After Jason Chappell resigned last season, many speculated on who the new South Laurel Cardinal football coach would be. Several names were thrown around, but in the end, Larry Welch was named the new coach at South Laurel. And I know that this raised several eyebrows around the county.

Football fans remember Welch’s tenure at North Laurel, where he struggled during his three years at the helm, compiling a 5-26 record. Several questioned whether he would be the right man for the Cardinals. I wondered why he would want the job, especially with the talent the team lost from the previous years. If he didn’t win, he would surely hear about it.

The season was a rocky one for the Cards, that’s for sure. But they finished with a 4-7 record and advanced to the playoffs, where they lost to Whitley Co., 54-14. Last year’s South team also finished 4-7, losing to Whitley, 48-0, in the playoffs.

Now I’m sure that Welch and his staff would have loved a few more wins on the season, and there’s no doubt they had chances. They could have beaten North Laurel and Southwestern Pulaski, and they led Pulaski at the half before coming apart at the seams in the second half. Had things gone their way in those games, you’re looking at 7-4.

Before the season, when I looked at South’s schedule, I made the comment that they might not win a game all season. Of course, I didn’t realize both Mercer and Lincoln were down, but still, things weren’t looking good, especially after opening the season with a 34-6 loss at Letcher Co. Central. Of course, the Cards started the first few games without several key players on the line due to injuries.

What many failed to realize is, not only was Welch the new coach, but he had almost a entirely new coaching staff and game plan. Gone were the days of Air Cardinal, replaced with a running game that took the team some time to get used to.

As the season progressed, you could tell the Cardinals were getting used to both the coaches and the scheme. While I like the passing game, you have to be able to run the ball to win high school football games. And I always thought a high school team with wristbands full of plays was overkill.

J.D. Wright was converted from wide receiver to quarterback, while is quite a change. And he did well at his new position. Tyler Vaughn emerged as a star running back, despite taking punishment every single game. Nick Miller came on as the season progressed. And the line (both offensive and defensive) became a strong point for South Laurel.

Turnovers and penalties plagued South Laurel throughout the entire season, and had they cut down on those miscues, you probably would have seen a few more wins.

So all-in-all, it was a successful season for the Cardinals, as it was for North Laurel, where Chris Larkey has instilled a winner’s mentality in the Jaguars, who finished 5-5 but missed the playoffs.

Maybe, just maybe, Laurel County is slowly becoming a football county. Only time will tell.

Denis House can be reached at

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