LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It was over at halftime.
North Laurel led 45-0 at the half on the way to a 45-8 rout of McCreary Central. The North Laurel starters saw little action after the first quarter and none in the second half as they recovered from their first loss of the season in a big way.
“They got some momentum going. They start to feel better about themselves after a loss last week,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said. “Our younger kids got a chance to play some and get experience against a varsity team.”
Despite the easy win, Larkey spent a lot of time addressing his players after the game.
“There are still a lot of things I saw that we have to get better at,” Larkey said. “I told the guys as coaches you are always going to find something that you have to work on. It’s never 100 percent perfect.”
There is also the matter of who the Jaguars have coming up next. Russell County will visit The Jungle next Friday. The Lakers are 4-0 and have outscored their opponents 190-47. Last year they blanked the Jaguars 34-0.
“They’ve got a good defense and they are a high-powered offense. It’s going to be tough to stop them. I think they are going to be the best team we play,” Larkey said.
One reason Larkey wanted to see McCreary County was to face running back Arlis Dople. With Russell County’s Nick Britt coming next week, the elusive Dople would be a good test. Unfortunately Dople was injured on Thursday and unable to play.
“I know McCreary’s best player was hurt tonight and that hurt their offense. They do have a really good running back,” Larkey said.
No Dople meant no offense for the Raiders. In the first half, McCreary Central picked up a total of 10 yards on its 17 plays. If you subtract the 35 yards in penalties, they went backwards. They managed only one first down and never crossed midfield.
The best starting field position for the Raiders in the first half was their own 35-yard line. No other drive started past the 20. The Jaguars meanwhile started four drives on the Raiders’ side of the field, including one at the 11 and another at the 18. The only thing that stopped North Laurel was penalties. Michael Nelson scored on his first three carries, but two were called back on holding penalties. Larkey said he wasn’t upset with the numerous penalties.
“I think they’re just trying hard,” Larkey said.
Nelson’s first touchdown did stand. His 22-yard punt return had the Jaguars at the 18-yard line on their first possession. The third play of the series had Nelson at tailback where he broke a 15-yard touchdown. It would be his only official carry of the night.
McCreary Central’s next possession lasted one play before the Raiders coughed up the ball. Jake McFadden recovered for North Laurel at the McCreary Central 11. After having two Nelson scores called back, Gabe Blair would find the end zone from 8-yards. Blair’s short night included four carries for 19 yards.
Larkey said he would like to have given his starters more playing time, but didn’t want to chance an injury.
After a McCreary Central punt, North Laurel took over at the Raiders 36. The first play was a 28-yard pass from Nelson to Jaythus Riley.
“He’s going to be a good football player. He’s just a sophomore and this is just his fourth game playing varsity,” Larkey said. “He’s got some of the better hands on the team.”
Larkey hoped to work on the passing game Friday, but couldn’t when the game got out of hand. Riley’s catch would set up an 8-yard touchdown for McFadden and a 21-0 first quarter lead.
McCreary Central fumbled again on its next possession with Aaron Gabbard jumping on the loose ball at the Raiders 24-yard line. It took four plays for North Laurel to score again. A 3-yard run by Jake McWhorter on the first play of the second quarter made it 28-0.
The Raiders punted on their next possession, giving North Laurel the worst starting position of the first half. They were just across midfield, but it took just three plays before McFadden got his second carry and second touchdown of the night. This time a 50-yard run up the middle made it a 35-0 game.
By now North Laurel had a new lineup on the field and the Raiders were able to keep them out of the end zone, but they didn’t keep them from scoring. Keaton Kennedy tied a North Laurel record with a 47-yard field goal for a 38-0 lead.
“Hats off to Keaton. He’s playing two sports right now. He’s playing for the high school soccer team and for us. He puts in a lot of time on both sports and he deserves that,” Larkey said. Kennedy kicked a 55-yarder in practice yesterday, so the record could be in danger.
With the first half winding down, McCreary Central decided to gamble. They attempted a fake punt on fourth-and 11 from their own 19. David Dunn’s pass attempt was picked off by Jansen Hacker and returned 37 yards for a touchdown. The 45-0 halftime lead meant the clock would not be stopped for any reason in the second half
The Raiders were finally able to break onto the scoreboard with 7:10 to play when Dylan Cooper tossed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Winchester.
“We won good. Our kids played hard, but they can play better. I just want to see more aggressiveness on the offensive line. That’s where you win and lose games,” Larkey said.
That was what Larkey told his team after the game. And it is something they must have next week against Russell County.
“We do have a good football team,” Larkey said. “They just have to practice harder and come out on Friday and attack somebody. They have to come out with an aggressiveness.”
North Laurel 45, McCreary Central 8
McCreary Central 0 0 0 8—8
North Laurel 21 24 0 0—45
NL —Michael Nelson 15 run (Keaton Kennedy kick); NL—Gabe Blair 8 run (Kennedy kick); NL—Jake McFadden 8 run (Kennedy kick); NL—Jake McWhorter 3 run (Kennedy kick); NL—McFadden 50 run (Kennedy kick); NL—Kennedy 47-yard field goal; NL—Jansen Hacker 37 interception return (Kennedy kick); MC—Dylan Cooper 43 pass to Rodney Winchester (Cooper run).