By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
SOMERSET—No coach likes to lose. But if their team shows positive improvement, that at least makes the loss easier to take.
That’s how South Laurel coach Larry Welch felt after his team’s 34-9 setback Friday night at the hands of the Pulaski County Maroons.
“I don’t like to lose,” Welch said. “But I saw a lot of positives in tonight’s game. You like to see positives.”
There hasn’t been a lot of positives in this season for the Cardinals. Outside of a 56-6 win in week two over Lynn Camp, South Laurel has lost every other game to fall to 1-8 on the season and 0-4 in district play. They have now dropped seven games in a row with one remaining, this week at home against Madison Southern.
“We battled tonight and we played hard,” Welch said. “We moved the ball on offense, and had some younger players step up. That’s encouraging.”
South needed some players to step up with several starters injured and out of the line-up, including Tyler Detherage, Austin Rader, David Byrd, Seth Stewart and Zach Allen, to name just a few. Plus, the Cards lost the services of Jason Mitchell for the second half to a possible concussion. Jeremy Prichard, Austin Schaser and Josh Phelps also spent the game in and out of action with injuries. Some of those younger players that stepped up included Jacob Hale, Austin Ricketts and Aaron Quinn.
Things didn’t start out too well for the Cardinals, as on the opening kickoff, Tyler Goins returned it 97 yards for a score. Fifteen seconds into the game and South was already trailing, 7-0.
The Maroons (6-2, 4-0) then tried an onside kick and were successful, recovering the ball on the South 49. They drove it all the way down to the 11 before being stopped, setting up a field goal try from 28-yards out, which Derek Burgett missed when he hit the crossbar.
“We had those two early things go wrong,” Welch said. “Then we settled down and played.”
On South’s first possession, Jonathan Jenkins, getting his first varsity start at quarterback, moved South to the PC 44 before the Cards turned the ball over on fourth down. Pulaski drove to the South 22 behind Goins. Prichard almost intercepted a Riley Hall pass in the end zone, and was shaken up on the play. On the next play, Hall’s pass fell incomplete, and the Maroons were flagged for holding. The Cards declined the penalty, setting up a third-and-10 from the 22. Hall found Goins open in the flat and he raced in for the score and a 14-0 lead with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
Penalties plagued both teams throughout the first half, including a big roughing the passer call on South during Pulaski’s next possession.
Pulaski had just been flagged for holding, moving the ball from its own 46 back to the 32. On the next play, Hall dropped back to pass, but missed his receiver. But the Cards were whistled for roughing the passer, moving the ball to the 47 and giving the Maroons a fresh set of downs.
They would make the most of that mistake when Hall found Aaron Hall for a 24-yard score to make it 21-0 with 14 seconds left in the quarter.
PC scored on its next possession, taking over on South’s 26 when Matthew Slavey dropped back to punt but the snap sailed over his head, giving the Maroons the ball on the 26. As if that starting field position wasn’t good enough, South was called for two penalties on first down, pass interference and roughing the passer, which moved the ball to the 7-yard line. South was then flagged for a dead ball unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when one of its coaches was arguing the previous call, which moved the ball to the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Aaron Smith carried it in from 1-yard out for a 28-0 lead with 7:54 left in the half.
The Cards finally got on the scoreboard on their next possession when Slavey hit a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead to 28-3.
Taylor Morris had an interception at the South 16 that stopped Pulaski’s next drive, but two sacks on Jenkins that totaled 15 yards stalled the drive. Jenkins was under pressure the entire game by the Pulaski defense.
Ricketts had an interception in the third quarter that set up South’s final score.
Taking over on the 29, Jenkins completed 4-of-5 passes to move the ball to the 5-yard line, where he carried it over himself. The point after missed, leaving South trailing, 28-9.
The Cards then tried an onside kick that was recovered on the PC 46 by Jesse Thomas. South drove to the 27, where on fourth-and-13, Slavey tried a 43-yard field goal, but it was blocked. Pulaski added the final score of the game with 7:11 left when Hall scrambled and found Aaron Hall for a 7-yard score to make the final 34-9.
The Cards will host Madison Southern Friday for Senior Night.
Pulaski County 34, South Laurel 9
South Laurel 0 3 6 0—9
Pulaski Co. 21 7 0 6—34
PC—Goins, 97 kickoff return (Burgett kick); PC—Goins, 22 pass from Hall (Burgett kick); PC—Hall, 24 pass from Hall (Burgett kick); PC—Smith, 1 run (Burgett kick); SL—Slavey, 37 field goal; SL—Jenkins, 5 run (kick failed); PC—Hall, 7 pass from Hall (kick failed).