The wait is nearly over.
Fresh off of a state championship victory, the Somerset Briar Jumpers will finally be back in action tonight. They will travel to Whitley County to face off with the Colonels at 7:30 PM for their season opener.
This is not your typical season opener though. There are many uncertainties coming with this 2020 football season.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the season is starting later than most years, and coming with a lot of different rules, regulations, and protocols to get used to.
Not only that, but because of the limited preparation teams had leading up to this season, the year will be unique to say the least.
Somerset head football coach Robbie Lucas has stated on numerous occasions that the limited preparation will be especially difficult on younger teams, like his Briar Jumpers this season.
"I expect some sloppy play as we learn on the fly," said coach Lucas. "We've got young inexperienced players and we have older inexperienced players, neither of which is ideal in the shortened prep time we've had."
Somerset lost a lot of starters, and key depth players from last season to graduation. However, the Whitley County group lost a lot of significant players as well.
Last season, one of Whitley's biggest strengths to their game was their defensive sacks. The Colonels were the 12th school on the average sacks per game leaderboard for Kentucky high schools last year.
This would be a huge advantage considering Somerset lost six key offensive linemen, including four starters, but Whitley's main pass rushers happened to be seniors last season.
Another tough loss for Whitley is the transfer of their starting quarterback Seth Mills. Mills started all 12 games for the Colonels last season but transferred to Corbin.
The biggest threat on the Colonel's team is probably senior running back Woody Lawson. Lawson was pretty consistent throughout the season and had some very big performances. He racked up 978 yards and 5 touchdowns last season, and Whitley will probably look to him to carry a lot of the weight on offense tonight.
The Briar Jumpers should prioritize run defense which should not be a huge issue with senior linebacker Mikey Garland, senior defensive tackle Tyler Harvey, as well as other key run stoppers on Somerset's defense.
Fortunately for the Briar Jumpers, coach Lucas says no key players are injured as of yet, so they will most likely come into the game pretty healthy.
Lucas also said this when asked what the key to leaving Whitley with a win was, "Limit mistakes and take advantage of any miscues they may have. Rely on fundamentals and hope our conditioning is up to par."
The Colonels played really good defense last season, but with all the losses on their defense, Somerset could have a big night on offense. Senior quarterback Kaiya Sheron, and senior receiver Kade Grundy are among the most explosive players in the state. If they can connect like they did so many times last season, Whitley may be in trouble.
However, with both teams having so many holes to fill, only the game itself will show us what the strengths are weaknesses of these two teams are.
When asked about how the teams match up, coach Lucas said "Not having the benefit of current film, it's difficult to determine what they are like. I expect them to be a big, physical group. We aren't sure if we are as physical as we need to be at this point. Only live fire game situation will know for sure."
Last season the Whitley County Colonels finished with an 8-4 record, including the playoffs where they were eliminated in the second round of 5A by the Southwestern Warriors. In 2A, the Briar Jumpers finished with a 14-1 record with a 2A state championship victory.