By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
As the Whitley County Colonels and Knox Central Panthers get set to face off this Friday, the two teams couldn't be any more alike.
To figure out how a Knox Central team that's 3-2 can have anything in common with a winless Colonels squad, look no further than last week.
The Panthers are coming off their second straight loss after falling to Bell County, 34-12. The Colonels are trying to get in the win column for the first time this season and nearly did so last week before falling to Clay County, 42-36.
So what do they have in common? Both teams come into this week's contest with something to prove.
“We're trying to prove that we can win a football game,” Whitley County head coach Jim Black said. “Our kids battled their tails off last week and did some good things, but they came up a little bit short.
“I think if we had one more play we probably come away with the win, but that's not how it played out,” he added. “We've had a good week of practice and the kids are still fighting so I think they come in here with something to prove.”
Panthers head coach Scott Russell said his team was sick after watching film of the Bell County game, giving them a chance to see mistakes and missed opportunities the team had. He said those film sessions along with a good week of practice have his team ready to go.
“We watched film Sunday and Monday and our kids were literally sick when they saw some of the things we did wrong,” Russell said. “A lot of things they did wrong are correctable mistakes though, so we're focusing on fixing those mistakes.
“This is the first time we've had back-to-back losses in a long time, so our kids kind of have a chip on their shoulder because they want to stop this skid,” he added. “Hopefully that will feed over on the football field and we'll be able to play better than we have the past two games.”
The best thing the Colonels have going for them both on and off the field is the return of running back Zack Mills, who rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns last week against Clay County. Mills missed significant playing time after having his gallbladder removed, but is rounding into form after just one game. If his contributions aren't enough on the field, having him back in practice is enough to give the Colonels an emotional lift.
“Zack is important to our team with what he brings,” Black said. “He's the kind of kid that makes a team better by just being around.
“He did a good job for us last week and we hope he continues to improve as he gets closer to 100 percent on the field,” he added.
The Panthers are no slouches when it comes to the running game themselves. Jonathan Gist has done his job trying to fill the shoes of Jeffrey Canady after he graduated last season. Through the first three games of the season (all victories), Gist had rushed for 557 yards.
No matter what happens Friday, both teams will need to run the football successfully if they want to come out on top.
“We'll need to move the football down the field and execute if we want to come out of this with a win,” Russell said. “Our kids know that this Whitley County team is better than their record indicates, so we're not about to overlook them.”
“We need to score points to win, which is what we've said all season,” Black said. “In order to score points, we can't give the football away like we have been.”
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