TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Les Dixon / The Endzone Staff
If you’re a North Laurel Jaguar fan, you’ve got to be happy with what you’ve seen during the first four weeks of the high school football season.
Chris Larkey’s squad is sitting at 4-0 for the first time since former coach Greg Duncum led North Laurel to a 4-0 start in 2001, but the fans are hoping for a better ending to the season than Duncum’s squad had — they finished the ’01 campaign losing their final six games and not making the playoffs, something Larkey hopes his team can avoid repeating.
“This has been a good week for us,” Larkey said. “We needed the week off. The kids are having fun. They are doing some thing like hunting and fishing, but come Sunday, we’re getting back to the film because we’ve got our work cut out for us in our next game.”
The “game” Larkey is talking about is Thursday’s home district match-up with Southwestern Pulaski, who will enter the contest with an 0-5 record.
“It’s nice to be 0-4, and I know we’re trying to become the first team to go 5-0 here, but you can forget about that because this is a district game and you want to start the district with a 1-0 record, not 0-1.
“You don’t want to dig yourself an early hole with games against Pulaski County and Madison Southern coming up,” he added. “Those are road games, and you’ve got to take care of your district games at home. Southwestern is the best team without a win in the state. They should have beaten Belfry, Knox Central and Somerset and only lost to Corbin by 14 points. They are strong and physical.”
Even during the off week, Larkey said he and his assistant coaches have been able to grab his players attention on just how dangerous the Warriors can be.
“Kids are going to be kids and I know they see Southwestern’s 0-4 record, and think it’s going to be an easy game, but after we sat down and watched some film on them, I believe they realize now that it’s not going to be easy,” he admitted. “They see it’s going to be a tough game, and they’re a little nervous, and that’s good.
“We feel like we have a good team here, too,” Larkey added. “These kids don’t know a lot about the history here at North Laurel, but they do know that no team has went 5-0 here. They realize they are a good team, but they are also level-headed and realize the teams we play are just as good.”
North Laurel has been able to jump out to a 4-0 start thanks to a solid offense that has outscored its opponents 169-46 while seeing the defense limit its opponents to only 11 points per game.
The Jaguars are averaging 255 yards rushing per game with quarterback Michael Nelson leading the way with 400 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground on only 47 attempts. Gabe Blair has carried the ball 69 times for 376 yards and five touchdowns while fullback Jake McFadden has 144 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns.
Nelson is also dangerous throwing the ball. He’s completed 17-of-30 pass attempts for 289 yards and one touchdown. His leading receivers are Cole Lewis (six receptions for 148 yards) and Jaythus Riley (four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown).
On defense, North Laurel is led by Austin Baker (34 tackles), McFadden (33 tackles), Blair (29 tackles), Jarrod Lewis (28 tackles), David Edwards (20 tackles) and Cole Lewis (20 tackles). Steven Nelson leads the team with two interceptions while McFadden and Elijah Lopez each have one apiece.
“This team has had a lot of expectations put on it before the season started and it still has a lot,” Larkey said. “The players have also put a lot of expectations on themselves and they want to be that team that leaves a great legacy here at North Laurel.
“They realize that it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” he added. “It starts with our next game. They realize how big it is and it will begin with Southwestern.”