By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
NORTH LAUREL — The North Laurel Jaguars are coming off a season in which the team finished with a 6-5 mark and made the playoffs for the first time under head coach Chris Larkey.
Not only that, but it was also the first time the Jaguars had made the playoffs since 2004 when they were eliminated by Scott County.
Even though last season could have went a little better for Larkey and company, he said he was pleased with the overall outcome and that the experience could go a long way in determining what the 2013 version of the Jaguars are able to do.
As the summer football program has officially wound down at North Laurel, Larkey said he was pleased with what he saw, especially the number of kids out on a daily basis.
“We’ve had around 50 or 60 kids a day, which is really something to be excited about,” Larkey said. “I’m really hoping for about 60 or 70 kids on our football team this season, but you never really know.
“Football is a tough sport for kids to play because you’ve got to be out in the heat, snow, sun and rain,” he added. “In addition to the elements, you’re wearing 30 pounds of gear while you’re out there and you have to run and worry about getting hit at the same time. So football is not for everybody and we realize that, so we’re just hoping for some good numbers overall.”
With the return of incoming seniors Gabe Blair and Michael Nelson, the Jaguars are expected to be one of the teams to beat. Together the pair rushed for more than 2,500 yards (1,340 for Nelson and 1,161 for Blair) and 27 of the team’s 31 touchdowns on the ground.
Larkey said it’s that kind of production that puts the Jaguars on the spot for the upcoming season as far as expectations. He said hopefully his team would respond and be able to feed off last year’s success, which included a playoff appearance.
“I think a lot is going to be expected out of this group because they’ve come so far when you think about when they started their careers here,” Larkey said. “They were able to get the team into the playoffs for the first time in a long time, which is something they should be proud of.
“I think overall we should have won some of the games we lost, but we might should have lost some of the games we won, so that balances out,” he added. “I think when they come in here and see what they’re able to do the kids will look back on last year and how they got where they did and try and build on that.”
While some teams will continue to work until the last possible minute during the summer, Larkey said his team has already been released to do what teenagers do this time of year. He was quick to point out the importance of enjoying summer as well as spending time with family and making good on responsibilities.
“We let our kids go a few days early so they can get a start on their actual summer,” Larkey said. “They need to have that family time and time with their friends to balance things out in life. Maybe they’ll hunt or fish or just go to the pool with their friends, but whatever it is it’s important.
“Hopefully they’ll go have their fun and come back in here in August ready to go,” he added. “That’s when the real work will begin as we get ready for our season.”