TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Chris Parsons / Sports Editor
The Lynn Camp Wildcats finished 3-8 for the second consecutive season under second-year coach Phil Russell, but the good news for the Wildcat faithful, things look to be getting better.
“The thing that really hurt us this year is injuries,” Russell said. “It seemed like we were dealing with some type of injury to a key play the entire season. Even though we did have the injuries, I really liked that we never quit. These kids always gave their all out there, and that's all you can ask for as a coach.
“There are a lot of things we need to improve on, but the good thing is that we’re improving,” he added. “I was looking back, and every senior on this team was hurt at one time or another. That played a big role this season.”
The Wildcats started the season strong, picking up wins over Harlan, Jellico, Tenn., and Clinton County to pull their record even at 3-3 on the season.
It looked as if Lynn Camp had a good shot at hosting a home playoff game, especially after a 50-28 win over Clinton County allowed the Wildcats to win their third game in just a month.
“We hit a stretch where we were really playing good football,” Russell said. “We had some tough losses early on, but we responded by winning three of four games. Our offense was playing well, and we were playing well on defense. We really had some momentum going into the Berea game.”
The Berea game — that’s when things began to head south for Lynn Camp. A win over the Pirates would have allowed the Wildcats to improve to 1-0 in district play and one step closer to hosting a home playoff game.
It looked as if Lynn Camp would get the win, but that’s when the injury bug snuck up on the Wildcats as Aaron Mills was forced to miss the game.
“We put a lot of stock in Aaron Mills, and when we didn’t have him it hurt our chances,” Russell said. “That’s when our slide began. We also had some horrible calls not go our way and we had two or three times we had a chance to stop them, and we didn’t.
“If Aaron Mills plays, we win that game,” he added. “We just ran out of gas, and they were able to pull out the win. No doubt about it, the loss took the gust out of our sails.”
Lynn Camp followed its 34-26 loss to Berea with a 40-0 loss to Campbellsville and then a 53-0 loss to district champion Williamsburg. The Wildcats ended regular season play with a 55-26 loss to Middlesboro before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs for the eighth straight year, losing to Hazard in first-round action of the Class A playoffs, 50-12.
“We went back to the ground-and-pound against Middlesboro, and we were able to score 26 points,” Russell said. “I’m proud of the kids for adapting to what we needed to do. Like I said, we are improving.”
Russell believes the key to his team's future success could very well be its defensive play.
“We've got to improve on defense,” he admitted. “If we're going to get where we want to get, we have to get better. You can see it when we're out there. We're just not that very strong. We're trying to compete with schools that have a stable weight program.
“We’ve got to get stronger, bigger and faster,” Russell added. “You could see it in our district teams. Each one was bigger, stronger and faster than us. We’ve got to improve on that. Our goal is to find the best kids in the school, and get them out to play. We’ve got some very good kids on the team, and that itself is a sign of better things to come. So our goal next year is to get that fourth win of the season and build from there.”