Somerset, Southwestern play in their respective biggest games of the season

Both Somerset and Southwestern are playing in their biggest district games of the year, while Pulaski County has the week off on a Bye Week. Somerset needs a win against Lexington Christian to help ensure home field advantage for the first two weeks of the playoffs, while Southwestern needs a win to ensure that they get to play in the playoffs.

#1 Somerset at

#3 Lexington

Christian Academy

LAST WEEK: The Briar Jumpers got off to an early start and were able to hold off their longtime rivals Danville in a 21-9 win. The undefeated Briar Jumpers are still not at 100 percent after the loss of their star running back Alex Miller two weeks ago.

Somerset football coach Robbie Lucas liked the way his team started off strong early, but felt his team did not play at their best in the second half of the Danville game

"I was really happy with the first two quarters, but in the third and fourth quarters I don't feel like we played too well," Lucas stated. "Late, we gave them some opportunities to score and gave them hope. Danville is a young team."

"We took them out of the game early, but we didn't play with a great deal of motor," Lucas added. "We did score a lot of points, but overall we didn't play well in the second half. Focus was an issue. I don't think we were looking past them, but you have got to give Danville credit that they didn't change anything and they had success with it."

THIS WEEK: Focus should not be an issue this coming Friday, as the Briar Jumpers take on their toughest opponent of the season in Lexington Christian Academy. The Eagles have the highest RPI rating in the state in Class 2A, with Somerset right behind them.

Lexington Christian's only loss was on Week 2, in a 39-20 setback to Belfry, who is ranked second in Class 3A. However, LCA downed Lexington Catholic by a score of 43-42 back on Sept. 20. If these two teams were to meet up again in the post-season playoffs, Friday's game could determine home field advantage.

"This game is important to win and to keep the momentum going," Lucas stated. "The big thing is do you want to wear a white jersey or a purple jersey the next time you play them. Do you want to travel to Lexington or do you want to sit here and play on your home turf. I think we have one of the toughest districts in 2A with Danville, LCA, Washington County and ourselves, and we got to beat up each other to get out of this district to get into the playoffs."

The Briar Jumpers easily defeated LCA last year at home (35-0) in their regular season match-up, but narrowly downed the Eagles in the regional title game (35-31) at William Clark Field. In 2017, LCA had their way with Somerset (35-12) in Lexington. Over the past eight seasons, Somerset is 7-5 against the Eagles. However, LCA has won three of the last five meetings.

"I like the old format where you played your sister districts in the playoffs, but you are going to have to play LCA no matter what; last year we had to play them for the region title," Lucas said. "The implications are high. LCA is a very good football team at their place. They have an explosive offense, and they play good defensively. They return 98 percent of their production on offense."

LCA quarterback Jayden Barnhardt has already thrown for 1,812 yards with 18 touchdown passes. His favorite target is receiver Dearious Smith, who has 44 catches for 1,014 yards. Xavier Brown is LCA's top rusher, averaging 64 yards per game. Barnhardt rushes for 54 yards per game and has ran into the end zone 8 times.

"The Barnhardt kid has grown up a lot since last year," Lucas warned. "He is more physical, and in their win over Lexington Catholic he basically put the team on his back. He has a lot playmakers around him he can get the ball to, and they have good players everywhere. They do a good job of running the ball, throwing the ball, they have a system, they no huddle, and they are up-and-down the field."

"Probably some of their strengths are our weaknesses, and they may be better in some spots than us, " Lucas added. "Our biggest thing is to slow down their offense and limit their number of big plays. I don't feel like we have played well offensively the last couple of weeks, after losing Alex Miller. We are still trying to find our way with a new running back, and taking Miller out changes us offensively. We need some kids to step up and play hard. We certainly don't need to turn it over. If we can control the clock and shut down their offense, we would have a chance."

INJURIES: Tate Madden and Mikey Garland are both nursing shoulder injuries, but should be able to play in Lexington on Friday. For nine weeks into the season, the Briar Jumpers are about as healthy as expected - with the exception of the big loss of Alex Miller.

Somerset (7-0) and Lexington Christian (6-1) will kick off at 7:30 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 18, in Lexington.

