
Herron said one of the keys of the game is trying to jump out on Jenkins early and the Yellow Jackets have the weapons to do just that.
Williamsburg is led by quarterback Dalton Sizemore, who has completed 162-of-269 pass attempts for 2,435 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also leads the team with 462 rushing yards and five touchdowns while teammate Jefferson Patrick isn’t far behind with 381 yards on the ground and five scores.
Sizemore’s main passing targets are Corey Shelton and Griffith. Shelton has 53 pass receptions for 939 yards and 18 touchdowns while Griffith has 47 receptions for 900 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“We’ve got to take what they give us,” Herron said. “We know they’re going to blitz us and we’re going to be able to handle what they throw at us. They’re going to show us different sets and we can’t get confused.”
Fear "Les" Prediction: Williamsburg 49, Jenkins 0
Corbin at LaRue Co.
Where: LaRue County High School
Date: Friday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Team Records: Hawks 5-5, Hounds 5-5
The inside scoop: The high school football playoffs start today and the Corbin Redhounds (5-5) may as well be looking in the mirror as they hit the road to face off against LaRue County (5-5).
The two teams share identical records, both reaching the .500 mark after winning their respective regular season finales last week. The Hawks came away with a 49-7 win over Washington County, while Corbin picked up a 42-13 victory over Harlan.
“We both try to focus on the run and I think we've thrown the football more than they have this season, believe it or not,” Jewell said. “They've only thrown the football around 50 times this year and we've thrown it around 70.
“They do a good job running and they're good at doing some misdirection stuff,” he added. “They're going to give you a good test and a variety of sets with the running attack and they have a couple good backs that do a good job for them, so we'll have to work at stopping the run.”
The backs Jewell spoke of are Caleb Canter, who leads the team with 595 yards and nine touchdowns on 82 carries, and Matt Hornback, who has tallied 536 yards and six touchdowns on 100 carries.
As a team, the Hawks have racked up rushing yards at a rate of 173.8 yards per game. Corbin is a shade over 50 yards better at 224 yards per game.
Leading the way on the ground for Corbin is senior Matt Jewell, who has carried the football 123 times for 682 yards and nine touchdowns. Of the Redhounds' 189 yards per game, Jewell has accounted for 44 percent of those on average, tallying 85 yards per game.
Defensively, the two teams are just as much alike as they are on offense. The Redhounds are giving up 19.7 points per game, while LaRue County has allowed 18.7. The turnover battle does sway to the Hawks just a bit as they've grabbed eight interceptions and recovered nine fumbles, while Corbin has five interceptions and nine fumbles recovered on the season.
Given the statistics, everyone knows that no matter how well two teams match up against each other, the guys on the field are what decides who the winner will be. Coming off a momentum building win to close out regular season play, Jewell said despite the fact his team has had to practice inside all week, he feels like his team is ready to go mentally.
“We've been indoors both days because of the weather, but we hope to get outside and get some work done,” he said.
“As far as their attitude, the kids are excited because we've been able to keep meeting the goals we've set after the loss to Bell County,” he added. “The next goal is to get a win in the playoffs and that's where we're at this week with what we want to accomplish.”
Fear "Les" Prediction: Corbin 14, Larue County 7