Letcher County Central has a needed weekend off before traveling to Harlan County on October 7 for its first district game of the year.
The break could not come at a better time. LCC has numerous players injured and that will give extra healing time. It will also give the coaching staff an extra week to work with sophomore quarterback Houston Watts, who is substituting for injured star Logan Johnson.
Letcher Central fell to 2-4 last Friday after falling to the unbeaten Russell County Lakers in a game at Russell Springs. The Cougars’ defense had a strong outing but could not overcome six turnovers by the offense and fell 33-7 in their last game before district play begins.
LCC received the opening kickoff with sophomore Houston Watts taking the helm at quarterback for injured Logan Johnson, who lacerated his kidney in the victory over Lawrence County last week. The first series netted only four yards and Russell County brought the punt back to the Cougar 38-yard line. After making one first down the Lakers’ drive was stalled after a nice tackle for loss by linebacker Caleb Baker. Russell County kicker Lucas Williams connected on a 36-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
Watts fumbled on the next possession and Russell County recovered on the LCC 16-yardline. The Lakers converted the turnover into another field goal to lead by six with under five minutes left in the first quarter.
Facing a third and long, Watts was intercepted by defensive back Jalen Bennett. The Cougars defense led by Koree Stewart stood strong once again and forced a field goal attempt that was missed wide right.
The Cougars had another miscue on their next drive and Russell County recovered the fumble on the last play of the first quarter. Despite only 13 yards of total offense in the first quarter, the Cougars only trailed by six points thanks to the stellar play of the defense.
On third and 19 Russell County quarterback Russell Mann scrambled for a 29-yard run to the threeyard line. On the next play running back Nick Britt scored for his 20th touchdown of the year to take a 13-0 lead with 10:50 left in the first half. After consecutive three and outs by both teams the Cougars regained possession with 5:30 on the clock. LCC turned to freshman Hunter Hall at running back and he provided the spark the coaches had been looking for.
On the subsequent 90-yard scoring drive Hall had 37 yards on nine carries. The key play of the drive occurred on a third and 12 at midfield. Receiver Corey Dollarhide took a reverse and broke numerous tackles for a 28-yard gain. The improved running game forced Russell County to bring their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, and on second and goal Watts used play action to find receiver Matt Boggs in the corner of the end zone for a 10- yard touchdown. Sidney Fields made the extra point and the Cougars cut the lead to 13-7 with just under one minute left in the half.
Russell County quickly got into Cougar territory. Under a severe pass rush Mann threw the ball up for grabs and receiver Blake Ellis made a leaping catch and went 45 yards for the score. The two-point conversion was no good and Russell County took a 19-7 lead into halftime.
Letcher Central didn’t have a single penalty in the first half and their stout defense held one of the top rushers in the state, Nick Britt, to just 33 yards on 10 carries. Britt had come into the game averaging over 200 yards per game.
It didn’t take long for Britt to show his 4.4 40-yard dash speed in the second half. On the first offensive play Britt scampered 60 yards for a touchdown. A one-possession game had quickly turned into a 19-point lead for the Lakers.
Watts connected with Dollarhide for a 13-yard gain on a slant pattern to convert a third and long. The offense could not move the ball any farther and were forced to punt once again. On second down Cougar defensive end Koree Stewart shot the gap and got to the quarterback before he could make the handoff to force a fumble. The Cougars recovered the fumble and had great field position. LCC ran a flea flicker, but the trick play was quickly snuffed out and Dollarhide’s pass was intercepted.
Russell County went for it on fourth and 1 from their own 24 yardline on the next possession and got the first down on a quarterback sneak. The Cougars defense stiffened once again and forced a Russell County punt.
Watts started to get into a rhythm and hit consecutive passes to Matt Boggs and then a seam route to Koree Stewart to get the ball to midfield. On the next play Watts went back to pass and got clobbered by a defender. Russell County’s Darryl Neely intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown. LCC was down 33-7 and the interception was the Cougars’ sixth turnover of the game.
Watts completed three straight passes to start the next drive and the Cougars got the ball into Russell County territory at the end of the third quarter. Watts completed a pass to Matt Boggs for 11 yards. Later on in the drive facing a fourth and seven the Cougars went for it and the incomplete pass gave the ball back to Russell County.
Neither offense could muster up any yardage the rest of the game and the final score was Russell County 33, LCC 7.
Sophomore Houston Watts completed 13 passes on 27 attempts for 108 yards and a touchdown. Watts struggled early but kept his composure and looked better in the second half, which is an encouraging sign for the Cougars as they move forward in the season. Freshman Hunter Hall was the leading rusher and had 42 yards on 10 carries. Drew Bentley was a game time decision because of an ankle injury and showed his senior leadership by trying to play. He ended the game with 13 yards on six attempts. Matt Boggs was Watts’s favorite target and had five catches for 45 yards and the lone Cougar touchdown.
The final score didn’t do justice for how good the Cougar defense played. They held Britt to only 118 yards and Russell County had under 300 yards of total offense. Koree Stewart and Caleb Baker each had two tackles for loss and Nick Mullins had a sack for the fourth consecutive game.
Next week’s opponent Harlan County improved to 5-0 after beating Knox Central 34-0 on September 23. The Black Bears will play George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester on Friday before hosting the Cougars next week at Baxter.