LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel did just about everything it could do, but it couldn’t stop Nick Britt.
“Nobody has stopped him all year and I don’t think anybody is going to stop him. He’s good,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said.
Britt rushed for 275 yards and five touchdowns as the Lakers escaped with a 45-35 win. North Laurel led 35-28 with 6:51 to play. After losing that lead, they were driving for a potential winning score when a fumble with 2:12 to play ended the drive and the rally.
“We just played such a good hard game tonight. The kids really believed they were going to win,” Larkey said.
North Laurel had stars of its own in Michael Nelson with 225 yards rushing and Cole Lewis with a reception and an interception for touchdowns. They tallied more than 300 yards of total offense and 35 points against a team that had not allowed more than 20 points this season.
“Russell County has a good team. They are not ranked No. 8 in the Louisville Courier Journal for nothing,” Larkey said. “It was a super game for the fans to watch. I thought they saw two really good football teams.”
It was the Lakers that were playing comeback much of the game beginning with a big play from Lewis on the opening possession. Russell County quarterback Barton Mann went back to pass with Rashawn Andrews bearing down on him like a train. Andrews hit Mann just as he threw the ball. Lewis stepped in front of the receiver and raced down the sideline for a 44-yards touchdown.
It looked like the momentum would continue on defense when the Lakers were backed into a third-and-19 from their own 35. Instead Lucas Whittle got behind the defense and Mann hit him in stride for an 83-yard pass. Whittle was chased down by Nelson, but the next play was an 8-yard touchdown by Britt.
North Laurel needed just three plays to regain the lead. Nelson was wrapped up at the line and turned completely around, but he spun free and bolted 74 yards for a 14-7 lead.
“I’m really shocked we scored as much as we did. They’ve got a good defense,” Larkey said.
The big plays continued with Britt racing 43 yards on the Lakers next play with a horse collar penalty tacked on the end. The second play was a 16-yard touchdown by Britt to tie the game.
After a North Laurel punt, Russell County drove 71 yards, capped by a 2-yard run from Evan Fletcher. The Lakers led 21-14 after one quarter, which is more points than three of North Laurel’s opponents had scored in a game. Britt already had 93 yards.
“They’ve got an explosive offense. They can score any second,” Larkey said.
North Laurel answered with a 65-yard drive that included a key fourth-and-1 conversion, which gave North Laurel its first first down. The touchdown came on a 46-yard run by Nelson. The extra point failed as Russell County held a 21-20 lead.
Russell County made it four straight possessions with a touchdown with Britt crossing the goal line on a 13-yard run with 6 minutes in the half. The Jaguars would stop Russell County on its final possession of the half.
When the Jaguars punted to open the second half, it was their third straight possession without points. The Lakers couldn’t take advantage. Isaac Napier picked off a Mann pass to set up a game-tying drive. North Laurel let Gabe Blair pound the ball at the Lakers until they reached the 30-yard line. Then the Jaguars caught Russell County off guard with Nelson finding Lewis with a 30-yard scoring pass. Nelson then ran for the conversion for 28-28 tie.
The North Laurel defense held again to force a 49-yard field goal by Lucas Williams. The Jaguars took the lead on a 70-yard drive capped by a 15-yard run from Blair. With 6:52 to play, the Jaguars were leading 35-28.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can and can’t do. I think we called a good offense today. I think our kids executed what they were supposed to do,” Larkey said.
It only took three plays for the Lakers to regain the lead 38-35. With 5:56 remaining, Britt broke two tackles at the line and cut across the grain for a 50-yard score.
The Jaguars were driving again. They faced a third-and-5 from the Lakers 34 when they turned the ball over for the first time. Russell County pounced on the fumble with 2:12 remaining.
“We were going to at least try to kick a field goal,” Larkey said.
Again it just took three plays and a facemask penalty for Russell County to find the end zone. Britt’s 2-yard score with 1:21 to play finally sealed the game.
“Sometimes you play good teams. Tonight we played a good team,” Larkey said. “There are moral victories and this is one for us, but you know next week if when it starts. This game is over.”
The Jaguars begin district play Friday against South Laurel.
Russell County 45, North Laurel 35
Russell County 21 7 3 14-45
North Laurel 14 6 8 7-35
NL—Lewis 44 interception return (Kennedy kick); RC—Britt 8 run (Williams kick); NL—Nelson 74 run (Kennedy kick); RC—Britt 16 run (Williams kick); RC—Evan Fletcher 2 run (Williams kick); NL—Nelson 46 run (kick failed); RC—Britt 13 run (Williams kick); NL—Nelson 30 pass to Lewis (Nelson run); RC—Williams 49 field goal; NL—Blair 15 run (Kennedy kick); RC—Britt 50 run (Williams kick); RC—Britt 27 run (Williams kick).