By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BEREA —North Laurel looked like a hungry team that knew it was playing for a chance host a first-round playoff game. Unfortunately it wasn’t until the fourth quarter after they had fallen behind 26-0.
“If we played every quarter like we did the fourth quarter tonight, the sense of urgency, we would be a good football team,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said as his team fell, 26-10.
The Jaguars weren’t overmatched by the Eagles, just outplayed. North Laurel turned the ball over four times and stalled its own drives with nine penalties. In between, they were able to move the ball at times with Michael Nelson rushing for 141 yards and Gabe Blair 92.
“We shot ourselves in the foot all night long with penalties. It’s just stuff that you don’t do in practice and you shouldn’t do it in the game,” Larkey said.
The deep hole they dug would force the Jaguars to throw much more than they wanted. Three of the 11 passes were intercepted, which was more than the North Laurel receivers caught.
Madison Southern star Damien Harris rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns, both slightly below his season average. He has rushed for over 200 yards in every game this season. Larkey could not fault his defense.
“Our defense played good tonight. Definitely well enough for us to come out with a win, but our offense again didn’t produce anything until the fourth quarter,” Larkey said. “That’s something we’ve got to work on. We’ve got to get better.”
Something seemed amiss from the opening drive when the Jaguars were called for three penalties before they ran three plays. That was followed by a short punt that allowed the Madison Southern offense to begin its night at midfield.
The Eagles’ drive was mostly Harris, but facing a third-and-5, Adam Simpson connected with Devante Linville on a 15-yard pass. Madison Southern would continue to be opportunistic with its passes, completing 9-of-13 attempts. Harris would cap off the drive by muscling in from 7 yards for a 7-0 lead.
The Jaguars did pick up a first down on their second possession, but continued to be snakebit. On third down, Nelson saw a seam and spun away from a tackler only to run directly into the official forcing another punt.
“I thought we would move the ball better,” Larkey said.
With 4:07 in the half, Harris scored again on a 2-yard run for a 13-0 lead. It was another short drive with a boost from a facemask penalty. Harris had just 51 yards at halftime. But the Jaguars had managed just 58 yards of total offense and lost 30 of that in penalties. North Laurel’s best drive of the first half ended with an interception at the Madison Southern 22-yard line just before halftime.
Harris’ rushing numbers would look more like what he is accustomed to when he broke an 81-yard run with 6:06 in the third quarter for a 20-0 lead.
“He’s a good running back. We just missed some tackles. Once he gets an open seam you can’t catch him,” Larkey said.
North Laurel finally appeared to have something going when it drove to the Eagles 2-yard line. The drive ended with a fumble. Madison Southern then drove the length of the field to set up a 1-yard Harris touchdown run with 10:34 to play.
That’s when the Jaguars found their game.
North Laurel drove from its 34-yard line to the Madison Southern seven before settling on a 24-yard field goal by Keaton Kennedy. Kennedy then executed a perfect onside kick with Nelson grabbing the ball just before going out of bounds.
Although they gave the ball back on an interception, the Eagles first play was a fumble with Jansen Hacker making the recovery. It took just two plays for North to score with Nelson breaking off a 34-yard run to make it 26-10.
“We’ve got to play four quarters every time instead of one quarter. We didn’t do that tonight,” Larkey said.
After a Madison Southern punt, the Jaguars were driving again. They reached the Eagles’ 26 before the drive ended with an interception.
The different playoff scenarios got a lot muddier after Friday. The Jaguars do know they have some control with a win at Lincoln County this week.
“There are so many different things that can happen. We’ve just got to keep playing. We’ve still got another game left regardless if we are in or out. We do know if we win next week we are in the playoffs,” Larkey said.
Madison Southern 226, North Laurel 10
North Laurel 0 0 0 10—10
Madison Southern 7 6 7 6—26
MS—Harris 7 run (Watts kick); MS—Harris 2 run (kick failed); MS—Harris 81 run (Watts kick); MS—Harris 1 run (pass failed); NL—Kennedy 24 field goal; NL—Nelson 34 run (Kennedy kick).