By Les Dixon
TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
CLAY COUNTY —
Scott Russell’s Knox Central Panthers might be 2-0 while outscoring their opponents 82-35 this season, but they still feel like they have something to prove after slipping past Southwestern in overtime during a 31-28 Week One win over the Warriors.
They’ll get a chance Saturday in Clay County’s Appalachian Bowl against Prestonsburg, who will enter the game with a 1-1 record after losing to Pikeville, 37-20, while defeating Sheldon Clark, 43-0, in a Week One battle.
“This is going to be a good challenge for us,” Russell said. “It’s also a big game for us, too. We were able to win last week, and after looking at the film, we didn’t look horribly bad. We survived and won, but we do realize we need to play better.
“The one thing we’ve got to do is be more physical up front,” he added. “And I believe we will be.”
Russell also said to look for junior Matt Barger to be even more involved in the offense this week. Barger has done it all the past two weeks, catching touchdowns while making key plays on defense with interceptions and fumble recoveries.
Don’t be surprised to see Barger line up behind center at times against the Blackcats Saturday.
“We’ve got to give Matt more reps as the quarterback,” Russell said. “We’ve also got to get some other players involved in the offense, too.”
Senior tailback Jonathan Gist ran for more than 200 yards during last week’s win, but Russell said he’d like to get some other players involved in the run game, so Gist won’t be worn out by the time regular season play ends.
“He carried the ball over 30 times last week, and we’ve got to get more people involved to give him a bit of a break at times,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that.”
Defensively, Russell said his team will need to play well against a pass-happy Prestonsburg squad.
“The big thing that really jumps out at you is their quarterback,” he said. “We’ve got to get pressure on him. He’s kind of a Johnny Manzielish-type of quarterback. He stands back there, runs around and then finds the open receiver. We’ve got to get pressure on him.
“If we can continue to correct the mistakes we have made the past two weeks, I think we can have a good game,” Russell added. “We have put together some good practices, so we’ll see.”