MANCHESTER - The district portion of a high school football schedule is like a new season. You can put whatever losses behind you and start new. North Laurel has to put its first district game behind them after being smothered, 48-0, by Clay County.
“It’s a total embarrassment to our program, our fans, and our community that we played like this,” North Laurel coach Chris Larkey said. “We’re better than that.”
Clay County scored 21 points in the first quarter and led 35-0 at halftime. Not only did they score early and often, they made it look easy.
North Laurel’s first three possessions ended with turnovers. Clay County’s first five possessions ended with touchdowns. When asked if his team held their own in any area, Larkey was quick with a response.
“We had more kickoff return yards,” he said.
There was a workhorse performance from Jason Williams, who carried the ball 20 times for 100 yards. He had 79 yards in the first half and also played a full game on defense.
“Jason Williams played better than anybody tonight. He played good on offense and defense,” Larkey said. “He came out ready to play. If the other 10 guys came out like that it wouldn’t be 48-0.”
There were two culprits that Larkey pointed to in this loss. One can be changed and one can’t.
“You can’t coach being fired up. You can’t coach heart,” Larkey said. “These guys have got it. They’ve just got to find it.”
But harder to find on this North Laurel team is speed. There was plenty of speed on the Clay County side. And even with a bye week to prepare for this game, you can’t coach speed.
“When your scout team doesn’t have that speed, you don’t see that speed,” Larkey said. “We’re just not fast.”
North Laurel moved the ball in the first quarter and if you were looking for ball control, the Tigers had the ball less than two minutes in the first quarter. Never has a statistic been so deceiving. North Laurel drove to the Clay County 36 on its first possession before losing a fumble. After a motion penalty on their first play, the Tigers’ Noah Reid sprinted 73 yards for a touchdown on the second play.
“We started the game moving the football and then we fumble. It seems like our kids lose all hope of winning after something like that. I don’t understand why that is,” Larkey said.
North Laurel made it to the Tigers’ 34-yard line on the next series before turning it over again with an interception. A 12-yard run by Reid was followed by a 22-yard touchdown pass when John Wilson found John V. Hooker wide open in the end zone.
“We knew coming into this game we were overmatched against Clay County. They do have three really, really good football players that are faster than anybody we have. It showed tonight,” Larkey said.
The third possession also ended with an interception that Reid returned 50 yards for a touchdown. North Laurel completed just 1-of-13 passes against a Clay County team that had been allowing 200 yards passing per game. That means Clay County caught more North Laurel passes than the Jaguars did.
After a North Laurel punt, Wilson bolted 68 yards on a keeper. Reid scored again standing up from three yards out for a 28-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
In the first quarter alone, Clay County had 107 yards of offense with just three offensive plays.
Reid finished with 147 yards on five carries. He scored four touchdowns. Wilson had 98 yards on three carries. With that much success on the ground, Wilson needed to throw just five passes with two for completions.
“We got beat by a really good football team. They are better than us,” Larkey said.
Clay County made it five straight touchdown drives when C. J. Miller scored on a 1-yard run with 4:44 in the half. Clay County needed just 14 offensive plays in the first half to score 35 points. Five of the plays were for more than 20 yards with three more plays coming from inside the yard line.
The Jaguars did move the ball at times, but never caught a break. Just before halftime, Williams almost crossed the goal line, but the officials ruled he fumbled first with Clay County getting the ball.
At halftime, Larkey asked his seniors to step up. But any thought of a fantastic rally would be met quickly with reality. Clay County’s first play of the second half was a 23-yard run by Reid. The second was a 52-yard touchdown.
They would add a final touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard run by Travis Wombles.
“I think we’re going to be able to correct the problems. We’ve got this week to get them ready,” Larkey said. “We’ve got Perry Central next week. You can’t just stop after you lose the first district game. You’ve got to keep going.”
Perry Central opened the district schedule with a 50-23 win over Letcher Central. That keeps Perry Central unbeaten with an average of 38 points per game. That is followed by a home game against Harlan County, a 41-27 winner over Whitley County. The Black Bears have averaged over 42 points in winning their last four games.
“They’ve got 25 more days of football. We’re going to see how bad they want to play,” Larkey said.
Mitch Howard can be reached at email@example.com
Clay County 48, North Laurel 0
North Laurel 0 0 0 0-0
Clay County 20 15 6 7-48
CC - Noah Reid 73 run (kick failed); CC - John V. Hooker 22 pass from John Wilson (run failed); CC - Reid 50 interception return (Hooker from Wilson); CC - Reid 3 run (Reid run); CC - C.J. Miller 1 run (Tanner Hoskins kick); CC - Reid 52 run (kick failed); CC - Travis Wombles 15 run (Hoskins kick).