By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
If you tell most coaches in the state when the season starts they are going to finish the year with a 10-2 mark with a trip to the playoffs, most of them will take it with a smile.
For the Knox Central Panthers, that's exactly what Scottie Russell's squad did, finishing with the school's best record in school history after a 35-6 loss to Lexington Catholic in the second round of the playoffs.
Despite the loss, Russell said he was happy with the overall effort of his team, but just like every other coach, he has a certain way of thinking when it comes to losing the last game of the season.
“I felt like our kids played really well all season and I thought they did a good job of preparing all year,” he said. “We came out with the best start in school history and finished with the best regular overall season record in history as well.
“I'm real proud of things, but of course if you don't win a state championship you're going to end the season with a loss,” he added. “I feel like we could have went a little bit further in the postseason and I just wish we would have come up with a little better showing in that last game.”
The Panthers won the first eight games of the season (South Laurel, Karns, Tenn., Johnson Central, Gatlinburg Pittman, Tenn., Clinton, Tenn., Harlan County, Clay County and Rockcastle County) before suffering their first loss of the season at the hands of the Russell County Lakers. Though the game was at home, Knox Central was unable to pull out the win to fall to 8-1 on the year.
After the loss, Knox Central rallied the troops to pick up a hard fought win over Madison Central, thanks to a late-game comeback that gave them a 44-36 win.
The next week saw the Mercer County Titans come to town, only to leave with a 41-20 loss to end their season.
But the dream season was not to be as the Panthers were nearly silenced on the road at Lexington Catholic to end the season. The Knights' defense held the early season Mr. Football candidate to just 46 yards on 11 carries. Knox Central's Jonathan Gist did manage to rack up over 100 yards in the loss.
With the loss, Russell says goodbye to what he believes to be one of the most productive senior classes in Knox Central history.
“I think this senior group has the best winning percentage of any group that's ever been at Knox Central,” Russell said. “When you talk about building this program, I think you have to start by talking about those kids that are leaving this season because they've really put in the hard work.
“You know, I hate to see this group, or any other group leave, but I feel like these kids are going to achieve bigger and better things in life,” he added. “It's a great group of kids and I'm really proud of them.”