TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
With the 2013 football season over for all but one Tri-County team, I thought it would be a good time to have a look at what each team will have to look forward to next season.
First off, I want to congratulate each and every team on an exciting season of football. As can be expected throughout any high school sports season, there were some surprises and some letdowns, but all in all the season was a fun one to cover.
With that said, let’s break down each team and see what they have to look forward to in 2014.
• Corbin Redhounds
The first thing that jumps out to me about the 2013 Corbin Redhounds is the fact that the team graduates 11 seniors this season, including Cai Jackson and Taylor Waddle.
The second thing is that according to this year’s roster, the Redhounds will return 23 juniors next season, including names like Jake Coppock, Tanner Powers, Corey Taylor and Jace Woodruff.
If you’re not familiar with high school football, that’s a large group of seniors to look to when it comes to experience next season, not to mention the fact that most of them played on back-to-back middle school state championship teams just a few years ago.
I know the Redhounds overachieved to a lot of people this season, but 2014 may be a year during which Steve Jewell’s squad is not only expected to deliver, but they do so.
• Knox Central Panthers
Panther nation expected a lot out of this year’s Knox Central team and Scott Russell did everything in his power to deliver, but the coach summed it up best in one of his postseason interviews with the statement “This just wasn’t our year.”
A rash of injuries, including a big one to quarterback Matt Barger, put a damper on what the Panthers were able to do this season.
The good news is the future looks bright for Russell and company as they only lose six seniors and welcome a solid class of freshmen next season. If Barger stays healthy he will be a difference maker next season, as will Jeffrey Adams.
• Lynn Camp Wildcats
As Lynn Camp head coach Phil Russell embarked on his second season at the helm of the Wildcats’ program, I felt a shift in the direction of the program as I watched them practice in preseason workouts.
A pair of losses early may have slowed progress, but Russell and company are moving in the right direction and I look for next season to be a pivotal one for the Wildcats and their fan base. As with any school, I think there are players in the program that can make a difference if given the chance and if things keep moving like they are, Lynn Camp could surprise people next season.
• North Laurel Jaguars
This season was supposed to be the one during which the Jaguars broke the postseason curse and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
North Laurel coaches, players and fans all believed it was going to happen.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think they may have believed a little bit too much and lost sight of what a great season the Jaguars were having on the field.
A lot of times as fans we look forward to what we expect a team to do and look past the actual accomplishments they are achieving on the field.
North Laurel’s Gabe Blair experienced one of the best seasons any Tri-County running back has ever experienced and the sad part is most people will focus on the injury he suffered in the playoffs against Perry County Central.
It will be tough to rebound next season, but if any coach is up for the task, it’s North Laurel’s Chris Larkey.
• South Laurel Cardinals
Let me make this as simple as I know how to make it — Matt Rhymer will turn the South Laurel program into a winner and eventually into a contender at the state level. If you don’t believe it, just sit back and watch.
Rhymer has one of the absolute best attitudes of any young coach I’ve ever dealt with, but at the same time I get the feeling that he is a no nonsense kind of guy when it comes to the way he wants to do things.
I know the Cardinals struggled and took more than their share of lumps this season, but the thought of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger comes to mind when summing up their season.
Trust me when I say that since the Cardinals never really died as far as playing hard for Rhymer, they’re only going to be stronger as a result of the effort.
• Whitley County Colonels
Recently resigned Colonels’ head coach Jim Black was one of my favorite coaches to deal with on a weekly basis and I hated to see him go. With that said, it’s most likely what was best for him and the Colonels’ football program.
At the writing of this column rumors continue to be rampant as far as who the next coach at Whitley County will be, but one thing that isn’t a rumor is the fact Black didn’t leave the cupboard bare.
Whitley County returns one of the most, if not the most, exciting tailbacks in the area in Zack Mills. Mills missed a large part of this season after he had to have an appendectomy, but came back strong to close out the season.
Add quarterback Luke Woods, fullback/quarterback Austin Ysidro and running back Jacob Paul to the mix and whoever takes over for Black will have a solid nucleus to build on when the 2014 season gets underway.