Mercer can match Pioneers' speed

September 03, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

HARRODSBURG - Throughout most of the history of their rivalry, the distinction between Harrodsburg and Mercer County has been crystal clear.

Harrodsburg has always been known for speed; Mercer has always been known for power.

But you wouldn't know that this season. The stereotypes don't apply, at least not for the latest meeting between the two rivals Friday at Alvis Johnson Field.

"I really think this year it's a little different kind of game," Mercer coach Duane Hammons said.

For starters, it's speed vs. speed. This is one year in which much of Mercer's game looks more like Harrodsburg than Mercer.

"They have speed, and I feel like we have speed," Hammons said. "It's sort of like we're matching up against each other. The tradition of Harrodsburg-Mercer is we drive the ball down the field four yards at a time, and they score on one play. I don't think it'll be that kind of game."


Terry Yeast doesn't think so, either. This is his first Harrodsburg-Mercer game as the Pioneers' coach, but he has seen enough games in this series to know that this one looks different.

"I think they have a little more speed," Yeast said. "You typically think of Mercer County as a bunch of big ol' boys that'll beat you up. They've got two or three guys that have got really nice speed this year."

Each team features a talented running back.

At Harrodsburg, it's senior Mark Dunn, who is still the first option despite the Pioneers' more diversified offense. Dunn has rushed for an area-best 448 yards and five touchdowns in two games this year.

At Mercer, junior Andrew McCloud is filling essentially the same role. McCloud has gained 250 yards and scored four times this season.

Both teams are operating with new quarterbacks: Michael Bottoms at Mercer and the tandem of Mariqus Brown and Freeman Edwards at Harrodsburg.

Both offenses are dependent on inexperienced linemen. Mercer's offensive line is all new this season; Harrodsburg has one starter back from last year.

"We have two relatively young lines going at each other," Hammons said.

The element of surprise

Then there's the element of surprise. Hammons said he expects to see a few more wrinkles from Harrodsburg than the Pioneers have shown on film, and he implied that the Scotties might have some of their own.

"Everybody's going to save a little something for the team across the road," he said.

The best trick Harrodsburg has shown so far is a 2-0 start for a team that won only three games last year. The Pioneers overcame 16 penalties - many of them offsides calls - to edge Casey County last week.

"We were definitely blessed to get a victory, especially knowing that we had 16 penalties," Yeast said. "That says a little about the fact that we're not a bad football team. I think our kids have got a chance to be pretty good this year."

Hammons said he feels the same way about Mercer, which bounced back from a season-opening loss to win at Wayne County last week.

"I feel like we're getting better every game, every day," Hammons said. "I'm very pleased with our kids and our attitude."

Revenge could be on the minds of the Harrodsburg players who were the recipients of a sound beating last year by Mercer.

"Mercer put it to them pretty good last year. That's been in the back of their minds for a year," Yeast said.

Hammons said no matter how things turn out, he always looks forward to being part of a game that draws the interest of the entire county.

"I enjoy it; I enjoy watching football," Hammons said. "When you get in that kind of environment, it's just fun."

Yeast, who said most of the memories of this series from his school days at Harrodsburg are bad ones, said he's also enjoying himself as he sees this rivalry from a new perspective.

"I'm extremely excited, being that I'm a Harrodsburg alum," he said. "As a player, as a fan, you love to hate your rival. Now that I'm in a different situation, I am excited because it's a big football game for the community.

"You prepare just like any other game, but I think deep down you're a little more excited."

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