By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
After last week’s 51-0 loss to Southwestern, it would be nice if the South Laurel Cardinals had an easy game this week to regroup and refocus.
Unfortunately that isn’t the case, as the district’s top team, Pulaski County, pays the Cardinals a visit.
“Pulaski is the best team we have faced all year,” South Laurel coach Matt Rhymer said. “They are well coached, sound in every area of the game. I have not noticed many if any weaknesses on tape. They are fast, athletic and they play with a tremendous amount of confidence.”
The Maroons come into the game 8-0, having outscored their opponents 363-169. They are led by quarterback Riley Hall, who has thrown for 1,686 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“Riley Hall is an exceptional high school football player,” Rhymer said. “Hall makes it look easy at times with how calm he plays, he sees the game well and makes great decisions as when to throw or run.” He has also rushed for 561 yards and 5 touchdowns this season.
But Hall isn’t the only weapon the Maroons have.
“They have a solid group of receivers that all can make plays and stretch the field,” Rhymer said. “The running back (Caleb Cox, 513 yards, 5 TDs) is a solid player and is as good as any of the running backs we have faced. It seems every team has a great running backs.” Aaron Smith has also rushed for 440 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 17 receptions for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns. George Gregory is another key receiver having caught 28 passes for 544 yards and 6 scores.
Rhymer said if there is any area his team matches up well with the Maroons it would be size-wise.
“Every week we are as big or bigger than our opponent, but we have to start playing more physical football,” Rhymer said. “Our size could help with their speed if we come off the football and decide to be physical for four quarters, but again that is probably something that is going to take more time.”
Despite the tough loss last week, Rhymer said his team has had a good attitude in practice this week.
“We are really young so these kids know that we are in a process and that it’s going to take some time to start meeting goals that we have as a team,” Rhymer said. “I challenged these kids Monday about finishing strong and gaining momentum. It is my job to keep these kids focused on the right perspectives. It’s easy to focus on recent losses, but really the fact that we have won two games so far is great. I told them it would say a lot about their character if we win three or four games this year, especially with all the adversity they have faced, new staff, new schemes, no spring practice, injuries and coming off a season where they were the worst team in 5A. If we win three or four games this year we will be way up from the bottom, and that says a lot about the kids and our direction.”
Still, it will be a monumental task to take down the mighty Maroons.
“As every week we have to believe we can beat Pulaski, prepare in practice to beat Pulaski, and execute on Friday night,” Rhymer said. “Basically it comes down to blocking and tackling in any football games, and the last few weeks we have not done either every well. We as coaches have to continue coaching these kids fundamentals and get better every day.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at South Laurel High School.