Win will put Pats in playoffs

October 06, 2004|MARTY WARREN

STANFORD - All Lincoln County wanted when the season began was a chance to make the Class AAA playoffs. Now the Patriots can reach that goal Friday night when they host winless Taylor County.

First-year coach Larry French said Friday's game is the first step in turning around Lincoln's football fortunes.

"We felt when the season started that if we could win the first two games in the district, we would have a chance to make the playoffs," French said. "It is a big game, no doubt. The kids are excited. We haven't had a lot of success in the last three or four years and we have to get that confidence built back up."

Just two seasons ago, Taylor made the Class AA playoffs before losing in the first round to Bardstown. This season, though, Taylor has struggled and comes into Friday's contest at 0-6.

"They have struggled this year, but they have a scrappy team and they do things right," French said. "They have a good little running back that runs the ball extremely well. They don't throw the ball that well, but they can run it. They have broke open some running plays, then all of a sudden they will get caught behind the line of scrimmage for a loss and their stats don't look that good. They don't have outstanding speed, but neither do we."


The Patriots (2-4, 1-0) trailed Marion County 10-0 at the half last week before rallying to defeat the Knights 21-16 with a strong second half performance. Braxton Miller scored on a 68-yard run to begin the rally after the Patriots made four trips inside the 20-yard line during the first half, but came up with no points.

"I think we are getting better every week," French said. "We seemed to get our offense untracked during the second half last week, and hopefully that will carry over. We didn't turn the football over and that's a big plus."

Praise for offensive line

French said the Patriots' offensive line of Michael Bailey, Jordan Hardwick, Darrell Walls, Sam Sims and Phil Collins played extremely well in the second half at Marion.

"They came off the football the second half and blocked really well," French said. "The linemen got together at the half and decided they were going to come out and dominate the second half, and they did that. We graded the film and they were a totally different group in the second half."

The Lincoln coach worried about discipline on the defensive side of the ball earlier in the season, but things have turned around in that area in recent weeks. Matt Blair had an interception and Phil Collins recovered a fumble against Marion.

"We seem to be doing better fundamentally in that area and are making adjustments a little better," French added. "Andrew Smith moved to the nose defensively and our defense looked better."

The Patriots received a big blow over the weekend when junior wide receiver Trevor Merriman, Lincoln's leading receiver, suffered an eye injury in a paint ball incident.

"We are real concerned about his eye right now," French said. "His mother is afraid he might lose his eyesight and we won't know anything for about two weeks. Reports were he was seeing a little out of his eye, and that's encouraging. We hope and pray everything will turn out all right for him."

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