By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
Heading into the 2012 season, the South Laurel Cardinals were expected to be one of the more potent offenses in the area, as well as compete for a district title.
Larry Welch’s squad returned a quarterback who had tallied over 2,400 yards through the air in 2011, along with a receiving corps that had accounted for well over 1,000 of those yards.
South Laurel also returned its top threat out of the backfield in Devin Pennington, who had rushed for 626 yards and nine touchdowns the season before.
Coming into the season, Welch said he expected a mix of run and pass, while depending on several go-to guys when the big plays were needed as his team looked to make a postseason run.
“I really think we have a good mix of kids that can do several different things on the football field,” Welch said, before the season started. “We have some kids that we think can be playmakers and come out and lead this team all season.”
Well, the road to the football state championship officially gets underway this week and unfortunately, the Cardinals are not in the hunt.
After starting the season 1-1, the Cardinals dropped their next eight games to finish with a 1-9 mark, tied with Barren County for dead-last in 5A.
To say that Welch is disappointed would be an understatement.
“I really expected us to compete this season with the kids we had coming back, but it just didn't happen for us,” Welch said. “We had quite a bit of skill coming in to the season, but things just didn’t pan out for one reason or another.
“We started out with some experienced kids on the field and when you look at some of the injuries we suffered and some other things that happened, we end up playing with quite a few young guys on the field,” he added. “Any time you take inexperienced kids off the field and replace them with kids that are not familiar with situations, you’re going to struggle.”
After losing to Knox Central in the season opener, the Cardinals picked up a 54-6 win over Lynn Camp, flexing some of the offensive muscle they were expected to have before the season started.
After a 62-13 loss to Russell County on Aug. 31, the Cardinals never recovered. Welch and company did come close to pulling off an upset before falling to Southwestern, 42-41 in overtime, but lost by an average of 41 points from that point on to close out the season.
Welch said he felt like the lack of any type of consistency can also go back to the fact his team never seemed to be as healthy as it could have been.
“When you talk about those go-to guys, you really have a lot of the time this season where they were injured at some time or another,” he said. “That consistency that we talk about comes from the players becoming familiar with each other, so when you have kids that haven’t played together all that much, it affects your ability to gel as a team.
“I guess what it comes down to is the fact you have to be able to remain healthy if you’re going to compete,” he added. “It’s really tough to compete in our district as it is, so when you try to do that with a relatively inexperienced team due to as many injuries as we have had, it really makes things a whole lot tougher.”