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Monroe will test Scotties

August 20, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

HARRODSBURG - There may be no opponent on any area team's schedule more obscure than Monroe County, at least in terms of name recognition among average fans.

But Mercer County coach Duane Hammons, whose team opens the season with Monroe on Friday, warns that just because the Scotties' opening opponent is unknown doesn't mean it should be underestimated.

"Just because people don't know anything about them, they think they're not very good," Hammons said. "They're a real good football team.

"My goal this year was to up our schedule, to play more competitive teams. I think you've got to play more competitive teams."

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Mercer trying to replace 17 seniors

The Scotties are trying to replace 17 seniors lost to graduation. The Scotties will start the season with a sophomore at quarterback and an entirely new offensive line,.

"I'm very anxious to see how we react to game situations," Hammons said. "We've had two scrimmages, but that doesn't simulate games."

Hammons said Mercer played well in scrimmages against Somerset and Washington County, though he said he was disappointed with mental mistakes the Scotties made in both games.

"It's one of those things where everything looks good, you get in a rhythm and all of a sudden you do something you don't expect," he said. "That's why you wait and play your district games at the end."

Mercer is trying to prepare for those games by playing teams like Monroe. Hammons is taking a cue from Lloyd Memorial, the two-time defending champion in the Scotties' Class AA district.

"Lloyd, for example, went 2-3 in their non-district games last year, but they played a tough schedule," Hammons said. "We've got to get over the phobia of getting beat early."

Monroe was 9-3 last year

Monroe makes the 120-mile journey from Tompkinsville in hopes of building on a 9-3 season in which it made its third straight playoff appearance.

The Falcons graduated 14 seniors but have 13 seniors this season, including fullback-linebacker Justin Graves, the team's top tackler for two straight years.

Monroe's offense is led by 6-3, 205-pound quarterback-linebacker Daniel Harlan.

"He's just a huge kid," Hammons said. "He's a senior with experience, he runs the ball well and you can just tell he's under control when he's out there."

Mercer puts its offense in the hands of quarterback Michael Bottoms, a sophomore .

"At times he looks wonderful, and at times he looks like a sophomore," Hammons said. "When we watch film we can see glimpses of what he can do and what he can bring to the table, but in a lot of programs he'd still be the JV quarterback. But he's improving every week, every day."

McCloud, Lyons lead strong running game

And he has help in the form of a strong running game led by junior Andrew McCloud, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, and senior John Lyons.

"We're very confident in our depth in the backfield and at wide receiver," Hammons said. "We're going to try to open the field up a little more. It's not going to be the same Mercer County team people are used to seeing. It's going to be a different look, a more exciting look."

Hammons said he also liked the look of Mercer's defense in its most recent scrimmage.

"We've got some good speed in the defensive unit, and I feel like they got to the ball a lot better," Hammons said. "They understood the scheme and what we're trying to accomplish."



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