Maroons begin postseason as favorite over Letcher Central
by Doug Eads, CJ Sports Correspondent Commonwealth Journal
The Pulaski County Maroons’ run in the post season kicks off tonight, and Johnny Hines’ club is at the exact spot it wanted to find itself in way back in mid-July when practice first began — at home.
And, not only are the Maroons beginning post-season play in the friendly confines of PC Field, but Pulaski County has several things going for it tonight as Hines and company welcome in the Letcher County Central Cougars for the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs.
PC — 7-3 on the season — is a prohibitive favorite over Letcher County Central tonight for a myriad of reasons.
Number one, the Cougars have struggled all season long, going just 2-8 on the year, but Paul Rains’ club is coming off of last week’s impressive, 62-29 win on the road over Greenup County.
However, that win is somewhat tarnished due to the simple fact the Musketeers with last week’s loss to Letcher County Central finished the campaign winless, with an 0-10 record in 2012.
Number two, history — make that all kinds of history — is on Pulaski’s side this evening.
Since 2007, the Maroons have been virtually unbeatable at home, posting a 29-4 record over that span at PC Field — good enough for a winning percentage of .878.
In the history of PC football, the Maroons are 7-0 at home in playoff games, never tasting defeat at PC Field in the post season.
And, the only other time the Cougars and Maroons have met on the gridiron came back in 2009, when PC toppled Letcher County Central 31-14 to win Pulaski’s first and only regional championship.
So, with all the above being said, Letcher County Central has no shot whatsoever this evening, right?
Not so fast, according to Hines.
The PC coach says that, despite the fact the deck may seemingly be stacked heavily tonight in the Maroons favor, Hines feels like his team will have its hands full tonight against a Letcher County Central team that he believes is a whole lot better than the Cougars 2-8 record would indicate.
“We’re certainly not taking anything at all for granted,” pointed out the PC head coach.
“We’ve seen several game films of Letcher Central’s games this season, and they look like a really good football team to us,” remarked Hines. “They lost a lot of games this year that quite frankly they should have won. They were very close in some of those games, and they made some key turnovers at very crucial times that got them beat.”
Meanwhile, the Maroons had been riding a ton of momentum for much of this season until running into a buzzsaw in Christian County last week.
The Colonels breezed into PC Field last Friday night and handed Pulaski County a 34-20 loss — a defeat that snapped a six-game winning streak by the Maroons.
Still, Pulaski County comes into tonight’s game at 7-3 on the year, but more importantly, are a one-seed for the playoffs, meaning Hines and crew are guaranteed at least two games at home to begin the playoffs.
And, it starts tonight with Letcher County Central. The PC coach says he would gladly take a repeat performance of the ‘09 regional championship game tonight in round one of the Class 5A post-season party when the Cougars and Maroons tee it up tonight in the opening round of the playoffs.
“That game in ‘09 is the only time we’ve ever played Letcher County Central in the history of the two schools,” stated Hines.
“That game was for the regional championship back in ‘09, and they came in here with a very strong team that night, and we were very fortunate that we played extremely well in that game and got some turnovers that went our way,” added the PC coach. “We got some big plays that night from guys like Zach Eastham, Mikey Shepherd, Steven McQueen, and Alex Abner and guys like that. We won our first ever regional championship over Letcher Central in that game, so those are some great memories obviously.”
Pulaski County finds itself at home tonight at 7-3 and a district champion in 2012 due to some outstanding play this season on both sides of the football.
Freshman quarterback Riley Hall has enjoyed a tremendous freshman season this year, and quite honestly, hasn’t played like a freshman in any game this year.
Instead, Hall has played like a wily veteran and he’s got a ton of help along the way by being surrounded by some outstanding playmakers in guys like Tyler Goins, Aaron Hall, Alec Wooldridge, and Aaron Smith to name just a few.
And, the play of the Maroons defense has been a major factor in PC’s rise in 2012 as well.
Pulaski County’s ‘D’ has shown a tremendous amount of improvement from last season, and if the old saying is true that defense does indeed win championships, then one has no further to look than Pulaski County’s defense in 2012 — a defense that helped lead the Maroons back atop the District 7 standings this season.
“We’ve been very pleased with the way our defensive unit has grown and progressed over the course of the season,” stated Hines.
“We’ve played well from our very first game this year defensively, and we’ve continued to improve upon that as the year has went along,” continued the Maroons head coach. “This is probably the best defensive unit we’ve had since — you’d probably have to go all the way back to the ‘07 group — that was a pretty outstanding group.”
Letcher County Central is a team that Hines believes will put the ball in the air tonight a whole lot, and his defensive unit figures to get another stern test from the Cougars aerial assault.
But, the ace in the hole for coach Hines and the Maroons is the fact this game will be played at PC Field — a place where Pulaski County just doesn’t lose at.
“I believe you will get every single coach in this region to tell you just how important home field advantage is when it comes to the playoffs,” pointed out Hines.
“There’s a lot of miles to cover on a bus when you have to go on the road in this region,” Hines added. “You have to stay on that bus for two to three hours, and then you have to get off that bus and play immediately against a quality team on a cold night. It just takes a lot out of you. So, whoever is playing at home has a tremendous advantage. I think you saw that last year when Harlan County had to travel to Southwestern for the regional final in 2011, and again in 2010 when we had to go to Harlan County for the regional championship game. We hope we have a huge crowd on Friday night, and to be honest with you, we were kind of disappointed with the size of the crowd in last week’s Don Marshall Bowl game. Hopefully, this week, the Maroon faithful will come out and get behind us, and help us start the playoffs off with a big win over a good Letcher County Central football team.”
Tonight’s game between the Cougars and Maroons is set to get underway from PC Field beginning at 7:30 p.m.