PREP FOOTBALL: Eagles hope to bounce back (10/12)

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By Josh Claywell

With a spot in the Class 2-A playoffs potentially up for grabs last Friday night, optimism was running high at Fort Knox.

The Eagles were confident they could beat District 4 foe Washington County, which would put them one step closer to making the playoffs.

A 41-6 loss to the previously winless Commanders, however, has tempered those expectations. The Commanders jumped out to a 14-6 first-quarter lead and led 27-6 at the half.

“Honestly a lot of the scoring and mistakes was us,” said Fort Knox coach Shawn Thompson. “They didn’t do anything different than what we prepared for. We blew coverage a few times and just made silly mistakes. It’s frustrating to be so close, but then you have one little mistake that blows everything up.

“This week in practice was so-so. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t completely bad,” he added. “I think they were kind of down, but they’re still working. I wasn’t too upset with them, but the atmosphere was a little different. I think Friday night took a lot of out of them. We had high hopes for Friday, and we didn’t come out on the right side of the score.”

Even with the loss, the Eagles (1-6) can still qualify for the postseason. But Thompson knows that’s easier said than done, especially as injuries continue to plague his team.

Senior Derek Miranda is still out after suffering a concussion against Bardstown, while juniors Adam Kiphuth (concussion) and Tier Blanco (ankle) are also out tonight when Fort Knox travels to Louisville to take on the Shawnee Golden Eagles (0-6) at 7:30.

“We have to play a lot of young kids and we have to keep things simple,” the coach said. “It does simplify things for us, but having those other guys opens up a whole set of things we can do.”

Add junior Antonio Copeland (concussion; will miss next two games) to the injury list, and Thompson said the road to the postseason gets even more difficult.

“It’s a big blow to our offense because he just opens up things for us,” Thompson said of Copeland. “We’ll miss him a whole lot. The things he can do and the things he does for us on both sides really simplifies stuff for us.”

With this week being Fort Knox’s fall break, Thompson said he tried to keep his team focused on tonight’s game by keeping the same practice schedule.

“I hate fall break,” Thompson said. “It just throws everything out of whack and just messes up the routine. We had afternoon practice, just trying to keep everything as normal as possible. Right now, we’re not even focused on the playoffs. We’re just focusing on Shawnee and we’ll worry about what happens after that. We can’t worry about anything else. We just have to take care of business right now.

“We just keep working and keep at it and hopefully we get things to go our way one night.”

Tonight could be that night against Shawnee, which has lost its last 11 games dating to last season.

Thompson said the Golden Eagles remind him of his own team, which has seen its fair share of struggles in recent years. Fort Knox lost 42 straight games – and 51-of-52 – from 2005 to 2009, when the Eagles started 0-8. But Fort Knox was awarded a forfeit victory over Shawnee – originally a 35-14 Golden Eagles victory – and finished 3-8 that season.

Fort Knox won four games under Brandon Combs in his final season in 2010, but has only won three games since Thompson took over.

“They’ve been struggling like we have,” Thompson said of Shawnee. “They’re almost a mirror image of us. They’ve had some bad breaks. They’ve got some good athletes on offense. Defensively, the question is can we handle their speed. They’re going to try and stop the run, so we’ve got to take what they give us.

“I just want to see us get better. That’s all I want,” he added. “Everything will take care of itself if we just play to our potential and get better. We need to play disciplined football and cut out the little mistakes.”

Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or jclaywell@thenewsenterprise.com.