Cardinals drop regular season finale

LES NICHOLSON PHOTO

Wayne County High School junior Justin Curry runs with the ball in the Cardinals' regular season finale loss to North Laurel High School on Friday in London.

LONDON – The Wayne County Cardinals, in their final regular season game and last warm-up for a rematch against Corbin in State Playoffs, traveled to the Jungle on a wet Friday night to take on the Jaguars of North Laurel. Although their defense has looked pretty good as of late, the Cardinals offense has been struggling to score as of late, only putting up 10 total points in the middle of a 3-game skid. The offensive performance improved in their last regular season outing, however, as the Cards put 12 points up on the board, but still came up on the losing end to an impressive 2-loss North Laurel squad 27-12.

Wayne County would start off with the ball to open the game after the opening kickoff, but immediately, the defense of North Laurel put tremendous pressure on the QB, Antajuan Dumphord. With Dumphord getting sacked twice by Austin Johnson for a combined loss of 17 yards to immediately put them in a very bad position on the field.

A flag on North Laurel a few plays later for a block in the back would give the Cards a bit more breathing room, but they were still eventually forced to punt the ball away. North Laurel's QB, Tucker Warren, would soon find Gavin Hurst for a gain of 13 yards, and then Eli Sizemore for a gain of 7, to put pressure on the Wayne County defense. After a fumbled snap over the head of Warren resulted in a loss of 13 yards, the Cardinals' defense would then force a punt by the Jaguars.

Unfortunately for the Cards, their offense couldn't get anything going on the ensuing drive, forcing them to punt it back to North Laurel. Following 2 straight incompletions by Warren, he would then throw a beautiful pass to Eli Sizemore for 27 yards and the first score of the game, making it 7-0 in favor of North Laurel. The Cardinal offense again couldn't muster up any momentum, forcing yet another punt. After the original punt was blocked (and then wiped out by a roughing the kicker call), Wayne would then have a bad punt, setting the Jaguars up with good field position.

Following 2 decent passes from Warren to Sizemore and Hurst for a gain of 14 and 4 yards respectively and a run by Jayce Hacker for a gain of 3 yards, a pass from Warren deflected off a Wayne County defender into the hands of E. Sizemore once again, giving him his 2nd touchdown catch of the night from 16 yards out, and making the score 14-0, with the Cardinals on the hunt for any positive momentum. That positive momentum would be found a few plays later, as Dumphord found Mason Burchett for a gain of 31 yards, and following a few more plays (including a great catch by Collin Tucker for a gain of 7) and a facemask call on North Laurel, the Cardinals were set up with great field position as the first quarter ended with North Laurel leading 14-0.

About a minute after the start of the 2nd quarter, Burchett was able to run the ball in from about 2 yards out to score the Cards' 2nd touchdown in the past 3 games, and although the point after attempt was blocked, it looked as if the offense was finally starting to wake up, trailing North Laurel 14-6. After the Jaguars got the ball back, Hurst had a reception for a gain of 8 yards to make him the single season receptions all-time leader at North Laurel. That was all the Jaguars offense could really muster during this drive, however, as they then punted the ball back to the Cardinals, who were looking to potentially tie the game up.

Unfortunately for the Cards, the offensive momentum just disappeared on the drive, and following a couple of negative plays (including A. Johnson's 3rd sack of the night), they punted the ball back to North Laurel, who then were able to return the ball all the way up to the 10-yard line. 1 play later, a run by Christian Larkey for a gain of 10, and the Jaguars were able to score for the 3rd time on the night, and following the PAT, lead 21-6. On the ensuing drive by Wayne County, despite a good pass from Dumphord to Damon Hancock for a gain of 12, the offense once again struggled and were forced to punt. The Cardinals' defense then held strong and forced a punt by the Jaguars' side. Following a drive opening fumble that cost them 5 yards, the Cardinals' offense finally got going again, and following solid completions to Burchett for 11 yards and Hancock for 4 yards, and a QB keeper for a gain of 6, the Jaguars' defensive secondary got a little bit confused, leaving Burchett wide open on the next play in the endzone. One pass later, and Burchett had his 2nd touchdown of the night, this one a catch from 47 yards out, to give Wayne County the most touchdowns they've had in a game since their October 1st game against Casey County. However, the Cards then attempted to go for a 2-pt conversion and failed, making the score 21-12 in favor of the Jaguars.

The Jaguars' Warren then found Hurst for a 14 yard completion on their next offensive play, as well as Larkey for a gain of 12. Following 2 more plays and solid effort from the Wayne County defense, however, the 2 teams went into the locker rooms with North Laurel holding a 21-12 lead.

North Laurel received the 2nd half kickoff, and on the first offensive play, Hurst had an 18-yard reception that was announced as giving him the all-career receptions record at North Laurel. Following solid passes to Hacker (4 yards), E. Sizemore (5 yards), and Keaton Bowling (9 yards), as well as a rush by Larkey for a gain of 3 yards, the Jaguars once again had great field position, and once again capitalized on it. After a few more plays, Warren called his own number, running it in from about 21 yards out to give himself the TD, and increasing the North Laurel lead once again. The PAT was shanked however, and the lead stood at 27-12 in favor of North Laurel.

The Wayne County offense did have solid gains on their next offensive possession (most notably a pass to Collin Tucker for a gain of 7 and a pass to Wesley Cares for a gain of 10), but the defense of North Laurel was just too much. A. Johnson added his 4th sack of the night, and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs. The Jaguars then proceeded to go 3-and-out on their next drive, punting the ball back into the possession of the Cardinals. However, A. Johnson struck once again, recording his 5th sack of the night as Wayne's offense stalled and were forced to punt once again. Following 2 small runs by Hacker (for a combined gain of 6 yards), the horn sounded and the 3rd quarter ended with North Laurel leading still 27-12.

The Cardinals' defense came up huge at the start of the 4th quarter, however, forcing the Jaguars into a turnover on downs. Following a pass to Cares for a gain of 10 by Dumphord, it looked like the offense was finally moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, a huge loss of 20 yards on a run by Dumhpord (and an intentional grounding call where he was trying to avoid the sack) resulted in a net 25 yard loss by the offense. Wayne just couldn't get all of those yards back and were forced to punt back to North Laurel. The Cardinals received a huge break here, however, as the Jaguars fumbled the ball on the punt, with it being recovered by Wayne County. However, Dumphord was sacked soon after by A. Johnson (for his 6th sack of the game), and was forced out of the game with a potential injury.

Cares was put into the game as QB, and on the next play was sacked, forcing Wayne to punt the ball. Following a pass from Warren to E. Sizemore for a gain of about 10, North Laurel began running the ball heavily to drain the clock, as Larkey had 4 straight rushes for a net gain of 8 yards, and the Jaguars then turned the ball over on downs. The next offensive series for the Cardinals didn't go smoothly however, as besides a 5-yard QB keeper by Cares, they couldn't gain any positive yards, turning the ball right back over to the Jaguars on downs. North Laurel decided to just run out the clock here, and following a few more plays, the final horn sounded, and North Laurel would get the win on their senior night, beating Wayne County 27-12.

Wayne County (4-5) will open the State Playoffs, next Friday, at Corbin High School to face the 10-0 Redhounds.

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