TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Mitch Howard
The Endzone Staff
DRY RIDGE — It was a record-breaking night for North Laurel in a 35-0 win over Grant County. The Jaguars tied the school record for wins with their eighth of the season. Coach Chris Larkey made sure after the game that his team understood that was nice, but not what they set out to do.
“Our goal was not to win eight games. Our goal was not to tie the school record for wins,” Larkey said. “Our goal was to break the school record. Our goal was to get to the playoffs, but our main goal has always been to win a playoff game.”
The Jaguars will get that chance next week when they travel to Perry Central for the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s been a good season, but we don’t want it to end. Now we have to go face a very athletic Perry Central team on turf,” Larkey said.
Gabe Blair continued to set records with a 153-yard, three-touchdown performance. Last week Blair set the school’s career rushing mark. This week he passed Brian Durham again for the single-season rushing record. Blair now has 1,643 yards on the season to surpass Durham’s 1,604.
“The field conditions made it a tough football game for us. It actually hurt our running attack because we couldn’t make any cuts,” Larkey said.
The first quarter could not have been much easier for North Laurel. The Jaguars tallied 136 yards with eight first downs. Graves County had -10 total yards and did not pick up a first down.
“Grant County is not a bad football team. They have some young kids that played good, sound football,” Larkey said.
The Jaguars first drive was eight plays and 55-yards with Blair picking up 45 of those yards. The touchdown came on a two-yard run by Blair.
North Laurel got the ball back quickly after the Braves’ first possession lost yardage. The Jaguars second drive was longer, but took less time. Another two-yard run by Blair made it a 14-0 game. This drive was much more varied with Hagen Hodges connecting with Jake McWhorter on a 14-yard pass. Jake McFadden bounced outside for a 30-yard run that only stopped when he was bumped out of bounds.
McFadden finished the night with 63 yards rushing and Hodges with 76. Hodges also threw for 75 yards and one touchdown.
“I thought Hagen Hodges did a good job tonight throwing the football and he managed the game well for us,” Larkey said.
The Braves lost yardage on their second possession as well and were still looking for a first down.
Again the North Laurel offense felt little opposition on a 67-yard march. Blair scored on a five-yard run with 9:12 in the half. Blair would finish the first half with 85 yards on 13 carries.
Grant County would find some success on their third possession by handing the ball to bulky tailback Hunter Lawson. Lawson would rumble for gains of 20, 16, and 22 yards as the Braves reached first-and-goal from the 11. The drive would stall on the eight-yard line on downs. Lawson would rush for just over 100 yards.
“He is a big boy, He was tough to tackle, but we did,” Larkey said. “We did a good job on defense, but we still have to make better tackles.”
Only the clock stopped North Laurel on their final possession of the half. Keaton Kennedy missed on a 32-yard field goal with 5.5 seconds remaining. Kennedy is still recovering from a groin injury.
The Jaguars first two possessions of the second half ended with punts. They would tack on one more score with 6:58 to play. The drive started at midfield after Grant County turned the ball over on downs. The first play was a 30-yard completion from Hodges to McFadden. There were also several strong carries from Steven Nelson who rushed for 86 yards, all in the fourth quarter. The final touchdown came on a five-yard pass to Jake McWhorter.
There was no celebration for the Jaguars’ eighth win. Someone grabbed the Gatorade cooler, but was told not to dump it as is the custom. The talk immediately turned to other goals.
“We will have to be more focused than we have ever been because this is it. Now if you lose you are done,” Larkey said.