LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
There probably isn’t much argument that this week’s opponent will be the best team on North Laurel schedule this season. Russell County (4-0) is ranked No. 5 in Class 4A and No. 18 in the state overall.
“It’s going to be tough. We are going to try to contain them and slow them down,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said. “They have to have some mistakes and turn the ball over. It’s going to be a big challenge for our kids to play close with them.”
Last year North Laurel entered this game with a 3-1 record with its only loss in overtime to Wayne County. At Russell County, the Jaguars were humbled 34-0. The Jaguars held the ball for nine minutes in a scoreless first quarter. From there the Lakers used the big play to build and lead and pull away late.
“Offensively we couldn’t get anything going. They are so fast and they are big on defense.” Larkey said
A big reason the Lakers are explosive on offense is Nick Britt, who burned the Jaguars for 202 yards and four touchdowns last year. Britt would finish the season with 1,727 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns. He averaged 157 yards and more than three touchdowns per game.
“He’s very elusive. If he gets a seam he is gone. I don’t think we have anyone that can go an catch him. He’s not hard to tackle once you get a hold of him, but getting a hold of him is a different animal,” Larkey said.
The bad news is that Britt is back, along with No. 2 rusher Evan Fletcher (329 yards in 2011). Quarterback Barton Mann is also back for his senior year. Mann threw for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He also threw six interceptions.
The Lakers actually have nearly everyone back from a team that finished 9-2 with a loss to Mercer County in the first round of the playoffs. It was the only time in 2011 the Lakers were held to under 27 points. Their only other loss was to Rockcastle County, 29-27, in overtime.
With an experienced team returning, Russell County has taken off as expected this season. They have four wins by a combined score of 190-47. They were averaging 54 points per game until Pulaski County limited them to 28 last week.
The Jaguars and Lakers do have a common opponent in Campbellsville. The Lakers opened their season with a 51-0 win over the Eagles. North Laurel also won easily, 40-7, in the Cumberland Valley Bowl. Russell County followed that win up with a 49-20 win at Whitley County. The Colonels did rush for over 300 yards, but were unable to slow the Lakers offense.
“Whitley County so far is the only team that has run right at them. Everyone else did a shotgun spread,” Larkey said.
Russell County routed South Laurel 62-13 with Britt breaking a 56-yard touchdown run the first time he carried the ball. He would later add a 74 yard scoring run. He finished the night with 16 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Russell County also returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Pulaski County stayed close in the 28-14 loss last week. The Maroons turned the ball over four times with one fumble returned for a Russell County touchdown. Pulaski County was within 21-14 with 3:58 to play. A failed onside kick led to the sealing touchdown for Russell County on a 50-yard run by Britt. Britt finished the night with 148 yards rushing.
Pulaski County did most of its damage through the air with Riley Hall throwing for over 300 yards out of the spread offense.
This is the last game North Laurel will play before stepping into district play against South Laurel.
“You want to win every game, but very few teams win every game. We just want to come out of it healthy and play better, play harder and be more physical. These are the games you know where you stand at,” Larkey said.