When the Lawrence County Wildcats come to Carden-Jarrell Field to take on the Central High School Red Raiders Friday, they won’t bring much of an air attack. In four games this season the Wildcats have gained only 196 yards in the air—less than CHS quarterback Peyton Meeker sometimes completes in one good night. But the Lawrence County ground game, led by junior running back Jacob Lovelace, can be overwhelming.
“It’s very difficult because they’re big up front and remind you a lot of Rhea County,” said CHS head coach Lee Davis, referencing Coffee County’s lopsided loss to Rhea County in week 1 of the season.
If the Raiders’ meeting with Rhea County was any indication, Coffee County will have to dig deep on defense Friday. At Rhea County the Raiders gave up 55 points and more than 400 total yards.
Lawrence County’s big man on the ground, Lovelace, is averaging a dazzling 13.85 yards per carry this season on 13 totes.
“We’re going to have to play well to contain him,” Davis said.
Lovelace is by no means the only rushing threat Lawrence County brings to the field. Juniors Clinton Brewer (38 carries-295 yards), Marquis Lockridge (64-315), Robert Beaulieu (6-69) and senior Elijah Gang (30-147) are all serious threats when carrying the football. As a team the Wildcats are averaging 5.61 yards per carry.
When he does throw the ball, quarterback A.J. Long is 12 for 29 ( 41 percent). His top receiver is fellow senior and football renaissance man Hunter Smith, who also serves as the team’s top kick return specialist, punter (37 yd avg), and backup quarterback.
While Lawrence County may have an identity on offense, the Raiders enter tonight with questions. Especially at quarterback.
The Red Raiders may have to rely on backup quarterback Jimmy Hollandsworth or even freshman Grant Sadler as Meeker’s medical status remains up in the air. Meeker suffered a neck injury near the end of last week’s game against Warren County.
“We’re really holding Meeker with kid gloves right now,” Davis said. “We’re evaluating him almost by the hour.”
Last week’s 32-21 loss to Warren County was especially tough for the Raiders. For the first time this season Coffee County was very much in contention going into the fourth quarter, but a Pioneers touchdown with a little over 2:10 to play put the game out of reach. Davis said his team follows a 48-hour rule where the players take two days to think about and learn from a loss before focusing all their attention on the next game.
Lawrence County and head coach David Marston bring a 2-2 overall record into Friday’s contest. In the Wildcats’ only district game, their season opener, they lost to Columbia Central 34-28 in double overtime. Two weeks later Columbia beat Coffee County 35-0.
Kickoff for Friday’s game is 7 p.m. at Carden-Jarrell Field.