By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
Knox Central coach Scottie Russell was quick to the point when asked about his team’s Class 4A first round match-up with Mercer County — “I tell you what, they’re one of the better three seeds in the entire state. It’s not going to be an easy game for us.”
The Titans will enter Friday’s contest against the Panthers (9-1) with a 6-4 record while winning four of their last five games, including last week’s 54-14 thumping of Class 6A’s Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“They are good, very good,” Russell said. “We know we’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ll be ready. Our kids are excited for the playoffs to begin.”
After losing to Russell County two weeks ago, Knox Central picked up some much-needed confidence and momentum this past week during the Panthers’ come from behind win against Class 6A’s Madison Central.
Russell’s squad trailed 36-14 in the fourth quarter before rallying to win in overtime, 44-36.
“We really needed that win,” Russell admitted. “It gave us some momentum and confidence and we need both of those going into the playoffs. We didn’t really play well for three quarters, but we realized what we could do and probably played the best quarter of football we have this season. Now we’ve got to put together four good quarters against Mercer County.”
The Titans’ resume during the regular season is a good one. They’ve got wins over Allen County (33-20), West Jessamine (31-28), Nelson County (48-28), Marion County (55-0), Taylor County (72-31) and Dunbar.
But they do have one loss that will catch Knox Central’s fans’ eyes — a 19-13 road loss to Madison Central on Aug. 31, the same team the Panthers beat last week by eight points.
“They’ve got some good wins and they’ve played some very good teams,” Russell said.
Mercer County also has losses against Anderson County (48-7), Lexington Catholic (34-16) and Boyle County (59-19).
The Titans are led by a three-headed quarterback attack, as Drew Davis leads the way with 764 passing yards and five touchdowns. Austin Sparrow has thrown for 525 yards and three touchdowns and Darion Lewis has completed 10-of-27 pass attempts for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
“They like to mix things up throwing the ball,” Russell said. “They also have some players that are very explosive.”
James Johnson is Mercer County’s main threat running the ball. He leads the Titans with 1, 462 yards on the ground and 27 touchdowns. Lewis has run for 370 yards while Kobe Ford has 193 rushing yards.
“They are going to be tough to stop,” Russell admitted. “They have put up some big numbers and they’ve got a pretty scrappy defense.”
Russell said it’s no secret what his team must do to advance to the second round of the playoffs — “We’ve got to ground and pound” — and the Panthers have the weapons to do just that.
Knox Central is led by Jeffrey Canady’s 1,683 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns while Jonathan Gist has 1,053 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns.
Quarterback Devon Evans has completed 70-of-120 pass attempts for 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns while Matthew Barger leads the way at the receiver position with 42 receptions, 695 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.
“We are at home and that’s big and for us to win, we’ve got to establish ball-control on offense,” Russell said. “The kids are ready to play and we’ve got to ground and pound. Turnovers could also play a big role in this game, too. We’ve got to continue to do what has won us games this season.”
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
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