Mercer opens district play against Newport Friday

September 29, 2004|MARTY WARREN

HARRODSBURG - Losing a close game to a rival would get most teams down.

Mercer County coach Duane Hammons, though, said games like that prepare a team for district play that begins this Friday when the Scotties travel to Newport.

The Scotties (3-3) lost 35-34 to Garrard County last week, but Hammons said his team is looking forward to this week's challenge.

"Every game up unto now has prepared us for this week," Hammons said. "We don't want to go 0-1 after the first week (of Class AA district play). That's why I think we will bounce back from last week's loss and play well."


Newport (4-1) has won three straight since a humbling 57-14 loss to Class A power Newport Central Catholic. They have outscored their opponents 39-19 in their four wins. Running back Aaron Hambrick has rushed for 757 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"He's elusive and quick," the Mercer coach said. "He gained over 200 yards in their win over Frankfort and is averaging over 100 yards per game. He will gain 25 yards for three straight plays, but then he might go three or four plays and not gain a yard. He can score from anywhere on the field, though, if you don't contain him."

Hammons said the Wildcats are not just a running team and their offense reminds him a lot of what Anderson County and Garrard like to do.

"They will get in four wide (receivers) and spread you out all over the field," Hammons said. "They have three receivers that go 6-2 and you can tell they have played together for a long time."

Quarterback J.J. Hench has completed 39 of 61 passes for 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. His favorite target is David Schoo, who has 13 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns.

"Those two hooked up on a fade to score on the first play from scrimmage against Frankfort," Hammons added. "They work well together and their receivers are big, athletic kids."

Wildcats dare opponents to throw

Defensively, the Wildcats line up in a five-man front and dare opponents to throw the football.

"They put a lot of people in the box, but we have seen that all year with people trying to stop Andrew (McCloud), Hammons said. "Their linebackes play well together and their noseguard is as tough as nails. He is a big kid that is aggressive on every play and can run well."

Newport will try to do something that no team has been able to do this year and that is stop McCloud. He has already gained 1,143 yards on 158 carries and scored 15 touchdowns.

Mercer will try to mix in an occasional pass play and the Mercer coach said quarterback Jordan Lyons is getting better every game.

"He played very well last week against Garrard," Hammons noted. "His accuracy is getting a lot better - he was 10 of 15 last week - and he is doing a better job of looking for the open receiver. He threw the ball to four different receivers last week and has thrown for over 100 yards in two of our last three games."

Junior Michael Bottoms has been Lyons' primary receiver, but Hammons said sophomore tight end Chris Lewis is getting better every game.

"He went across the middle to grab two catches last week and has really played well for us," Hammons said.

The most improved part of Mercer's game, though, has been the play of the offensive line.

"Chris Votaw moved over to center to begin the season and Josh Hardman, Bryan Ashford, Brandon Wilson and Cameron Ward continue to block downfield when our backs get past the line of scrimmage," Hammons said.

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