All 3 locals will face tough district foes

#17 Danville at

#1 Somerset

LAST WEEK: There was not much to cheer about last Friday in Hazard for Briar Jumper Nation. Despite a rousing come-from-behind win by Somerset, the victory was marred by the loss of their senior star running back Alex Miller, who sustained a prep career-ending leg injury early in the Briar Jumpers' 21-9 win over Hazard.

"The injury to Alex Miller, emotionally and psychologically, was a huge loss," stated a somber Somerset football coach Robbie Lucas. "I can't say enough good things about the young man. He was a quality football player, he is a great kid, he works 30 to 50 hours after school after sports, and he gets good grades."

"You hate to see an injury of any type and you certainly hate to see it happen to a young man like that," Lucas continued. "We have had injuries, but this kind of gut punched us, to be quite honest with you. Not just to the loss to the team, but what Alex means to the guys. I knew our guys were close, but I didn't know how close until this happened."

Miller left the field in an ambulance on the second offensive play of the game, and the circumstances left the entire Somerset football team out of sorts. Penalties and the loss of Miller had the Jumpers clinging on to a slim 7-3 lead at halftime and they only lead 13-9 heading into the final quarter of play.

"(Miller's injury) happened on the second offensive play of the game and when it happened it affected our kids," Lucas stated. "I am not taking anything away from Hazard and it was a very, very tough ball game from both sides of the football. We had a lot of adversity to overcome."

"It was a Pyrrhic victory, because our team cam back from being down, scored on a special teams play and overcame a lot of penalties - and not just some - and we got stops when we needed to," Lucas explained. "If it hadn't been for Alex getting hurt, this game was exactly what our team needed. When you talk about a team needs to grow, needs to be tested and Hazard tested us very well."

THIS WEEK: Nothing more needs to be said other than - Somerset vs. Danville.

As one of the oldest and most heated football rivalries in the history of Kentucky high school football, when these two teams meet up you can almost always expect a heavily-contested game. And don't let Danville's 2-4 record versus Somerset's undefeated mark make you think this game will be a cake walk for the Briar Jumpers.

"Anytime you get teams like Somerset and Danville playing each other you might as well throw the records out the window," Lucas warned. "Danville is well coached but they are really young in certain spots, but they still have great athleticism, they still have great speed and they have good size in spots. They played Hazard within one point. They are going to be a handful to anyone that plays them, and they are Danville. I don't pay attention to records and I don't think teams are indicative of their records this time of the year."

Throughout the season the Admirals have shared the quarterback responsibilities between freshman Sage Dawson and sophomore Brady Morse. Meanwhile, the Admirals' strength in in their running back Caleb Burns, who is averaging close to 110 rushing yards per game.

"I think they are searching and just trying to see what fits well with their team," Lucas said of the two young Danville QBs. "I know they haven't thrown it as well as they might like, but they certainly can run it. The two quarterbacks are both young and trying to find their way. When you are in an offense with a young quarterback it is sometimes difficult to get things going and it is not always the quarterback's fault."

"Early on they had a lot of turnovers and they cut them down, they had a lot of special teams mistakes and they have cut them down," Lucas said. "They have played a really tough schedule as well."

And while the visiting Admirals will present some problems for the Briar Jumpers, Lucas feels that his team's mindset could be a hinderance for his team on Friday.

"We have to overcome emotionally and not let last week's game beat us," Lucas explained. "I know everyone wants to win this game for Alex. I know it's easy to show up on Friday to wear his jersey or his number or whatever to honor Alex, but the way we need to truly honor Alex is throughout the week in practice and take care of business. We don't need to turn the ball over. I would like to see us establish the run and ball control. Last year, we established a eight-minute drive to seal the game, and anytime who can control the ball like that it is a huge key."

INJURIES: Obviously, the loss of Alex Miller is a huge one, but other than that the Briar Jumpers are relative healthy. A virus affected the team a little last week, but all of that is gone. However, Coach Lucas has been a little under the weather with his team's virus.

Somerset (6-0) and Danville (2-4) will kick off at 7:30 p.m., at William Clark Field.

Whitley County at Southwestern

LAST WEEK: After a huge road win over George Rogers Clark, the Warriors were hoping to open the district slate with another win at the Reservation. However, North Laurel spoiled the Warriors' Homecoming with a 21-13 win over Southwestern.

"We had three or four crucial plays to really hurt our momentum throughout the game and North Laurel did a really good job of controlling the line of scrimmage," Southwestern football coach Jason Foley stated. "(North Laurel) plays some power football in the interior."

