By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
There’s an old saying that goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It basically means to have patience. That saying could fit this year’s version of the South Laurel Cardinals football team.
After last week’s loss to Lincoln County, the Cards find themselves at 2-4 with four games left in Coach Matt Rhymer’s first season at the helm of South Laurel.
I think two of those final four games are very winnable. This week they will travel to take on a winless Southwestern team, then after tough games against Pulaski County and North Laurel, will be on the road at Leslie County to wrap up the regular season. As of this week the Eagles are 3-3 with wins over Harlan, Knott County Central and McCreary Central. Those three teams have a total of four wins between them. If South is healthy come the season finale, this would be a game they could win.
I told Coach Rhymer after the loss at Lincoln County that if South Laurel football was a wall, then they added a few more bricks to get closer to completion. I have seen marked improvement since their season-opening loss to Wayne County. And this improvement has come despite the mounting injuries to key players the Cards faced week after week. Before last week’s game the Cards had almost 10 players out with injuries. At least Taylor Morris and Jacob Hale were able to come back against the Patriots, along with quarterback Jon Jenkins. But losing key players such as Landon Bray, Austin Rickett and Aaron Quinn have really hurt the Cardinals both on offense and defense.
Taking an offense that basically knew nothing but the pass for the past few years and converting it into a running offense takes time. You might think that running the football would be the easiest thing to do, a lot easier than catching a ball. And while that might be true, the blocking scheme is totally different for a running game. Blocking is the key to running. If the blocks aren’t there, then the holes are there for running backs to find.
Even though wins have been hard to come by, I am impressed with the way the coaching staff is handling the players. Even after mistakes are made they don’t really raise their voice; instead they take the player aside and explain to them what they did wrong. You know, actually coaching them.
I can see South winning the Southwestern game, but it won’t be easy. Despite coming into the game winless, the Warriors have been in all but two games this season. They lost to Corbin in the season-opener, 14-0, the same Corbin team that throttled South, 53-0. They lost to Knox Central, 31-28, Somerset, 22-19, Belfry, 38-27, and North Laurel, 21-14. The only games they really weren’t in were Wayne County (42-20) and Madison Southern (44-6).
South Laurel looked like the better team in the second half against Lincoln County last week. Had a couple of things gone their way, and had they finished off a few drives (they were inside the Patriot 20 five times but only came away with six points) the outcome might have been different. Had a touchdown in the first half stood instead of being called a fumble and Lincoln County ball, that would have made it 14-7, and it would have been a whole new ball game.
No one likes to lose, but don’t quit on these Cardinals. I know they haven’t quit on themselves.