TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
SOUTH LAUREL — It took a couple of days to complete, but when it was all said and done, a goal-line stand by the North Laurel Jaguars to begin the second half is what ultimately wrapped up the win for Chris Larkey’s squad, according to Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron.
The Jaguars (2-0) jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to their running game duo of Michael Nelson and Gabe Blair, but Williamsburg quickly responded and only trailed 14-7 at halftime.
The Yellow Jackets (1-1) got out of the gate fast to begin the second half, and drove down to the Jaguar seven-yard line, but couldn’t get any further, and to make things worse, Williamsburg failed to convert on a field goal attempt, allowing North Laurel to take control of the game.
Larkey’s squad proceeded with a crucial touchdown on its next possession, and managed to hold on to win, 31-14.
“We still have a chance. It’s 14-7 and we drive down the field,” Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron said. “We don’t focus. We don’t score. I call some bad plays. We end up having to kick a field goal and miss the field goal. They go down and score and it changes the complexion of the game,” Herron said.
Larkey admitted his team’s defensive stance to begin the second half was a huge momentum shifter.
“I think a huge play was the missed field goal. That was an enormous boost for us because we got the ball and drove down to score and go up 21-7,” Larkey said. “Another big play was Cole Lewis catching the pass in the middle and getting to the one-yard line.”
The Yellow Jackets never had an answer for North Laurel’s ground game, as Cumberland valley Bowl XIII MVP Michael Nelson ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries while Gabe Blair added a touchdown on 28 carries and 125 yards.
“They just literally ran power and beat us running those power backs right at us. We couldn’t stop it,” Herron said.
Larkey said his plan coming into the game was to establish his team’s ground game with hopes of wearing down the Class A Yellow Jackets — it worked.
“Our whole game plan was to go in and establish our running game to keep the clock running because of their high-powered offense,” Larkey said. “It was a hot day today and I think it played to our advantage because we do have more depth than Williamsburg.”
Herron agreed North Laurel’s ground game took its toll on his team.
“I believe it did,” he said. “They just had a lot more numbers than we did.”
Williamsburg managed to cut its deficit to 21-14 after Dalton Sizemore, who finished the game with 189 passing yards, scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter. The touchdown was set up thanks to a 55-yard pass to Corey Shelton, who led the Yellow Jackets with four catches and 106 receiving yards.
But the Jaguars managed to put the game away after runs of 35 yards and 13 yards by Nelson extended his team’s lead to 28-14.
All-State kicker Keaton Kennedy put the finishing touches on the win with a 19-yard field goal with 3:42 left in the game.
“Most teams are going to go for it. I knew if we didn’t get it we are just up 14 and that’s two scores. If he hits it, then it means they’re going to have to score three times and he is going to hit it,” Larkey said. “They have an awesome offensive football team. We knew we weren’t going to stop them from scoring. They’re too good to stop. We just tried to keep them contained and make them work to get it.”