Thaddeus Lewis looks to get past a Jackson Co. player.

With the outcome a formality, the North Laurel Jaguars turned the season finale into a showcase for the 15 seniors on coach Chris Larkey’s first squad.

“That’s how it end up, but that’s not how we started off,” Larkey said.

By the end of the 48-0 rout of Jackson County, nearly every seniors was given a chance to run the football. This included linemen.

“They’ve got some good coaches and they’re going to get their program going. It takes a while to start a program,” Larkey said. “They’re building toughness in their kids and their kids did play tough tonight.”

Larkey is trying to do the same at North Laurel, although the Jaguars do have more tradition than Jackson County’s three-year old program. Larkey did not accomplish one of the goals for his first year, making it to the playoffs. The Jaguars did avoid a losing season by finishing at 5-5.

“I wish we could have won a couple more games, but that is in the past. We’re going to learn not to make the same mistakes we did this year,” Larkey said.

The football season ended, but not for the players coming back next year. They will be in the weight room Monday.

“You can never rest in football,” Larkey said. “We’re going to work their butts off in the weight room and get them big, strong, and fast,” Larkey said.

Fast was not an issue for the Jaguars this season. They were faster than most of the teams they lined up against. Strength was an issue. Larkey also listed toughness and knowledge of the game as the areas he wants to see improvement before they take the field again.

One of the things he did like the season was the variety in the North Laurel offense, which topped the 1,000 yard mark passing for the season. Raymond Shears caught two more touchdown passes to bring his season total to six. Adrian Wardrup also topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the year.

“I thought we mixed it up real well. We had a lot of passing yards, a lot of rushing yards, we weren’t just one-dimensional,” Larkey said.

Another area that saw improvement was confidence. The Jaguars thought they could win after upsetting Pulaski County in the season opener on a halfback pass in the closing seconds.

“That was the biggest play of the year,” Larkey said. “That probably set the tone for the year.”

The Jaguars will lose nine starters on defense and six on offense. Larkey said it won’t be as hard to replace individual players as much as it will the leadership of the 15 seniors.

“You had a great group of seniors and that’s where the leadership came from,” Larkey said. “They set the tone for all the underclassmen to be here for practice, films, and weights.”

Friday was their farewell party. After the game the seniors asked to make one final lap around the field. Larkey told them it was their field and they could do what they wanted. And as the seniors ran, the team followed.

“We lose 15 great personalities and we lose 15 great leaders,” Larkey said.

The Jaguars won easily, but could have made it much worse. The opening drive went 68 yards in six plays. Johnny Ray Fugate hit Shears with a 7-yard pass to open the scoring. Jackson County punted on its first possession with Dylan Baker grabbing the short punt and returning it 50 yards to the Generals 6-yard line. Wardrup dove in for a score on the first play.

The Jaguars did fumble on the next punt return, the only time they would be stopped.

With 10:48 in the half, Fugate tossed a 14-yard scoring pass to senior Brody Creech for his first touchdown. Wardrup struck again with 3:18 in the half, bolting 29 yards untouched through a hole so wide he could not have touched another player if he tried.

The Jaguars ended the first half with over 200 yards of offense to Jackson County’s 16 yards.

The Generals opened the second half by crossing midfield for the first time compliments of North Laurel penalties. North Laurel got the ball with 6 minutes in the quarter and scored in less than a minute. Fugate threw a slant to Shears, who was wrapped up quickly. Shears unwrapped just a quickly and ran 58 yards for a 35-0 lead.

The Jaguars added one more score in the third when senior Kyle Grubbs ran 22-yard for his first touchdown. One more senior would get a memory in the fourth quarter when Robin Collett scored on a 5-yard run.

“Thank God for no major injuries this year. I would like to thank the administration and the fans and my wife and kids for supporting us through this whole season,” Larkey said.

Mitch Howard can be reached at

North Laurel 48, Jackson County 0

Jackson County 0 0 0 0—0

North Laurel 14 14 14 6—48

NL-Shears 7 pass from Fugate (Brown kick); NL-Wardrup 6 run (Brown kick); NL-Creech 14 pass from Fugate (Brown kick); NL-Wardrup 29 run (Brown kick); NL-Shears 58 pass from Fugate (Brown kick); NL-Grubbs 21 run (Brown kick); NL-Collett 5 run (kick failed).

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