By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
The Jaguars are coming off a 6-5 season in which Chris Larkey's team came up short in a first-round playoff match-up against Whitley County, 41-20. Claiborne County finished the 2012 season with a 4-6 mark, but Larkey said the team is improved over last season and expects the Bulldogs to give his team an early test by throwing several different looks on offense.
“Claiborne County will line up in a couple of different formations on offense and they'll try to throw the football around a little bit,” Larkey said. “Their quarterback has a pretty good arm and they have some good receivers that can bring the ball in for them.
“They will line up in an I formation and run some fullback traps, while they'll also use some offset tailback sets to go up the middle as well,” he added. “They have some different things that they can try to do, so you really have to game-plan accordingly.”
The Jaguars are by no means a one-dimensional team, but looking at last years numbers it's obvious where their strengths lie. Last year's leading rushers return this season in Michael Nelson (1,340 yards and 23 touchdowns) and Gabe Blair (1,161 yards and four touchdowns), which means Larkey's running game is not only a year wiser, but most likely stronger as the team has spent most of the off-season in the weight room.
Larkey said he expects Claiborne County to line up and try to stop the run, but cautioned that it may be a risky endeavor if his team executes the way it’s supposed to.
“They're going to try and stop the run and really, I expect teams to try and do that all year because of the success we had last season,” Larkey said. “They may try to match up man-to-man on us, but that's a chance you take because if you do that and we throw the ball, there's not going to be a safety back there to stop the pass.”
“Also, if you do that and our guys get through the line, there's not going to be anybody there to stop the run once they get through,” he added. “We know they'll focus on stopping the run because that's what we're going to do, but we also know our guys are going to have to be a little bit better this year as teams focus more on them.”
Like every team across the state, the Jaguars have put in their share of time on the practice field and are raring to go. Admitting there's no substitution for actual on-field game action, Larkey said he expects some of his players to be a little bit nervous considering the Jaguars are opening the season in front of their home fans, but once the nerves subside he said he expects his team to play well.
“There will probably be some nerves when we get started because we have some young guys, but that's expected,” Larkey said. “The games mean more than the scrimmages and the kids know that, so I think they just want to get through the middle of the week so we can get ready for Friday.
“We try to make practices as hard as we possibly can so that Friday will be like an easy day for them on the field,” he added. “They've put a lot of work into getting ready for the season, so I think they'll come prepared.”