By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The Cumberland Valley Bowl matchup between North Laurel and Williamsburg began at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. It ended temporarily at 5:53 p.m. when heavy storms and strong wind moved through London. It was a long night for both teams with the decision finally made at 10:30 p.m. that there would be no more football that night.
Play resumed at 3 p.m. Monday with Williamsburg punting on a fourth down that began on Saturday.
“It’s been crazy,” Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron said. “It’s just one of those things where a lot of adversity, a lot of craziness happened.”
To add to the adversity for the Yellow Jackets, Jordan Griffith, the brother of a Williamsburg player Skyler Griffith, was injured during the storm and is now recovering at the University of Kentucky.
“Our prayers go out to him first and foremost. This football game doesn’t mean anything when it comes to stuff like that,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said.
When play did actually resume on Labor Day the result would be much more predictable than the weather. North Laurel simply lined up and ran right at Williamsburg. Once the Jaguars built an early 14-0 lead, they tried to make sure the football stayed out of the hands of the potent Williamsburg offense.
“They just literally ran power and beat us running those power backs right at us. We couldn’t stop it,” Herron said.
Michael Nelson was named offensive most valuable player with 29 carries for 173 yards. Gabe Blair rushed for 125 yards on 28 carries. That accounted for all of the North Laurel offense except for two plays, a 38-yard reception by Cole Lewis and a 15-yard catch by Jake McFadden.
“Our whole game plan was to go in and establish our running game to keep the clock running because of their high-powered offense,” Larkey said.
North Laurel’s only possession on Saturday ended on downs at the Williamsburg 14-yard line. Williamsburg faced a third-and-long when play stopped with heavy wind and lightning. When play resumed Monday it was middle-of-the-day hot.
“It was a hot day today and I think it played to our advantage because we do have more depth than Williamsburg,” Larkey said.
North Laurel drove 57-yards for a touchdown, alternating runs between Blair and Nelson. It was Nelson with the 2-yard touchdown run to close out the first quarter.
After a three-and-out by Williamsburg, North Laurel drove 76 yards to make it a 14-0 game. This time it was Blair with a 10-yard power run for a 14-0 lead.
“We had to stay ahead of them because we knew they would come right back and score. When we were up 14-0, I knew it wasn’t over,” Larkey said.
Williamsburg had completed just one pass on their first two possessions. Dalton Sizemore would begin to find his rhythm in the second quarter. A Sizemore pass to Corey Shelton for a 32-yard touchdown made it a 14-7 game with 2:25 in the half.
Backed up inside its own 10, North Laurel ran out all but the final 8.8 seconds of the half. Williamsburg would get the ball back to start the second half and a chance to tie the game. The Yellow Jackets had a first and goal at the 7-yard line, but stalled there. Then a missed field goal would prove costly.
“We still have a chance. Its 14-7 and we drive down the field. We don’t focus. We don’t score. I call some bad plays. We end up having to kick a field goal and miss the field goal. They go down and score and it changes the complexion of the game,” Herron said.
Again North Laurel stayed on the ground until faced with a third-and-8 at the Williamsburg 37. Nelson made an easy toss over the middle to Lewis. Lewis did the rest by slashing to the 1-yard line. Nelson would punch in the touchdown for a 21-7 lead with 5:56 in the third.
“I think a huge play was the missed field goal. That was an enormous boost for us because we got the ball and drove down to score and go up 21-7,” Larkey said. “Another big play was Cole Lewis catching the pass in the middle and getting to the 1-yard line.”
Williamsburg rolled back down the field with a 1-yard sneak by Sizemore making it a 21-14 game. The big play on the 80-yard drive was a 55-yard pass from Sizemore to Shelton. Sizemore’s perfect spiral hit Shelton in stride down the sideline.
“They have an awesome offensive football team. We knew we weren’t going to stop them from scoring. They’re too good to stop. We just tried to keep them contained and make them work to get it,” Larkey said.
Again North Laurel had the answer. A quick score began with a 35-yard return by Tanner Sharp. Runs of 13 and 35 yards by Nelson were all North Laurel needed from there for a 28-14 lead.
Williamsburg punted on its next two possessions. The Jaguars added to their lead with 3:42 to play on a 19-yard field goal by Keaton Kennedy for the 31-14 final.
“Most teams are going to go for it. I knew if we didn’t get it we are just up 14 and that’s two scores. If he hits it, then it means they’re going to have to score three times and he is going to hit it,” Larkey said.
It would be a relief for both teams when a long holiday weekend finally came to an end.
“We’ve got a short week now and play a good football team in Pike Central. We’ll see what happens,” Herron said.
Larkey said they did consider the option of moving the game to Sept. 20, an open date shared by both North Laurel and Williamsburg. It wasn’t a good option for North Laurel, who plays at Clay County Saturday.
“I didn’t want to reschedule it for our open week because it starts our district. Our district is very tough and we have to get prepared for our district games,” Larkey said.