TIMES TRIBUNE (CORBIN, Ky.)
By John Stepp For The Times-Tribune
In last year’s showdown with district rival Berea Pirates, the Lynn Camp Wildcats came away with a 28-26 victory, marking then-first-year head coach Phil Russell’s first and only district win. This year, the Wildcats hope to steal another victory from the Pirates, but this time it won’t be a surprise to anyone.
The Wildcats have had a better year in 2013 under Russell, with their biggest win of the season coming in a 29-28 thrilling upset of the Harlan Green Dragons. With district play starting this week, Russell wants his team to head into their remainding games with one goal in mind – winning a district title.
“I told them that the district championship starts this Friday night. If we want to play for a district title then we have to win this game against Berea,” said Russell. “Last year we went up there and snuck up on them. It’s not going to be that way this year. They’ll be ready for us.”
The Wildcats will be the favorite headed into the game, as the Pirates have only managed one win this season – a 47-14 blowout over Bracken County. With a 3-3 record on the year, a win would give Lynn Camp a winning record with just three games left on their schedule. It will also be a huge step in the right direction for the program that had a 0-10 season just two years ago.
“It’s a big game for us. This is a district game and rivalry. If you look at the history of the rivalry between Lynn Camp and Berea, you’ll see that most of the games are close and hard-fought,” said Russell. “I expect it to be a close game. That is what we’re preparing for and that is probably what we’re going to get.”
A concern for the Wildcats will be the status of their standout senior quarterback Aaron Mills. Mills was unable to play in last week’s win over Clinton County on count of a knee injury, and is still doubtful for this Friday. In his absence, running backs Tommy Hatfield and Keanu Nolan will share time at the position, a formula that worked quite well last week.
“I’m not taking anything away from Aaron Mills because he is a phenomenal player, but I don’t know if he could have played better than the way those boys played last week,” said Russell. “We want Aaron back, but if he can’t play, I think Tommy and Keanu will step up and play well for us like they did last week. The doctors are being cautious with Aaron, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
In addition to the injuries, Russell is also concerned with his team’s defensive performance. After giving up 28 first half points to Clinton last week, the Wildcats will need to do a better job of stopping the Berea offense.
“We’re not living up to our name of the Hitmen for 48 minutes of the game,” said Russell. “We’re supposed to be better than this and we’ve not shown it a whole lot. We finally adjusted to what they were doing last week and shut them out in the second half. That is our goal this week – a shutout.”
Whether Lynn Camp holds the Pirates to a shut out or not is yet to be seen, but one thing is certain, if the Wildcats can pick up their first district win on Friday, Russell and his squad will be one of the most improved teams in Class 1A.
“We’re just going to keep working. We’re going to come out and play hard this week and control the clock with our running game and play the way we know how,” said Russell. “We’re getting better and we want to compete for a district title. That is our goal and it starts Friday.”