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Borrowing the slogan from a popular 1990s-era T-shirt, Coach Josh Jaggers said the LaRue County Hawks have to play with no fear tonight.
Facing the team which has won five of the last six Class 3-A state titles, that’s the mentality the winless Hawks must play with as Louisville Central rolls into Hodgenville for a 7:30 game.
“It’s paramount,” Jaggers said. “We’ve got to come out from the first snap and take the fight to them. We can’t sit back and take punches. They’re going to throw punches and they’re going to land some punches, but we’ve got to land some too.
“Our kids don’t have any fear, and that’s how they’ve played all year,” he added. “I don’t know what the protocol of how a zero-win team should be at this point in the season, but our team morale is as good as anything as I’ve ever been around.”
Looking at the stats, one might think Central (5-3) is off to a slow start.
The Yellowjackets are averaging just 19.6 points and 206.6 yards per game, well below their averages of 28.4 points and 330 yards per game last season.
Jaggers doesn’t believes Central is struggling. He sees a team which is as good as usual, a team in line to win its fourth straight state championship.
“They’re Central. They’ve been good, they’re going to be good and they’re not going away,” Jaggers said. “They don’t struggle, and they don’t dodge anybody. They’ll play anyone that wants to play them. Their record is deceiving, like it is every year.”
To further prove his point, Jaggers recalled 2010 – when Central lost to bigger Louisville schools Seneca, Ballard, Male, DuPont Manual and St. Xavier to start 1-5 before winning eight of its last nine games to win the state title.
He believes the Yellowjackets are just as capable of winning State this year.
“They just reload, and that’s what good programs do,” Jaggers said. “There’s not one person you can single out. They’ve got a bunch of unselfish players on that team and they’ve all bought in.”
Central may not be scoring in bunches this season, but Jaggers said the Yellowjackets still have a potent offense.
Senior Phillip Francis has rushed for 414 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries, while senior Donovan Lovan has added 291 yards and four scores on 70 attempts.
Freshman quarterback James Simpson has completed 16-of-33 passes for 314 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. Senior Sydney Tedford has thrown for 250 yards and three touchdowns, and sophomore Myron Norfleet has 167 yards and one touchdown.
“Offensively, they’re just steady,” Jaggers said. “They can get real crazy with the stuff they do because of their talent, but they’re an old-school team. They’ll get in the I-formation, and that’s what they want to live out of. They’ll throw in some four-wide sets every now and then, but even that’s not flashy.”
Defensively, Central has three senior linebackers Jaggers said have NCAA Division-I talent in Francis, Derquione Mobley and Donald Styles. Styles has a team-high 83 total tackles, while Mobley has 66 and Francis has 33.
Central is allowing just 130.1 yards per game, including 35.6 on the ground. That could be a bad sign for the Hawks.
“They will line up in a 50 and that means playing you man-to-man a lot of times,” Jaggers said. “They dare you to try and do anything. They’re as good as they’ve always been. They do what it takes to win. They show up and do well on all three sides of the ball.”
Since the teams became district rivals, Jaggers said a mutual respect has developed between them. That only grew last season, when Central held off the Hawks, 16-8 in Louisville.
“I saw no fear after that game,” Jaggers said. “We respect everybody and we fear nobody. Our kids have gained some confidence the last couple of years.”
Since taking over as coach in 2007, Ty Scroggins is 68-28 with the Yellowjackets.
“Ty doesn’t get enough credit,” Jaggers said. “Yeah, he was given the keys to a Porsche, but not everybody can drive a Porsche without wrecking it. They were good before they started winning titles. He’s just taken them to another level.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or email@example.com.