Wayne Co. at Corbin
Where: Gilliam Field
Date: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Team Records: Wayne Co. 5-1, Corbin 2-3
The inside scoop: It might be Corbin’s first district game of the season, but it’s also the most important. Upstart Wayne County pays Campbell Field a visit Friday with a lot at stake in district positioning.
The Cardinals enter Friday’s contest with a 5-1 record, but they are 0-1 in district play after falling to defending district champion Bell County last week, 21-7.
A loss for Wayne County would almost lock up the No. 3 seed for the Cardinals, signifying a road playoff game in first round action of the Class 3A playoffs.
A win for Corbin would put the Redhounds one step closer to a home district game and a district championship while a loss would put them in a must-win situation to keep home playoff hopes alive in a couple of weeks against Bell County.
“This is a huge game for us,” Corbin coach Steve Jewell said. “There is no doubt about it. It’s our first district game of the season and you want to be able to get off to a good start in district play.
“This game is all about positioning,” he added. “You want as many home playoff games as you can get and with the way the playoffs are set up this season, the more you win during the playoffs, the more chance you get to stay at home, so this is huge.”
The Redhounds are coming off a bye week that allowed the players to heal any injuries they had suffered during the season’s first five games. Corbin’s record stands at 2-3 on the season and all three of their losses have been by seven points.
“The bye was huge for everyone,” Jewell said. “The kids got to be kids a bit and they had some healing time for their injuries. Hopefully it will pay off this week.”
Jewell admitted Wayne County isn’t going to be a pushover and his Corbin squad needed to be ready for a physical game.
“They are a good team,” he said. “They played Bell County tough and gave them a heck of a ballgame. They turned the ball over four times in the first quarter, but still played them close.
“It seems like every three to four years Wayne County has a good ball team and it all started last season and they return everyone back except for two players. They have a very good team.”
The Cardinals have been successful on both sides of the ball. Wayne County is allowing opponents only 144 yards of total offense per game and only 98 rushing yards per game.
“They have an excellent defense,” Jewell said. “They play really well together and they are very physical on both sides of the ball.”
The Cardinals are led by quarterback Tyler Guffey, who has completed 35-of-74 pass attempts for 586 yards and seven touchdowns. He also leads the team with 208 yards on the ground and is followed by Junior Ruiz’s 203 rushing yards.
Dagan Shelton (10 catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns) and Loan Gardner (nine catches for 222 yards and one touchdown) are Guffey’s main receiving targets.
“Even though they spread you out, they like to run the ball,” Jewell said. “They really go 50/50 on offense. We’ve got to be ready for that.”
Jewell said the key for his team is to keep Wayne County’s offense off the field.
“We’ve got to do that,” he said. “We’ve got to minimize our mistakes and get off on the right foot. Each district game is big, but right now, this one is huge.”
Whitley Co. at Somserset
Where: Briar Jumper Field
Date: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Team Records: W.C. 2-3, Somerset 4-1
The inside scoop: It’s becoming a repetitive them for the Whitley County Colonels — a different week, a tough opponent.
It doesn’t get any easier this week as the Colonels will be paying a visit to Class 2A’s No. 2 ranked team Somerset.
The Briar Jumpers have been dominant at times on the defensive side of the ball — knocking off rival Southwestern 48-2, while disposing of defending Class A state champion Hazard with ease, 17-9.
Somerset went on the road just last week and shut out Class 2A power Glasgow, 20-0, so Whitley County coach Jim Black knows his team has their hands full.
“It’s another big test for us,” he said. “Somerset is a very good team and many believe No. 1 in their class. They do everything right.
“They are well-coached, they play hard and they are hard to stop on both sides of the ball — they are very good team.”
The Briar Jumpers (4-1) are led by quarterback Tanner Gadberry and running back Will Lange, while Lange also can do some damage catching the ball along with Cam Cheuvront.
“They have a lot of weapons on offense,” Black said. “We’re going to have to play well over there. They do a lot of things very good, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Whitley County is led by the tailback duo of Zack Mills and Boston Bryant while quarterback Austin Ysidiro can also do some damage on the ground.
Austin Hooper is another player to watch out for. He had a breakout game during last week’s 49-0 win over Lynn Camp.
He ran for 240 yards and two touchdowns while the Colonels rushed for 439 yards on the ground.
“We’re going to have to run the ball this week, too,” Black said. “We need to play a good game on offense and not turn the ball over and defensively, we’ve got to stop them from making the big plays. If we can do that, we’ll be fine.”
The Colonels aren’t going to be pushovers by no means. Whitley County has won two straight games while playing the toughest schedule in the Tri-County.
The Colonels’ lone losses have come against Class 4A’s No. 4 ranked team (Russell County) and Class 3A’s No. 2 ranked team (Bell County).
Whitley County dropped a 49-20 decision to the Lakers, but hung tough against the Bobcats before losing 21-14 at Log Mountain.
“We’ve played tough teams and we’re happy to be where we are at,” Black said. “Last year, we were exactly opposite. We know what we are up against, so we’ve got to be ready for them.
“I know our kids are looking forward to this game,” he added. “I know they are very excited where we are at. We just need to come in and control the clock. We also need to take away the big play, too.”
Knox Cen. at Clay Co.
Where: Clay County High School
Date: Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Team Records: K.C. 6-0, Clay Co. 3-2
The inside scoop: The Knox Central Panthers might be off to their best start ever at 6-0, but that doesn’t mean anything at the present time, according to head coach Scottie Russell.
“It’s great to start 6-0, but now we are 0-0 because we are starting district play and we know if we want to accomplish our goals we’ve got to win our district games,” he said.
Knox Central will get a tough test Friday at Clay County when the Panthers will pay a visit to play the Tigers.
“They are a very good team and our guys know what is at stake,” Russell said.
Even though Knox Central has been making history with a 6-0 start, Russell said his players want to continue the feats by winning the school’s first district championship.
“That starts Friday,” Russell said of his team’s goal of winning a district title. “In our district, you can’t afford to lose any district games because it’s such a tight race with everyone.”
Knox Central is coming off an impressive 12-6 win over Harlan County, which has garnered the Panthers a No. 5 ranking in Class 4A, but Russell said his team's focus is now shifted to Clay County.
“We’ve done our best to make sure our players don’t let their guard down this week,” Russell said. “Our guys know we can’t afford to have a letdown against Clay County. It’s a brand new season now.”
The Tigers (3-2) are led by University of Kentucky signee Jacob Hyde, who has been impressive on both the offensive and defensive line while Sam Carr leads Clay County with 708 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Joey Dezarn has 319 yards on the ground while quarterback Ryan Holland has completed 34 of 45 pass attempts for 545 yards and four touchdowns.
“Clay County has a lot of weapons,” Russell said. “We’ve got to do our best to contain them.”
Even though the Tigers have put up some impressive numbers individually, so has Knox Central.
The Panthers are led by senior Jeffrey Canady, who has 1,54 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground, while teammate Jonathan Gist has 688 rushing yards and five TDs. You also have to keep an eye on quarterback Devon Evans, who has rushed for 300 yards while passing for 580 yards and five touchdowns.
“For us, it’s very important to get off to a good start on the road,” Russell said. “We know we’ve got to win every district game to accomplish our goal and you can’t reach that goal if you don’t win this game, so it’s very important.”