Letcher County Central fell to a record of 1-5 after losing to still undefeated Russell County at home Friday night, 59-14. For the first time this season the offense didn’t move the ball consistently and the defense played a decent game, but couldn’t get off the field on third down.
LCC received the opening kickoff and Russell County all state kicker Lucas Williams kicked it through the end zone. On second down, Letcher Central running back Chris Tyree took a toss sweep going left, reversed field and outran the entire defense for a 20-yard gain. A defensive pass interference placed the ball into Russell County territory, but consecutive sacks by Lakers defensive end Nick Coffey forced a punt. LCC punted and returner Blake Ellis waved for a fair catch. The Cougar players stopped when Ellis caught the punt, but the ref never blew a whistle and Ellis went 40 yards to the dismay of the fans at Cougar Field.
Senior quarterback Barton Mann completed an 11-yard pass to Ellis on third and seven, and then facing another third down found Ellis on a post pattern for a 14-yard touchdown. The extra point was good to make the score 7-0 with 6:12 left in the first quarter.
Russell County intercepted a pass off a tipped ball and quickly converted the turnover into points when Lakers running back Nick Britt went untouched on a counter play from 25 yards out.
Facing third and 23 on the next Cougar drive, quarterback Zane Blair found receiver Josh Boggs on a deep post route. Boggs caught the ball just short of the first down. As he was fighting for the conversion yardage he got hit from the blindside and fumbled. Russell County recovered at the LCC 28-yard line.
Britt gained 11 and 16 yards on the first two plays to get to the one-yard line. Mann scored on a quarterback sneak and the extra point made it 21-0 with 43 seconds left in the first quarter. For the only time during the entire game, Williams’s kick didn’t reach the end zone. Tyree caught it at the two-yard line and juked and jived into the kickoff coverage and somehow came out of the pack to take it 98 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was no good and the score was 21-6 heading into the second quarter.
Russell County threw two screen passes to get into Cougar territory. A bad snap out of shotgun formation put the ball on the ground and LCC sophomore defensive end Jordan Boggs pounced on it. On third and eight, Blair was sacked again by Nick Coffey and LCC was forced to punt.
Russell County started the possession at its own 27-yard line. Britt had backto back first down rushes to get the ball to midfield. LCC defensive end Nick Mullins looked like he was shot out of a cannon and tackled Britt for a six-yard loss. On the next play, LCC cornerback Devin Wright hit the ball carrier and forced a fumble that Tyree recovered at the Cougar 39-yard line. The offense went three-andout once again and Russell County started deep in its own territory.
Facing third and seven, Mann got pressured by the LCC defense while trying to pass, but slipped a tackle in the backfield and scrambled 12 yards for the first down. Cougar linebacker Keith Boggs penetrated the line to tackle Britt in the backfield to force another third-andlong. Mann found Britt on a seam route to convert once again on third down. Two plays later, Britt scored on a toss sweep around the right side from 10 yards out. LCC went into halftime trailing 28-6.
Russell County started the third quarter with possession of the ball. The Lakers quickly moved into Cougar territory. After Keith Boggs sacked Mann to make it second and 17, Mann completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Ellis while getting clobbered by Tyree. The extra point was good and the 68-yard drive seemed to deflate the Cougars.
The LCC offense went three and out and the punt was downed at the Russell County 34-yard line. On third and nine, a facemask penalty gave the Lakers an automatic first down and led to a 23-yard touchdown run by running back Evan Fletcher to make it 42-6 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars fumbled on the first play of their next possession and Russell County struck in an instant. Mann used a play action pass and found Ellis for a 35-yard touchdown. LCC started at its own 20-yard line. On first down, Tyree gained 17 yards, but on the next play Blair slightly overthrew an receiver and was intercepted.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Williams made a 45-yard field goal to make the score 52-6. Letcher Central was forced to punt again and it led to another Russell County touchdown run to make the score 59-6 with 4:30 left in the game.
After a touchback on the kickoff, Zane Blair threw a bomb to senior receiver Keaston Hall. Hall jumped and caught the ball over a Lakers defender and shook off the tackle and proceeded to score an 80-yard touchdown. Tyree scored a two-point conversion by crossing the goal line on a toss sweep around the right side to make the final score 59-14 .
The Cougar offense simply couldn’t get anything going all game. Tyree gained 44 yards on five carries, but didn’t get an attempt between the first drive of the game and the fourth quarter. Hunter Hall gained 23 yards on six carries and Zane Blair completed eight passes on 15 attempts for 136 yards and a touchdown. Keaston Hall caught three passes for 84 yards a score. Houston Watts caught three passes for 24 yards.
The offense just seemed a lit bit out of sync all night long for whatever the reason, which was surprising since they have so many explosive playmakers.
The score was not indicative of how good the defense played. Safety Kyler Lucas played his best game of his career and led the team with 10 tackles. Stephen Fox and Zach Adams each had eight tackles. Keith Boggs recorded a sack and three tackles for loss and Nick Mullins had two tackles for loss. The defense just couldn’t stop Russell County on third down as they allowed the Lakers to convert numerous third and long situations.
Although this was their poorest performance of the season, LCC Coach Paul Rains needs to let his players know that what has happened thus far this season is meaningless. The Cougars have a bye week this week and then host Harlan County on October 5. That is Letcher Central’s first district game and if the Cougars go undefeated in district play they will get the top seed heading into the playoffs, which is all that matters. The bye week will also give the Cougars time to get healthy and ready for district play.