TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
The South Laurel Cardinals' 53-0 loss to Corbin last week couldn't have come at a worse time.
Matt Rhymer's squad was riding a two-game win streak heading into last week's rivalry game against the Redhounds, but that momentum was slowed in the form of a 53-point loss on South Laurel's home field.
Despite that loss though, Rhymer said he's as excited about coaching his team this week as he was when he first arrived at South Laurel.
“That loss really doesn't change anything about what we're trying to do and where we're trying to get to here at South Laurel,” Rhymer said. “Our kids know where we are right now and I think they have an idea of where we are trying to get as a program.
“As for the loss, these guys are young and they have the ability to make a quick turnaround when something like that happens,” he added. “The biggest thing hindering us right now is injuries and not really the mindset of our kids.”
Next up for the Cardinals is a 4-0 Madison Southern team with a University of Michigan commit in Damien Harris. So far this season Harris has been the first and sometimes only option the Eagles have needed.
As a team, Madison Southern has tallied 20 touchdowns, 14 of which have come courtesy of the junior running back. In addition to the 14 touchdowns, through four games Harris has racked up 951 yards on 82 carries (11.59 yards per carry) for an average of 238 yards per game.
While Harris has dominated the competition and is expected to do so on a regular basis, Rhymer was quick to admit that the reason Harris looks so good on the field may be a result of the way teams go about defending him.
“All credit to Damien Harris because he's a great player, but when he looks the best is when people don't want to tackle him,” Rhymer said. “I've seen plays where he was hit by one person and was down.
“I'm sure he's capable of it, but I've not seen him be a dominant, run over you type of running back yet,” he added. “He's a good downhill runner, but his big plays are when nobody touches him and I think part of that is the fact he does have good speed and guys try to arm-tackle him a lot instead of tackling him the right way.”
As for South Laurel's offense, Rhymer said his team is basically a shell of what it was when the season started. He said he has lost six varsity running backs and will be starting a freshman quarterback this week against the Eagles.
With his team short on players, Rhymer said that he wouldn't change the way he goes about operating on the field this or any other week.
“We're going to continue to try to run the football,” Rhymer said. “The only way that you can become a running football team is to run the football.
“I'm sure there were times when Corbin, Harlan County, Johnson Central and Belfry were trying to establish an identity of some sort that they went through some rough times,” he added. “We're going to keep doing the same things we've been doing and try to keep building this program with what we have to work with.”