Despite getting a good part of his entire team off the injury list, Foley stated the team's mechanics have had to start back up from scratch, and it may take some time to get all the new healthy players back in the flow of the Warriors' system.

"We have started to get players back healthy, and this week we will have another two players back," Foley stated. "From a health standpoint, we are getting healthier and it strengthens our team. But it is sort of like being where you are at tat the start of the season, and we are trying to start to put the pieces together. That is our biggest challenge to get back our continuity with the pieces that are coming back. We are certainly glad to have them back, and I think with time it is going to pay off for us. It has got to quicken a little bit and they have get to get use to playing with one another."

THIS WEEK: And when Foley said his team's chemistry need to quicken, he meant this Friday because powerful Whitley County will roll into the Reservation. The Colonels wee narrowly defeated by Pulaski County back two weeks ago, as both Whitley County and Southwestern are looking to pick up their first district win of the season.

"Whitley County is a very fundamental sound football team and they execute very well, and they are playing very good football," Foley stated. "Like North Laurel, they have got a quarterback that can make plays with his legs. I thought that was one of our biggest challenges last game. We did okay with the run and we did okay when he was in the pocket. We did have two or three breakdowns in our pass coverage. It is going to be a big challenge and we had better be on our A-game.

Whitley County quarterback Seth Mills has thrown 10 touchdown passes and nearly 1,000 yards, while averaging over 33 yards in rushing per game.

"From a defensive standpoint, we are definitely going to have to keep Mills from breaking contain and breaking loose and run with his legs," Foley warned. "He likes to run around and make plays."

"Offensively, we want to spread it out a little more this game than we did last game, and try to get the ball to our playmakers' hands," Foley added. "We are going to use Xavier Streeter a lot back in the quarterback position. We feel like right now he is making plays and giving us a chance to do some things."

INJURIES: Returning to the Warriors' line-up will be Chanler Crabtree and Connor Crisp, which makes five players to come off the Southwestern injury list in the past two weeks. Crabtree, who had initially had been slated for the Warrior QB position back in the summer, will now see action at wide receiver and cornerback.

Southwestern (2-4) and Whitley County (3-3) will kick off at 7:30 p.m., at the Reservation.

#12 North Laurel at #7 Pulaski County

LAST WEEK: After narrowly surviving their first district game at Whitley County, the Maroons had no problems to big up their second district win, with a 48-0 beatdown of South Laurel on Friday at Maroons Stadium. However, the Maroons did loose two players in injury in Ryun Dye and Trey Price.

"We were very unfortunate about the injuries and we hated to see those guys get injured," Pulaski County football coach Johnny Hines stated. "Ryun Dye had a knee injury and will be out for a couple of weeks. Also, Trey Price had a knee injury and looks like he is going to be out for quite a while."

"I thought this was probably the best game we have played all year so far," Hines said of his win over South Laurel. "We really played well defensively and shut down what was a very potent offense. South Laurel had the second-leading rusher in the state in Class 5A, and we forced them to make a bunch of turnovers. Offensively, we were able to execute and get out to a good lead early on, and that was the difference in the game."

THIS WEEK: Pulaski County will be back on the road to take on a large challenge in form of the North Laurel Jaguars, which have always been a tough game for the Maroons over the past several years.

"North Laurel is sort of a two-headed monster," Hines warned. "They have always been a strong run team, which we have seen over the years, but they throwing the ball a lot more this year They have a very potent pass offense, they have some quickness on the outside and they really do a good job protecting the quarterback. Their passing was a big part of their win over Southwestern this past Friday night."

"We are looking at a team that is playing at home, they are 2-0 in the district, and they are really excited about what is going on," Hines stated. "A lot of people didn't expect them to be this good this far into the season, and they are playing with a lot of confidence, which will make it a tough issue for us."

"Turnovers are huge key like it was last week and we have got to take car of the ball on our side," Hines stated. "We have got to do a good job defensively trying to stop their passing and running. Offensively, we have got to continue to convert in the red zone, which was a problem for us early on in the season.

INJURIES: The bad news is that Ryun Dye, Trey Price and a few others may be out with some injuries this week, but the good news is that the Maroons will be off next Friday on a bye week and will hopefully have many of their banged up players back in the line up. Evan Mercer and Grant Oakes are still listed as doubtful for the North Laurel game.

Pulaski County (6-1) and North Laurel (5-2) will kick off at 7:30 p.m., in London.

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at sports@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

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