By Les Dixon For the Times-Tribune
What was such a promising season turned into disaster for Chris Larkey's North Laurel Jaguars.
With 17 seniors returning to a team that reached the Class 5A playoffs in 2012, many expected big things out of the Jaguars, and they got just that.
Senior tailback Gabe Blair put up record-breaking numbers, carrying the ball 244 times for 1,673 yards and 21 touchdowns.
He surpassed the 300-yard mark on several occasions during the season, while eclipsing North Laurel's single-season and career rushing record, surpassing marks held by former North Laurel great Brian Durham.
The Jaguars also cruised through regular season play and matched the program's best win total in a season, tying the 1994 district champion squad's win total of eight.
But everything came to a screeching halt last week as injuries took their toll on Larkey's squad.
Despite being a three seed entering its first round match-up in the Class 5A playoffs against Perry Central, many tagged North Laurel the favorite entering the game.
And things looked to be going North Laurel's way early on until the Jaguars lost Blair and offensive lineman Zach Abner for the remainder of the contest after just the fifth play of the game.
Larkey's squad couldn't recover from the injuries, and fell to the Commodores, 28-15.
"We accomplished a lot that we had set out to do in the beginning of the season,” coach Chris Larkey said. "But the big thing is we wanted to win a playoff game and we weren't able to do that.
“We just had the worst luck,” he added. “Things didn't go our way and basically, there you have it. The injuries early on really hurt us. We just didn't respond.
“It's been a struggle,” he added. “But things are heading in the right direction. We have made the playoffs two years in a row and this program hasn't had a lot of success. It's been a very long process, but we are getting there.”
Larkey continues to believe if his team wasn't hit with the rash of injuries against Perry Central, they would still be playing.
“I believe that,” he admitted. “If we didn't have the injuries, there is no doubt that we would still be playing. If Gabe doesn't break his ankle and Michael Nelson is 100 percent, we win that football game.
“Those two guys were two of our main offensive threats, and they were hurt,” Larkey added. “Not having Michael at 100 percent and then losing Gabe and one of our offensive linemen, that hurt as well. It was really hard for our kids to adjust on the fly. But one thing I learned from my dad, never second guess yourself.”
Now Larkey will have to try to figure out how to replace a senior class of 17.
“That's going to be hard to do,” he said. “We're going to have to rebuild in some positions, but it's going to hurt, losing the players we did. The big thing now is we've got to have our kids step up and get in the weight room.
“We've got a good eighth grade class moving up, too," Larkey added. "The program is heading in the right direction. We just need to continue to improve.”
Injuries hurt Jaguars' shot at first-ever playoff win
By Les Dixon For the Times-Tribune
- Local Sports
The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets are partying like it's 1987! That was the last time the Jackets won a game in the 13th Region Tournament, and they ended the 27-year drought with a 47-44 win over the heavily-favored Knox Central Panthers on Thursday night.
Les Dixon's Daily Region Pick'Em
When it comes to picking region tournament games, it’s not an easy task to say the least. This is the most parity that I’ve ever seen in the 13th Region Boys and Girls Tournaments.
If Clay County’s play during the first game of the 13th Region Tournament is any indication of things to come, Robert Marcum’s squad could be well on its way of capturing their second straight 13th Region championship.
The Way it is
Since I’m picking Corbin to pull off the upset against Jackson County today, I figured I’d give my top five upsets dating back to 2005-06 when the 13th realigned and welcomed both North and South Laurel high schools to the mix.
Tony Pietrowski’s Corbin Redhounds have been favored during the past two first round 13th Region match-ups, and have been upset both times. Corbin is hoping things might change a bit this time around.
Barbourville will have hands full against Bell County today
Dinky Phipps’ Barbourville Tigers are looking for their first 13th Region Tournament win dating back to 2006’s tournament when they defeated Clay County in the regional semifinals.
Like It or Not
There’s an elephant in the room at this year’s 13th Region Tournament, and really in basketball in general, and I guess I’ll be the first one to point it out (publicly with my name attached to it).
Chris' Daily Region Pick'Em
With the first three days of opening round games in the books, I can honestly say I'm not surprised that I'm 4-2 overall when it comes to my pick'ems record.
You can never count out the Clay County Lady Tigers when it comes to the 13th Region Tournament.
Les Dixon's Daily Region Pick'em
After going just .500 during the girls games, things are going to get even tougher when it comes to picking the 13th Region Boys Tournament games.
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