By John Stepp For The Times Tribune
At the beginning of the 2013 season, the Whitley County Colonels were favored to finish runner-up in their district and have the best shot at knocking off defending district champs Harlan County. Fast forward seven games later and the Colonels have yet to win a game this year, while Harlan County is still the team to beat in Class 5A District 8.
This Friday could change all of that when Whitley County hosts the Black Bears in what many predict to be a lopsided victory, with the Colonels coming away with their eighth straight loss of the year.
Despite the unusual circumstances for Whitley County, Jim Black’s squad is determined to keep working hard. With just three games left in the regular season, the Colonels are taking things one game at a time, still fighting for that first win.
“At the beginning of the year, the Harlan County game was a big game for us, but considering the circumstances, now we’re taking it week by week,” Black said. “That is really the best approach we can take to any game. We’re still working to improve and to do things correctly to give us a chance to win the game.”
It has certainly been a season of adjustments for Whitley County. Earlier in the year the Colonels lost one of their top rushers in senior Austin Hooper. They have also spent time without leading rusher Zach Mills. This week will be no different as they will be without their starting center.
“It’ has been a season of adjustments for us. With the injuries we’ve had and the way the season has gone so far, we’ve had to make adjustments each week,” Black said. “We’ll make some adjustments for Harlan County. Our starting center, who has played the position all year for us, will be out this week, so that is quite an adjustment right there.”
The Black Bears defense will be a big test for the Colonels this Friday. Harlan County is averaging just over 13 points allowed to in-state teams this season, and Whitley County has struggled with turnovers all year.
“We are still focusing on taking care of the football, after two more turnovers last week. No team in the state can win games when they are putting the ball on the ground three and four times a game,” Black said. “We have to continue to work on getting better and doing things correctly. That’s the only way you’re going to win games.”
Despite the winless record, the Colonels have not quit on Black this season. Black said his team has continued to put forth the effort, which is quite an accomplishment considering the way the season has gone.
“I have to give the boys a lot of credit. It would have been easy for us to quit and give up, but they haven’t done that. They have kept working hard,” Black said. “Under these circumstances, for them to keep working hard each week and in practice says a lot about them.”
A win this week would be huge for the Colonels, who are already in the playoffs due to their four-team district.
“It would be a big win for us, but any win is a big win for us right now. We’re not looking at it as it’s Harlan County, but as it’s the next game on our schedule,” Black said. “If we show up and do things correctly and play smart football then we can give ourselves a chance. We have to play better than what we’ve been playing, but they’ve had a good week of practice so far, so we’ll see how it goes.”