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Late surge propels Lakers over Indians

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High school football season kicked off in exciting fashion Friday night at Russell County High School.

The visiting Adair County Indians jumped out to an early advantage, but the Lakers managed a late comeback to steal the opener, 27-14. 

The tide turned late in the third quarter. With Adair deep in Laker territory and the score knotted at 14, Aydan Hardwick recovered a botched pitch and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown. It was Russell’s first lead of the game and as close as the margin would be the rest of the way.

“I think the kids just had a lot of confidence in themselves,” said Russell County’s new head coach, Lucas Ford, fresh off his first win as a Laker. “They’ve worked really hard, and they’ve trusted the process they’ve went through. They’re well-conditioned, and they just kept their heads up and kept playing.” 

“Hats off to Russell County, because they really played hard, and when things went wrong for them, they just played the next play” Adair head coach Van Isaac said. “They hung around the game long enough to take it from us. I still believe we’re the better team, but we can’t beat ourselves.”

Isaac said that his team’s lack of experience showed, especially regarding penalties and turnovers. He stated that the Tribe “beat ourselves — no other way to say it.” The coach noted that his team significantly outgained Russell by total offense yardage but allowed the Lakers’ defense and special teams to put up points. 

 “We’ve got to clean up some of those penalties and just remain focused and play the next play,” Isaac said. “I think our lack of maturity really showed. We’re a young team and a lot of these guys don’t have varsity experience, but I believe in these guys. We’re going to get better. We just have to do the little things better, be mentally tougher, clean some things up.”

The winning coach, Ford, similarly saw plenty of room for improvement from his young squad. 

“I thought we had a lot of things we can correct,” Ford said. “We obviously didn’t play as clean of a game as we would like to, but our kids played tough, and they were really gritty and able to come out with the win. I was proud of them.”

Despite the mental lapses — and the loss — Isaac found plenty to like about his team’s performance, including the physicality and intensity.

“Those are the things I like, and we want to build off moving forward,” Isaac said, adding that fullback Byron Rodgers and running backs Lane Grant and Colton Feese all made positive impacts. “They ran the ball really well, and our defense shut them down for most of the game, so all of those things are very positive. We’re not far from being a pretty decent team, just have to clean up the mental mistakes.”

Adair County will host Campbellsville Friday night for the Indians’ home opener, looking for win No. 1 for 2022. It will be no easy task — the Eagles stomped Monroe County last week, 41-0. He hopes his team makes the improvements to the mental side of the game “to give ourselves a chance to win.”

“They are very good,” Isaac said of Campbellsville. “They’re fast, they’re physical, and they handled Russell County pretty easily in their scrimmage, so that’s the type of opponent we’re going against. I do expect us to clean up penalties and improve on turnovers—if we can eliminate those two things, I’ll be happy.”

Russell County will look to improve to 2-0 with another home matchup this week, a Friday contest against Somerset (1-0). Ford said the game will be another tough test for his young team.

“They’re always well coached,” Ford said. “They’ve been in the weight room, so they’ll be well conditioned, and they’re a good football team, coming off a win. Hopefully, it’s going to be a good ball game.” 

Statistical* notes:

Passing yards: Adair 127; Russell 160

Rushing yards: Adair 174; Russell 86

Adair County
• Byron Rodgers led Adair offense with 12 rushes, 77 yards, one touchdown, one two-point conversion. 

• Lane Grant ran 13 times for 45 yards and caught two passes for 121 yards (one touchdown). Six tackles on defense.

• Colton Feese ran eight times for 29 yards, caught one pass for six yards, and tied (Traves Taylor) for a team-high seven tackles.

• Carter White completed three passes for 127 yards and one touchdown. 

• Brayton Coomer intercepted a pass and tallied three tackles.

Russell County
• Mayes Gosser caught six passes for 94 yards and returned a punt for a touchdown.

• Owen Loy completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 160 yards and one touchdown.

• Antonio Noyola ran 11 times for 53 yards and one touchdown.

• Kinnett Willis caught a 35-yard touchdown pass and came away with an interception on defense.

• Jack Shearer hauled in six catches for 31 yards.

• Aydan Hardwick returned a fumble 90 yards for a touchdown, added eight tackles.

•Larin Coffey led the defense with 17 tackles, followed by Aston Leclercq (12) and Luke Popplewell (10). 

Check out The County Line’s photo galleries from Friday’s game on our Facebook page.

*Offensive stats are reflected as each team posted to KHSAA and may not reflect the opponents’ “yards against” as shown on the same site.

The County Line’s Russell County sports coverage is brought to you by Blake Aaron—Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance.

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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.