It might have only been the second-round of the post-season playoffs, but the Somerset High School football team's 28-26 win over Lexington Christian Academy - last Friday - could have possibly been as big as a state final or semifinal game.
"It was an extremely had-fought game and I was really proud of our kids in this game," Somerset High School football coach Robbie Lucas said. "The last game (we played LCA), we went up there and (Lexington Christian) pushed us around. We weren't mentally or physically ready to play that game and (LCA) out-scratched us for yardage. They fought for every inch, and we didn't."
Albeit the win over LCA was for a district title, but the consequence of that early playoff victory had much more lasting effects. First off, Lexington Christian had the highest RPI rating in the state, while Somerset had the third highest RPI rating in the state. Therefore, the win last Friday guaranteed the Briar Jumpers home field advantage for the next two weeks if they continue to win. Secondly, Somerset was able to avenge their only loss of the 2019 season.
"Going into the rematch (with LCA) we wanted our kids to be physical, and I felt like we played that way, and (LCA) played that way too," Lucas stated. "It was a heck of a match-up in a second-round game between two pretty good teams."
"Winning that game (against LCA) was huge because we survive and move on, but we can play at home for the next two weeks if we keep winning," Lucas noted. "The game itself, had a state semifinal feel to it. There was a lot on the line in this game, and our kids showed up to play."
On Friday, Somerset will return home to Clark Field to take on McLean County, as the Briar Jumpers are hoping to win back-to-back regional crowns. The visiting Cougars will travel nearly 188 miles to get to Clark Field, and will bring a game that is very different that anything the Briar Jumpers have ever seen in the past.
McClean County runs the ball on nearly every play and the Cougars specialize in eating large chunks off the clock. The Cougars have rushed for 4,013 yards on the season, as compared to only 496 passing yards. The Cougars have three players who will carry the ball the bulk of the game. Landen Capps has rushed for 1,148 yards this season, while Andrew Munster has rushed for 923 yards and Peyton Caraway has rushed for 859 yards.
"(McLean County) is a hybrid Wing-T, single-wing team, but it is hard to put them in a box because they have a very unique offense set," Lucas explained. "Sometimes you are going to see the center line up over the ball and have seven guys to his left, you are going to see two or three guys in the backfield, and you are going to see motion unbalanced."
"On the 40-second play clock, they are going to take it down to one second and it will take them 39 seconds before they snap it, and if it is 25-second clock they will take down to 24," Lucas warned. "Their running backs will always fall down inbounds to keep the clock running. If we are not careful, we may only touch the ball three or four times in this game, seriously."
McLean County started off the 2019 season sluggish by losing their first three games, but were able to rebound with three straight wins to close out the month of September. But their biggest setback of the year was a 55-21 drubbing at home by their district rivals Owensboro Catholic.
However last Friday, McLean got revenge on Owensboro Catholic with their 37-36 district championship upset win over the homestanding Aces.
"In their win over Owensboro Catholic they forced some turnovers and you could see their confidence growing," Lucas explained. (McLean County) is a team that definitely has our attention, and it has been tough getting our kids back down after that big LCA win. McLean County doesn't throw it much, but when they do it is very effective because you so many resources to stop the run and if you are not careful they are going to throw it over the top of you."
In contrast, Somerset has an almost perfect offensive balanced attack with 2,799 rushing yards on the season and 2,670 passing yards. Ironically, Briar Jumpers junior quarterback Kaiya Sheron leads the team in both those categories with 2,630 passing yards and 766 rushing yards.
Somerset senior running back Alex Miller was averaging well over 100 yards per game before his injury, but now the Briar Jumpers have relied on a stable of talented running backs to carry the football in his absence. Cam Austin, Jase Bruner, Jerrod Smith, Mikey Garland, and Guy Bailey have all contributed in the Briar Jumpers' offensive backfield.
Kade Grundy has been the Jumpers' 'big play' guy. In the LCA win, Grundy caught five passes for 83 yards with a touchdown reception. Grundy also had a huge fake punt run that resulted in a 50-yard gain in the red zone. Meanwhile, freshman Jerrod Smith has been the Briar Jumpers' playoff secret weapon on both offense and defense.
In the regional championship game on Friday night - against McLean County - Somerset will have to use all their offensive weapons in an effort to score on almost every offensive possession.
"We have to take the ball and score with it, and then forcing (McLean County) into three-and-outs and not letting them get long drives," Lucas stated. "We have to focus on McLean County and not Lexington Christian. Yeah, the LCA win was a big win for us, but we need to make sure we shake that (game) off."
Somerset and McLean County will kick-off at 7:30 p.m., on Friday, Nov. 22, at William Clark Field.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.