Prep Football: Defense has come up big for Garrard County
Garrard County¿s Layne Cumby (26) will be looking for running room in Russell¿s defense Friday when the Golden Lions open the Class AAA playoffs on the road. Last year Garrard beat Russell in Lancaster in the playoffs. (Clay Jackson / October 31, 2012)
That has been the case this season, and the Lions’ defense will get another good test Friday in their Class AAA playoff opener at Russell.
“Our defense has been a cornerstone for us all year long, and they are just now starting to play their very best football of the season. We are seeing guys mature and start to understand their roles more completely, and it is making them better players and us a better team,” Scenters said. “Our defensive coaches — Kirk, Owens, Crutchfield and Rogers — are doing an outstanding job in preparing the defense each week.
“However, the players have to not only execute the game plan fully on the field, but also be fundamentally great tacklers and have a passion and hunger for pursing the football and making plays. I'm seeing that more and more out of our players, and we'll just get better the more we do those things.”
Garrard (6-4) heads to Russell (6-4) off a 14-13 win over Madison Southern in which it held star running back Damien Harris to just 75 yards, well below his season average.
On the season, Garrard is giving up 15 points and 218 yards per game. The Lions ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak and allowed just 19 points in that stretch.
Garrett Caudill leads the Lions with 72 tackles while Bradley Rector had 67 tackles, including 12 1/2 for loss, and four sacks. Garrard has 11 1/2 sacks and 35 tackles for losses this year. The Lions have forced 15 turnovers, with J.T. Lyon getting three interceptions and two fumble recoveries to lead the team.
The Lions will be facing a Russell squad that was averaging 30 points and 342 yards per game going into its 25-14 loss last week to Class A power Raceland.
Garrard beat Russell 40-6 last season in the second round of the playoffs, and Scenters knows the Red Devils will give his team a better game this year.
“Russell is a very fundamentally sound and very well-coached program. Coach (Ivan) McGlone hasn't gotten those 300-plus victories by accident,” he said.
Googie Hayes led Russell with 513 yards and five touchdowns going into last week, Troy Huffine had 507 yards and 13 touchdowns and Bryant Cathey had 472 yards and three touchdowns.
“They have a very balanced and talented backfield and any number of players can do damage if we are not playing our keys and swarming the football defensively,” Scenters said. “Hayes is a big time playmaker for Russell and has the speed to score from anywhere on the field.
“They are still ground based out of the wing-T primarily, but have the ability to spread the field somewhat and throw the ball better this year with the addition of transfer quarterback Lance Evans.”
Evans is 31 of 63 for 717 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Hayes has 10 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
Garrard’s offense, which averages 26 points and 320 yards per game, is going against a Russell defense giving up 20 points and 289 yards per game.
“Russell is very sound out of their 50 (five-man) front,” Scenters said. “They have a big and strong defensive front in Ryan Williams, Montana Scaggs and Tyler Bevis. Their inside linebackers, Gage Stevens and Cathey, are active and make lots of tackles.”
Noah Williams has rushed for 1,104 yards and six touchdowns for Garrard. Jaylan McPherson has 317 yards and six scores and Caudill and quarterback Billy Abney each have five rushing scores.
After a slow start to the season with new receivers, Abney is 55 of 108 passing for 828 yards and seven touchdowns and just two interceptions. Caudill has 14 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns, Jacob Smith has 11 catches for 258 yards and three scores and Layne Cumby had 14 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Unlike last season, Garrard has to make the trip of more than 2 1/2 hours to Russell, which Scenters said makes a tough game even tougher.
“A big key will be our focus, and the ability to go on this long road trip and maintain our focus and composure,” he said. “Play the game for 48 minutes the way we have been and make sure that we are the most fundamental and prepared team that we can be.”
Garrard rolled into the Class AAA semifinals last season, and there are several players back from that squad. Scenters said that should help his team as the playoffs open, but he knows this team wants to carve out its own identity.
“I believe the experience that our players got from last season's playoff run will give us a confidence boost,” he said. “But in the end, this year's team has to be ready to make a name for themselves and etch out our own place in Garrard County history. “