By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
The North Laurel Jaguars are in familiar territory this week against Madison Southern, but just how the Eagles’ running game compares to what they’ve seen so far remains to be seen.
The Eagles bring in one of the state’s top college recruits in Damien Harris. Harris has torched teams this season at a rate of 235 yards per game, while tallying 1,412 yards and 28 touchdowns on just 97 attempts. If you’re counting, that’s an average of 14.5 yards per carry.
Larkey admitted there probably is no easy way to stop Harris, so the only option is to try and keep him off the field as much as possible.
“This kid is an exceptional athlete and if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have scholarship offers from all over the country,” Larkey said. “He’s going to get his yards just like he’s done all season, so the best option is to try and keep the football as much as possible and keep him off the field.
“We had a similar situation against Russell County with Nick Britt,” he added. “You just have to try and limit the number of times you allow them to touch the football and try and slow them down when they do get it.”
North Laurel hasn’t exactly struggled when it comes to running the football. Between the Jaguars’ two leading rushers, Michael Nelson (899 yards) and Gabe Blair (798 yards), North Laurel has gained close to 1,700 yards on the ground. The two are averaging over 100 yards apiece on the ground.
Larkey said just like he has all season, he will look to those two this week against Madison Southern.
“You can’t just turn into a passing team over night, so we’ll try to run the football and score some points,” Larkey said. “We’ve looked to those guys all season and Michael and Gabe have done a great job for us.
“If we’re going to be in this game, we have to be able to run the football,” he added. “We’ll try to throw a few passes and stretch them out on occasion, but at this point of the season, we have to stay with what we’ve done all season and hope that it works.”
Defensively, Madison Southern is only allowing 160 yards per game on the ground and just 271 yards of total offense per game, while forcing 10 turnovers in seven games.
North Laurel is a shade better in the turnover column with 17, and in total yards allowed defensively with 251 per game. If the Jaguars have their way, that trend will continue, but Larkey knows it won’t be easy.
“They beat a pretty good Pulaski County team last week, so we know they are coming in on a high note,” he said. “We just have to get the kids to focus and execute.
“We’ve got a few kids that are dinged up with injuries, but like I’ve told them all year, you have to fight through the pain,” he added. “Hopefully we can do that Friday.”