By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
The Knox Central Panthers are trying to reach the region title game for the third time in school history, but to do so, the Panthers must get past No. 1 seed Lexington Catholic.
The Knights enter Friday’s game with an impressive 9-2 record and have been without the services of star quarterback Kyle Bolin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during Lexington Catholic’s 24-21 win over Boyle County on Sept. 28.
Even without Bolin, the Knights have been winning — they are 3-1 since his injury while averaging 45 points a game on offense during the four-game stretch.
“We know we have our hands full,” Knox Central coach Scottie Russell admitted. “It’s going to be tough going up there, but our kids are excited and they’ll be ready to play. We’ve got a senior group that don’t want the season to end and they’re going to do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Russell said the key for his team is to slow down the Knight offense, who is led by Amoh Kumengisa’s 428 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Reese Ryan has stepped up during Bolin’s injury at the quarterback position and completed 60-of-119 pass attempts for 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“They are a real explosive team,” Russell said. “They don’t make too many mistakes and when they do, we must take advantage of them. Their young quarterback is doing good, but we have noticed he has thrown seven interceptions, so we’re going to have to step up and play solid defense.”
Ryan also has receiver David Bouvier to throw the ball to. Bouvier has been Lexington Catholic’s main playmaker with 70 receptions for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns. Teammate Sam Letton has been dangerous in the redzone with eight touchdown receptions leading the way for the Knights.
“They are probably the best fundamental team we have faced this season,” Russell said. “They are just an all-around good team. They don’t throw the ball as much as they did with their other quarterback. We’ve got to find a way to slow them down. We need to get off to a good start like we did last week. If we can do that, I like our chances.”
Russell said using his “ground and pound” rushing duo of Jeffrey Canady and Jonathan Gist is the best way his team can slow down Lexington Catholic’s high-scoring attack.
Canady leads the Panthers with 1,946 rushing yards on 198 carries while reaching paydirt 28 times. Gist has 1,217 rushing yards on 167 carries and 11 touchdowns.
“We’ve got to play a ball-control offense,” Russell said. “We’ve got to ground and pound the ball and keep them from getting it. We have played some very good teams this season and we know we’re going to have our hands full.
“The big key is that we can’t have turnovers either,” he added. “Our guys are really loose and excited. They are taking this game as a challenge and we have nothing to lose. We know we’re the underdogs, but we also know if we play well we have a shot. We’re going to give it our best and see what happens.”
Knox Central has reached the playoffs 13 times and is 2-1 during second round action while Knights have reached post-season play 20 times and have an impressive 13-5 record during the second round of the playoffs.