By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
Any time the football season ends earlier than a team or coach expects, no matter what level it is on, it's an unpleasant feeling.
The best way to get over the pain sometimes is to look to the future and what's in store for that particular program. In the case of the Whitley County Colonels, the future is as bright as it’s ever been and head coach Jim Black knows it.
“I don't think I've ever seen a better group of young kids,” Black said. “The young guys we've got coming up really have the potential to do some special things here at Whitley County if things work out and they're able to stay healthy.
“We've got some good veteran players coming back next season as well, but when you look at the ability of our youth, it really is exciting,” he added.
The Colonels posted a 7-5 mark this season. Considering they finished 2011 at 3-8, that's a pretty impressive improvement in one year.
Granted, Whitley County will have to find a way to replace Wofford University commit Boston Bryant, but considering the stock of young backs Black has in the cupboard, that won't take too long.
Bryant was second or third most of the season when it came to yards gained, but led the Colonels in touchdowns. The young man who led the Colonels in yards gained, freshman Zack Mills, will have three more years to fill the gap left by Bryant.
As for what the Colonels were able to achieve in a year's time, improving by four wins, Black said he was extremely excited about the effort his team showed on the field every week.
“These kids really showed a lot of heart every time they were on the field,” he said. “They showed that they had a lot of fight in them and that they wanted to win ball games.
“More important to me than anything was the fact they showed a lot of camaraderie on and off the field,” he added.
Things looked bleak for the Colonels in the early stages of the season, losing two of the first three games of the season to Russell County and Bell County. Considering those were two of the best teams Black's squad would face all season, nobody panicked when the team started 1-2.
The team awarded fans with a four-game win streak that saw them knock off Clay County (35-21), Lynn Camp (49-0), Somerset (14-7) and Perry County Central (47-28), to improve to 5-2 on the season.
That's when things got tough again for the Colonels as they sandwiched a win over Letcher County Central between losses to Harlan County (40-13) and Boyle County (38-7), giving them a 6-4 mark as they entered postseason play.
Whitley County got past former district rival North Laurel in the first round of the playoffs, but Pulaski County proved to be too much as a 28-13 loss ended 2012 for the Colonels.
Black said the thing that sticks out to him most about the loss was the number of players he had out for that game.
“You always want to say you played the best that you could have played and we weren't able to do that,” Black said. “We had some key injuries which meant that we had to play kids out of position.
“I'm not making excuses for our kids, but I do wish we had been at full strength because I really felt like we had a chance to win that game,” he added. “You just have to pick it up and try against next season when it rolls around.”