In Nov. 11 Issue
The Russell County Lakers, now 7-4 on the season, won their second-ever playoff game and their first one in a decade Friday night as they rolled over the Hopkins County Central Storm in Madisonville, 27-6, to move them into a second round state playoff matchup with undefeated district foe, Allen County-Scottsville.
"It is something we thought we could get toward the second half of the season," said Laker head coach Bill Sharp. "We were fortunate to wind up with a good draw, even though they were a 2 seed it was somebody very similar to us in ability."
Sharp said his team had a good week of practice leading up to the game as his team focused in on their opponent.
The Lakers-Storm matchup proved to be a big night for Russell County's defense as they intercepted five Storm passes and also had a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown by senior defensive end Logan Smith, his first career touchdown.
The Lakers limited the Storm quarterback, a 1,300 yard rusher on the season, to less than 20 yards on the ground.
"We were really proud of the defensive effort and we won the turnover margin," he said.
Sharp noted his team defense stepped up last week in practice and that carried over into the game.
"This was the first time all year long where we've won a game defensively," he said.
The Storm, led by their 15-man senior class, could never recover from the miscues and tough Laker defense and Russell County was able to capitalize and put the game out of reach by the third quarter.
Russell County players coming up with interceptions included Blake Ellis, Barton Mann, Lucas Whittle, Evan Fletcher and Todd McGowan.
Offensively, the Lakers were led by senior Taylor Hutchison who scored three total touchdowns on the night, two receiving and one rushing out of the Lakers' "Wildcat" package. Hutchison finished with four receptions for 55 yards and three rushes for 28 yards.
Sharp said his offense struggled compared to their regular output, prompting the defense to have to pick up the slack.
Senior quarterback Martin Cross went 10-17 for 90 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and rushed 10 times for 41 yards while sophomore tailback Nick Britt rushed 25 times for 66 yards. Sophomore Lucas Whittle caught one pass for seven yards and rushed twice for 12 yards. Also catching passes for the Lakers was freshman Evan Fletcher, Britt and senior Jeron Hammond, who caught two passes for 13 yards after missing several weeks with a nagging ankle injury.
Russell County managed 218 total yards on the night.
Defensively, Russell County was led in tackles McGowan, a senior, with seven on the night and by Fletcher with six tackles. Both also had interceptions.
Upon arriving home via their chartered buses, the Lakers were greeted by a mass of fans and parents as they welcomed their team home following the program's first playoff win since a 42-20 defeat of Washington County in 2000.
Russell County next travels to 10-0 Allen County-Scottsville, who defeated Russell County 50-33 on Oct. 22 at Ron Finley Field.
"We know who they are, we know what they want to do and they know who we are and what we want to do," Sharp said of the matchup with the Patriots.
"We're going to like at trying to get these kids mentally prepared and focused," he said. "We're going to try to go in and give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter and make a play."
He said a blowout for Russell County is unlikely but if his team can hang around, they would have a chance to pull off the shocker late in the game.
The Patriots are district champions and undefeated during the regular season. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Scottsville while the gates will open at 5:45 p.m.
Admission to the game is $7 for school age students and up while children under school age can get in free.
Fans are asked to stay off the track and to be careful because of construction on the school's campus.