The Fleming County football team had a successful regular season.
The Panthers finished 8-2, won their first outright district title since the 2001 season and went undefeated in Class 3A, District 5 play.
That resume doesn’t matter now.
Fleming County will have to beat Garrard County in Flemingsburg on Friday in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs if they want to keep the season alive.
“One of our goals was to win the district, but it wasn’t the only goal,” said Fleming County coach Bill Spencer. “It’s kind of a ladder approach. We won the district and that was the first step. The second step is win some playoff games.”
The Golden Lions went just 3-7 during the regular season, but five of the losses were to teams ranked within the top 10 in their respective classes in the Kentucky Associated Press poll.
“They’ve played a really tough schedule and I think their record is a little deceiving because of the teams they’ve played,” said Spencer. “I expect them to come in hungry and for it to be a tussle for a little while.”
A string of injuries hasn’t helped the record either.
“I think it prepares you as long as you’re healthy,” said Garrard County coach Jerry Perry. “Unfortunately for us we’re not very healthy.”
Garrard County has gone for 2,365 yards on the ground, led by Josh Warren’s 1,366 yards and 14 touchdowns on 251 carries. Warren had 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown last week against Rockcastle County, after carrying the ball a combined 98 times the two games before that. He’s been banged up, but Perry thinks he’ll play, even if he’s not at full speed.
“We’re going to have to play solid defense. I think they’re another offense that’s going to try and pound the football at us. We’re going to have to play physical on defense and have to play solid,” said Spencer. “They’ve given up some points this year, and I think our passing game is going to be successful, but to avoid a shootout we have to be solid up front and stop the run.”
Second-leading rusher David Pennington hadn’t practiced the week heading into the game due to injury, according to Perry. Anthony Justus, the leading receiver with 13 receptions for 346 yards and four touchdowns, has only been able to make it through four full games and is questionable for Friday. Justus was able to play last week, giving the Golden Lions more offensive options.
“He stretches the field. He’s pretty good. He got to play last week, so we threw the ball quite a bit more because our backs were hurt,” said Perry. “We practice throwing, but it helps, though, when we have the people there to spread the field.”
Fleming County’s defense allows 194 rushing yards and 88.2 passing yards per game, and they're preparing for whatever Garrard County puts on the field.
“You’ve got to be prepared for the best they have,” said Spencer. “You’ve got to prepare for full strength and adjust accordingly.
“We’ve prepared for running back to be full strength and prepared for the passing game also,” added Spencer. “We want to make sure we have all the bases covered.”
The Panthers have also been hit with the injury bug. The major injury came in the first game, when Zac Alexander was ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
Jaden Campbell, who has 36 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns, left early against Pendleton County, and quarterback Josh Crump, who’s completed 111-of-177 passes for 1,916 yards and 23 touchdowns and has also carried the ball 78 times for 522 yards and nine touchdowns, left early last week against Paintsville. Spencer expects both to play Friday, giving both and the other seniors on the roster the best shot at another week of high school football.
“This is a special group of kids. We hope we’re fortunate enough to earn another week with them,” said Spencer. “We’ll hate to see them go, so we hope to earn another week with them and keep going from there.”
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.