By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
You could make a strong argument that regular-season games don’t get bigger than tonight’s North Laurel-Madison Southern game. There are so many levels to this game that Sportscenter should host Game Day from Berea.
Foremost the No. 2 seed in the district and a first-round home playoff game are on the line. Then you have star running back and Michigan signee Damien Harris getting rock star headlines this season. It’s the only regular season game on a turf field for North Laurel. There will be more college coaches than usual at this game. Oh yeah, it’s Senior Night for the Eagles.
You better get there early.
You cannot deny this is a big game and it is what makes Friday night’s in football season an event equal to a small town Super Bowl. Once you step back from the hoopla, ask if this is really a big game in the long run.
Let’s play Price is Right for a moment. Here is showcase No. 1.
If you win Friday you are guaranteed a lovely Friday night in your home town the first week of the playoffs. You will probably be playing Letcher Central or Perry County Central. You will probably be expected to win that game. When you win that game will be on the road the following week and it looks like you will be at Harlan County.
Now let’s look at showcase No. 2.
If you lose Friday you will make a road trip to Perry Central or Letcher Central. Again you will probably be favored in either of those games. You will be playing on a turf field, but you just played on a turf field at Madison Southern so that won’t be a shock. If you take care of business the first week, you get to enjoy a nice drive up West 80 to face Pulaski County in round two.
So if we are looking ahead to the big picture, do you want to play at Harlan County or at Pulaski County?
I’m not Chris Larkey, but I will try to read his mind. Chris Larkey does not want to play at Harlan County against his dad, Tom Larkey.
Harlan County’s 4-3 record doesn’t scare anybody unless you open the door and see what is hiding behind that record. The Black Bears three losses have been to Belfry, Johnson Central, and Greenville (TN.) Those three schools are unbeaten and outscored their opponents a combined 1,080 to 228.
The only reason Johnson Central isn’t ranked No. 1 in 4A are two little teams called Highlands and Boyle County. Belfry is No. 1 in 3A. Greenville has outscored their opponents 377-27 and ranked No. 2 in their division in Tennessee.
Pulaski is unbeaten and deserves all of the attention they are getting this season. They are a great team and electric on offense. North Laurel led Pulaski County 14-0 and had the Maroons on the ropes without Austin Baker and Michael Nelson in the lineup. The Jaguars think they are just as good as the Maroons and might even have a chip on their shoulder if they play them.
Sure North Laurel wants to win at Madison Southern and will do everything they possibly can to wrap up the No. 2 seed. But if they fall to the Eagles in what looks like a toss up game, the consolation prize might be just as good.