LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MONTICELLO—In an early-season meeting of unbeaten teams, it was Wayne County that flexed its muscle for a 27-7 win over North Laurel. Unlike last year’s overtime thriller at North Laurel, the Jaguars could never get anything to work against a tough Wayne County line.
“I think skill-wise, we’ve got more skill than they do. I think where they beat us tonight was the toughness part,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said.
North Laurel’s top threats, Michael Nelson and Gabe Blair, entered Friday’s game with over 500 yards combined and eight touchdowns in the first two games. The Cardinals would limit the duo to 126 total yards and keep them out of the end zone. North Laurel was stopped behind the line of scrimmage on 10 plays.
“They’ve got a great defense. There is no doubt about it because I think we have a great offense,” Larkey said.
Larkey thought the tone for the game was set on the opening series. Blair returned the kickoff to midfield, but North Laurel went nowhere from there. The first two plays lost yardage. On the third play, North Laurel went to the air with Joe Pierce intercepting the pass.
“I think they beat us the first play of the game. They stuffed us and then our kids just didn’t respond,” Larkey said.
Wayne County then marched 66 yards behind the legs and arm of quarterback Tyler Guffey for a quick score. Cody Rhule’s 1-yard plunge made it a 7-0 game.
North Laurel’s first three series did not gain positive yardage or a first down. The wear began to show on the North Laurel defense as it allowed a 2-yard scoring run by James Barnes to open the second quarter and make it a 14-0 game.
“The defense I thought played well tonight. The reason (Wayne County) scored 27 points was our offense could not keep our defense off the field,” Larkey said.
North Laurel finally picked up a first down on its first series of the second quarter. It would come on a Wayne County personal foul. Two more first downs followed on a 14-yard run by Blair and 25 yards from Nelson. But when the Wayne County defensive front stuffed the next play and forced North Laurel to the air again, it would lead to the second interception for Pierce.
“I think people saw tonight that we are limited to what we can do. There is only so much you can pull out of the hat. We tried our passing game and we couldn’t pick up all of the guys coming,” Larkey said.
There did seem to be a chance for North Laurel to climb back into the game after a Wayne County punt. The Jaguars drove to the Cardinals 37-yard line and had a potential touchdown pass dropped.
They would go to the half trailing 14-0 but still alive despite being dropped for a loss on seven plays in the first half. “I think we can score any time we touch the ball. I don’t think we are ever out of the game because of the threats we have on offense. It’s just Wayne County played great defense and stopped everything we had,” Larkey said.
The Jaguars reached the Wayne County 34 on their first drive of the second half before a pair of incomplete passes and a high snap ended the threat.
The Cardinals may have sealed the win with a 61-yard drive that ate most of the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter. Dagan Shelton’s 10-yard run made it a 21-0 lead. With 7:45 to play, Wayne County added a 9-yard run by Junior Ruiz.
North Laurel would score on its final possession when Jake McFadden got behind the defense and Hagen Hodges found him for a 68-yard touchdown.
“Their defensive line did do a great job tonight,” Larkey said. “I think that’s either the best or second best team on our schedule. Our kids are going to learn a lot of from watching the film,” Larkey said.
Wayne County 27, North Laurel 7
Wayne County 7 7 7 6—27
North Laurel 0 0 0 7—7
WC—Cody Rhule 1 run (Ruiz kick); WC—James Barnes 2 run (Ruiz kick); WC—Dagan Shelton 10 run (Ruiz kick); WC—Junior Ruiz 9 run (kick failed); NL—Hagen Hodges 68 pass to Jake McFadden (Kennedy kick).