In Sept. 24 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Sports Editor
Behind five Nick Britt touchdowns, the Russell County Lakers (2-2) made Homecoming 2009 a memorable one Friday night by defeating rival Wayne County for the first time in three seasons.
“That makes this one really sweet,” said Laker head coach Bill Sharp on Ron Finely Field after his team's 50-34 victory. “This was a big win for us.”
“To come off of the last couple of weeks not playing real well we needed this one,” he said. “Then being all in it in the first half and giving up a touchdown there late that took away some of the momentum from us and to come back out in the second half and make some plays we had to make, I couldn't be more proud of our kids.”
The Lakers and Cardinals seemingly traded scores throughout the first half but gave up a Wayne touchdown late and went into halftime trailing by one, 28-27.
Russell County also suffered a blow when junior tailback Jeron Hammond was injured early in the first half and required stitches on his chin, meaning he would miss the rest of the game.
At that time, juniors Martin Cross and Nathan Irvin and freshman Nick Britt stepped up to fill the void.
Britt scored five touchdowns on the night, three on receptions and two rushing touchdowns. Cross passed for three touchdowns and 199 yards while garnering 74 rushing yards and scoring one rushing touchdown.
Irvin, the team's fullback, carried the ball 21 times for 139 yards while Britt rushed eight times for 75 yards and caught four passes for 172 yards. Hammond rushed for 38 yards before he was injured.
“We gave up a lot of plays but we made a lot of plays,” he said. “It was a big win for us, big win.”
Senior kick returner Jordan Best returned another kickoff for a touchdown and the speedy senior was a lighting bolt on special teams all night.
“It was a dogfight,” Sharp said of the gridiron battle. “I give (Wayne County) Coach (Shannon) Thompson a lot of credit. His kids came in well prepared and they played hard.”
The 0-4 Cardinals, who outrushed the Lakers 352 yards to 339, were visibly winded late in the game as numerous players cramped up on the field and had to be taken to the sideline for treatment.
This was partly due to the Laker's second half offensive attack.
“You don't run the ball as we did at times without being better up front,” Sharp said of his offensive line, whom he criticized a week earlier for their lackluster play against Pulaski County. “But we got to continue to get better.”
Sharp noted that his team became a bit one-dimensional offensively in the first half after Hammond was injured.
“We made some plays offensively and that's what it is all about,” he said of his other players rising to the occasion.
Defensively, Sharp said his team played just good enough to pull out the victory. Freshman Barton Mann, Best and senior Austin Hill all had three solo tackles apiece. Senior Codey Bell also had three hits behind the line of scrimmage, two solo tackles and 10 hits.
“We weren't as good as we needed to be out in space,” he said. “(Wayne County's D.J. Hall) is a great back and we didn't tackle him real well. I'm a little disappointed in that but we made stops when we had to have some stops.”
Sharp pointed out several key defensive stops late in the second half, including a Cross interception, that allowed his team to come out with the win.
“It was very important for us to be able to get the ball back and run some clock and get another score,” he said. “I saw a lot of improvement on both sides of the ball and it is a sweet victory and we did enough things to get it done.”
Russell County held the Cardinal aerial attack to just 65 yards on the night.
Sharp said the Laker's scout team really prepared the starting squad for the Wayne County attack in practice last week.
“They stepped up and got after us defensively in practice and it made us have to play faster in practice,” he said. “I thought our speed was better prepared going into this ballgame.”
Looking into Friday's district matchup with 3-1 Franklin-Simpson at Finley Field at Laker Stadium, Sharp said that the Wildcats, who are coming off of their bye week, would “have athletes all over the field.”
“It's not a good matchup for us,” he said. “But they got to come to our place and we don't have to play them 10 times, we've got to play them once.”
Sharp said he and his staff were going to work the team hard this week in practice.
“We're going to get them excited about the game of football and take it to them,” he said.
Amy Gossage was crowned Homecoming Queen at halftime of the Wayne County game.