CORBIN — By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
Week Five of high school football is in the books and now it’s time to take a seat and look at what we learned this past week.
Player of the Week — North Laurel tailback/quarterback/kick-off returner/punt returner Michael Nelson finally ends Knox Central’s dominance of getting named Player of the Week. Yep, for the first time in a month, a Panther player doesn’t get the top award. This time around, it goes to Nelson, who turned in one of the best performances in the North/South rivalry while leading the Jaguars past South Laurel Friday, 35-10.
Nelson accumulated 238 all-purpose yards, which included two rushing touchdowns, one passing touchdown and a receiving score during the win.
On one drive in the third quarter against the Cardinals, he accounted for 118 rushing yards after penalties on North Laurel set the Jaguars back a couple of times.
Signature win — Scottie Russell’s Knox Central Panthers are for real folks. The Panthers flexed their muscles and beat mountain and Class 5A powerhouse Harlan County this past Friday, 12-6. It was a game of two heavyweights and Knox Central was able to pull out the decision while remaining to be the lone undefeated team in the Tri-County at 6-0.
Biggest surprise — Honestly, it has to be Knox Central’s six-point win over Harlan County. I picked the Black Bears to win, and as they usually do, the Panthers proved me wrong by winning, 12-6. Knox Central really has a good chance of finishing the regular season unbeaten at 10-0. Now wouldn’t that be something?
But of course there is a game with Russell County in a couple of weeks that has a big say in an undefeated regular season for Knox Central.
Looking sharp — Not only did Whitley County play good during its 49-0 win over Lynn Camp, but the Colonels also looked good in their charcoal color uniform and helmets — definitely the best looking uniform in the Tri-County.
Making a statement — I’m going out on a limb and saying North Laurel has gotten over the hump. A lot of people probably didn’t want to say it, but Friday’s game against South Laurel was a must-win for the Jaguar football program and they answered the bell in fine fashion.
Chris Larkey’s squad took a big step forward to the Class 5A playoffs by picking up a road district win against South Laurel. North Laurel has a great shot at reaching its seven-year playoff drought.
Tough loss — I said it last week and I’ll say it again — it’s tough times at South Laurel right now. For a team that came into the season with lofty expectations, it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen right now. The Cardinals fell to 1-5 and 0-1 against district competition on the season after losing to North Laurel. South Laurel’s offensive woes continued against the Jaguars and the Cardinals were held to under 22 points for the fifth time this season — that only happened twice in 11 games last season.
Taking a break — Two Class A teams will be taking a breather this week with both Lynn Camp and Williamsburg both taking their bye week in Week 6. The Wildcats stand at 2-4 and now must get ready for district play while the Yellow Jackets will get to heal some of the injuries that have accumulated during their 5-1 run.
Let the district games begin — Both Corbin and Knox Central begin their district slates this week with the Redhounds hosting Wayne County in a huge district matchup while the Panthers hit the road to face-off against Clay County.
Thursday games — Both North and South Laurel will be in action Thursday instead of Friday this week. The Jaguars will host district foe Pulaski County while the Cardinals will host Southwestern.
Biggest win this past week — This is a tie. Both Knox Central and North Laurel picked up huge wins for their football programs this past week. The Panthers established themselves as one of the best teams in the mountains while the Jaguars got an important road district win.
Big game this week — Wayne County at Corbin — There is a lot at stake for these two teams. A loss to the Redhounds more than likely means Wayne County will be hitting the road during the first round of the Class 3A playoffs while a Redhound loss could potentially mean the same thing if they don’t get past Bell County in a couple of weeks. A win for Corbin also keeps its district championship hopes alive as well.
Tri-County Rankings for Sept. 24 - Sept. 28 —
Knox Central has separated itself even more from everyone else in the Tri-County after defeating Harlan County this past Friday. The Panthers remain at the top spot while Williamsburg holds on to the No. 2 position. Corbin comes in at the No. 3 spot while Whitley County and North Laurel aren’t far behind with both tying for the No. 4 position. South Laurel is ranked sixth and Lynn Camp rounds out the rankings at No. 7.
They said it — “This was a big win for our program. I felt like we were still lacking a win like this. We beat Johnson Central, and that was a good win, but when you beat a heck-of-a Harlan County team, it says a lot about your program. I’m just proud of our guys, and hats off to Harlan County. They played our tails off. It was just one of those slobber-knocker games.” — Knox Central coach Scottie Russell after seeing his team beat Harlan County, 12-6.
“The kids were just a little too jovial and I was worried that maybe they would look past this team. I was pleased with the way they came out and played with a workman-like attitude and carried themselves well in the win.” — Whitley County coach Jim Black after seeing his Colonels defeat Lynn Camp, 49-0.
“Offensively we were clicking and they were just having trouble covering our receivers. It was a good win for us and we head into our bye week on a good note.” — Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron after his team’s 54-6 win over Allen Central.
“It helps to win every game, obviously. This game means more than just a district game. It’s an in-county rival. It’s an awful game to coach because I have a good friend over there in Larry Welch. This is a big win for our fans, our community and our school. We had our crowd full tonight. This was just a super win tonight.” — North Laurel coach Chris Larkey commenting on his team’s 35-10 win over South Laurel.
“(Michael) Nelson is a great athlete. He can take things all the way any time and we got out of position and that’s all it takes and hat’s off to him. This is a big loss, but we just have to put things together next week and get a win. We just made too many mistakes on offense — little things add up. We had penalties that hurt us and we also had some turnovers, too.” — South Laurel head coach Larry Welch after his team’s 35-10 loss to cross-town rival North Laurel.
“Right now, we have to turn around and look at Clay County. They’re playing well and are a lot like Harlan County. We’re going to have our hands full in the district ...” — Knox Central coach Scottie Russell on his team’s road game against Clay County Friday.