Southwestern at South Laurel

LAST WEEK: Southwestern dropped their second straight home district game and their fifth setback of the year. in a 14-0 loss to Whitley County on Friday at the Reservation. The Warriors suffered their first shutout loss in nearly six years.

"Our defense played a very good game, and we sort of did what we wanted to do defensively in trying to take their passing game away," Southwestern football coach Jason Foley stated. "Offensively, we got in the red zone a couple of times but our biggest struggle is just punching it in at the red zone. We have just got to finish drives. We had some mishaps and some missed blocking assignments that hurt us as we are moving the ball, which stalled our offense."

With injured and new players returning to their line-up, Southwestern is still trying to find their right combinations on the offensive side of the ball.

"We have went with a couple of different quarterbacks and trying to figure out which way to go with that." Foley stated.

THIS WEEK: Southwestern (2-5) has had their ups and downs this season, and has struggled through injuries for most of it. Now that they are almost 100 percent healthy, the Warriors are in a 'must win' situation in London on Friday. With the new realignment of the five-team district, Southwestern must win over South Laurel to occupy the last remaining post-season playoff spot. A loss will end that team's season after their last regular season game in Week 11.

"Our season is on the line and this is a must win game for us, and we are preparing hard," Foley said. "We just take it one day and one game at a time, and we have got to win this game to get into the playoffs."

"We want to get out to good starts," Foley explained. "Even going back to the North Laurel game, our kids have come out pretty strong in the first quarter, but unfortunately a couple of penalties hurt our momentum. So, we need to come out strong again, and I think we can put some pressure on them if we get out to that quick start."

South Laurel is having their own struggles with three consecutive losses. The last one was a 48-0 drubbing by Pulaski County at Maroons Stadium.

"I want to continue to do what we are doing defensively," Foley said. "I think our defense is playing as well as we have been playing since the first of the season. We are healthier that we have been all year and that is a positive. Offensively, we got to put points on the board and we have got to finish drives in the red zone. The key to us winning is to be able to score once we get in the red zone.

INJURIES: The bad news is that the Warriors will lose Cody Harmon and Ethan McGuire for the remainder of the season, but the good news is that the Warriors are overall as healthy as they have been all year. After getting back five players last week, the Warriors are starting to gel as a complete unit. Cameron Pierce is questionable for this week.

Southwestern (2-5) and South Laurel (2-5) will kick off at 7:30 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 18, in London.

#8 Pulaski County is off on a Bye Week

LAST WEEK: Paced by junior running back Tristan Cox's five touchdowns, Pulaski County picked up their seventh straight win of the season in a 35-14 win at North Laurel. Prior to last Friday night's game, the two team's last met up in the 2015 regional title game at Maroons Stadium, with the Maroons pulling out a dramatic come-from-behind 28-24 win.

"Last week was a big win because it is a district game and North Laurel is traditionally a tough place for us to play," Pulaski County football coach Johnny Hines stated. "They are a good team, that is well coached, and they always get after us. I thought our team played well, but we had some mistakes in spots that kept us from putting the game away like we should have. Overall, it was a big night for the Maroons."

THIS WEEK: Hines said this Bye Week was all about the Maroons trying to get better and healthier.

"It has been a great week for us and we have took a little time off to give us a chance to catch our breath," Hines said. "We have had some practices, and we have had some really good practices. It was time to get back to some fundamental things that maybe we don't polish enough during the season."

"It has been kind of a Spring Practice type atmosphere and really focus on our team," Hines explained. "We are not so much focusing on a team we are getting ready to play, but we are just focusing on improving ourselves and work on things we are struggling with a little bit."

INJURIES: With a bye week coming this late in the season, the Maroons will take the opportunity to hopefully get some guys healthy, and allow some of the other players who are banged up a chance to get at full strength. Hines stated that Carter Kring and Ryun Dye will be back for next week's game. Hopefully, Grant Oakes will return to the line-up by next Friday. Players like Chase Parmelee, Evan Mercer, Paul Judd, and Konner Hargis will get a little rest this week after getting banged up a little bit over the past few weeks.

Pulaski County (7-1) will be off this week, but will play Southwestern at Maroons Stadium on Friday, Oct. 25.

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

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