TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Les Dixon For the Times-Tribune
Chris Larkey's North Laurel Jaguars have made a lot of noise this season, and they're looking to make even more Friday on the road against Grant County.
A win over the Braves will allow the Jaguars (7-2) to tie the 1994 North Laurel team record of eight wins.
Former coach Mike Harville led the Jaguars to an 8-3 record along with a district championship almost 20 years ago, and now Larkey's squad is looks to tie the record just a week after seeing Gabe Blair become the program's all-time leading rusher, surpassing Brian “Bull” Durham, who played on the '94 team.
“We can tie the school record with a win, but to me, it wasn't a goal that we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season,” Larkey said. “It's great for the kids and we have a chance to do it, but it has never been one of our goals. Our goals have been trying to win the district and reach the playoffs.
“We've got an opportunity to tie the record now, and we're hoping to do that,” he added. “It's a long trip over there, and we're going to see a different style of football, too.”
North Laurel will enter the game riding a big 21-point win over cross-town rival South Laurel while Grant County has dropped seven straight games since a 35-10 win over Owen County in Week One action.
“Grant County is young, but like I said, we're going to have to make a very long trip,” Larkey said. “They have played in a tough district and they've played a very tough schedule. This will be a different type of atmosphere for us.”
The Braves (1-8) have only scored 27 points during the past four games while being outscored 322-79 during their current four-game losing streak.
They are led in rushing by tailback Hunter Lawson, who has 475 rushing yards and five touchdowns while quarterback Joseph Knipp has 170 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Knipp has completed 57-of-130 pass attempts this season for 426 yards and three touchdowns.
The one glaring stat coming into the game is Grant County's 247 rushing yards per game its defense allows.
“We're going into the game with hopes of getting the win and coming out with no injuries,” Larkey said. “We need to stay injury-free, but we also want to come away with the win.
“We have 17 seniors on the team, and they realize their careers are dwindling down,” he added. “They know they are guaranteed only one more game after this week, so they're going to come out and play hard.”
The big question will be if Michael Nelson will be suiting up to play after getting injured during last week's win against South Laurel.
“He may be able to play one way, but to be honest, we don't need to be taking any chances right now,” Larkey said. “We've got the playoffs coming up, and we're just going to have to have some other players step up. That's the way it has been. When someone goes down with an injury, we need someone else to step up.”
And some of the players who have stepped up during Nelson's injury have been Blair, Jake McFadden and Hagen Hodge.
Blair now has 1,493 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns while McFadden has 431 rushing yards on only 24 carries while scoring six touchdowns. Hodges has completed four-of-seven pass attempts for 19 yards, but has 29 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
“The keys to the game for us is that we've got to run block better on offense and do a better job of pass coverage on defense,” Larkey said. “We weren't focused last week, and we can't do that. We can't come into a game and do our own thing. We've got to be focused and ready to play. Hopefully we can do that this week.”