Rockcastle's defense worries Lincoln coach

September 08, 2004|MARTY WARREN

STANFORD - Rockcastle County has been known to have a stingy defense in recent years and Lincoln County coach Larry French said this year will be no different when the Rockets visit Death Valley Friday night to face the Patriots.

Coach Tom Larkey's Rockets gave up just 131 points the entire 2003 season. However, they gave up 76 points in their first two games - a 42-22 loss at Corbin and 44-34 victory over South Laurel. French said Rockcastle's defense returned back to normal last week in an 18-0 victory over Pikeville.

"They still look awfully good defensively and they will force you to throw the football," French said. "That should help us in the fact that has been the only way we have been able to move the ball this year. Our running game has been virtually non-existent. We have to come up with a way to run the more to get more balance in our offense."


Junior quarterback Matthew Burkhart is 27-for-40 passing for 403 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception this season. He has also ran for a team-high five touchdowns.

Burkhart will throw to a pair of tall receivers in 6-2 Shawn Childress and 6-1 Trent Jones, who has 12 catches for 191 yards and one touchdown.

Jamie Howard will start at the fullback position while Bucky Skinner will line up at tailback for Rockcastle, the Class AAA state runner-up in 2001 and 2002.

"They are quick offensively and they will try to run it down our throats," the Lincoln coach said. "They will play smash-mouth football and lull you to sleep, then hit you with a play-action pass."

French said it is important for the Patriots (0-3) to get an early lead on the Rockets.

"We have to find a way to get a lead on them and stay ahead," French said. "We have to keep the ball out of their hands on offense as much as possible. That means we have to cut down on turnovers and penalties. We moved the ball well at times against Garrard County last week, but then we would make a major mistake to keep us out of the end zone."

Lack of discipline on defense has hurt Patriots

French said a lack of discipline on the defensive side of the ball has hurt the Patriots all year, too.

"You have to take care of your responsibilities instead of trying to make every play on the field," French said. "We have to learn to stay at home and protect our areas. I don't know how many times we were burnt on the bootleg Friday night. We have to be able to stop the third and long and fourth and long plays, and we haven't been able to do that consistently all year."

Junior quarterback Jared Long connected on 10 of 24 passes last week for 217 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

"He looked good throwing the football, but we have to learn to catch the ball more," French added. "He could have thrown at least two more touchdown passes had we held onto the ball. We just can't rely on his passing, though. We have to be able to run the football. We had only 55 yards rushing last week and that just won't get it done."

French was pleased with the way his team battled back from a 20-3 deficit last week.

"Our kids didn't quit and made a nice comeback, but they have to realize that it takes four solid quarters to win a football game," the first-year Lincoln coach said. "They started to realize late in the game that if we don't get going, we are not going to win the football game, and by that time it was too late."

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