By Les Dixon for the Times-Tribune
Scott Russell's Knox Central Panthers are looking to win their seventh game in a row against visiting district foe Rockcastle County Friday.
The Panthers (5-2 overall, 1-0 in district play) have dominated the Rockets during the past six years, while outscoring them the past two seasons, 87-28.
Knox Central cruised to an easy 47-14 win in 2012.
The last time the Rockets defeated the Panthers, Tom Larkey was the Rocket coach, as Rockcastle County picked up a 22-7 win.
Even though his team has had Rockcastle County's number dating back to 2007, Russell admitted his Panthers aren't overlooking the Rockets, who are 1-6 overall and 0-1 against district opposition.
“They are a dangerous team,” he said. “We know they're going to be ready to play. They were tied with Russell County last week at 13-13, but Russell County scored with 20 seconds left in the first half and eventually pulled away.
“We can't let them hang around,” he added. “We need to continue to play like we have during the past couple of weeks. If we do that, I like our chances.”
Rockcastle County enters the game riding a three-game losing skid. Since beating Whitley County a month ago, the Rockets have struggled on both sides of the ball, especially during last week's 47-13 loss to Russell County.
“We were able to watch them against Russell County,” Russell said. “They are a better team than their record shows. Our kids know this isn't going to be an easy game. They know what's at stake, and they know this is a must-win game for us.”
Why is Friday's contest a must-win game for the Panthers?
A win against the Rockets assures Knox Central a first-round playoff game at home along with a district championship match-up on the road with Russell County in Week Nine.
“This is a huge game for us,” Russell admitted. “No one wants to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs and have to play someone like Boyle County or Lexington Catholic.
“We know we're going to have our hands full Friday, but we also know what's at stake, and the importance of the game,” he added. “We just need to play like we have been the past couple of weeks.”
Being off last week also allowed the Panthers to heal up some injuries going into Friday's game.
“We needed to get some rest,” Russell said. “We needed the break and it was good for us to have some time off. But now we're ready to get back to business. We don't want to put ourselves in a bad position with a loss. Like I said, we know what's at stake.
“If we want a home playoff game, we've got to win Friday,” he added. “The key for us is to win the battle up front. We have to make sure we know their alignment and do a good job blocking. If we can win the battle up front, we should be OK.”