With no way to improve or worsen their playoff seeding, it would have been easy for the Kentucky Warriors to fall into a trap on Saturday night against a weak Carter County team. But the Warriors (9-1) used the regular season finale to build some much-needed momentum, as they pounded the 1-9 Wildcats 65-0.
The Kentucky defense forced eight turnovers, including three from Snook Martin. The Warrior strong safety recorded 10 tackles, two interceptions and two tackles for loss. He also returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown with a minute remaining in the game.
Things went just as well for the Warriors on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jonathon Schweickart went 11-for-16 with 213 yards passing and two touchdowns in just over one half of football. Running back Jontez Jones picked up 103 yards on 11 carries, and Luke Brown scored three touchdowns. The strong rushing day came thanks to come creative substituting on the offensive line.
“The offensive line, those guys are phenomenal, but we’re always trying to get better,” Warriors head coach Jamie Rice said. “I think we did find a little combination there.”
Looking to keep his players healthy for the playoff run, Rice began substituting his players early and often after taking a 20-0 lead midway through the first quarter. From that point forward, Rice played Dr. Frankenstein with his team, plugging in players in new positions to experiment with his offense. Defensive lineman Robby Logan picked up a rushing touchdown, as did defensive back Chance Freeman. Even linebacker Nehemiah Phillips got in on the act, picking up 10 yards on two carries. Starting wide receiver David Mallory took over the quarterbacking duties in the second half, though he only threw the ball twice.
“We’re just trying to get some guys in different spots, because you never know when you’re going to need them,” Rice said.
Defensively, 23 recorded turnovers or made tackles. According to Rice, most of the 34 players that the Warriors dressed played in the game.
“A lot of the things we wanted to accomplish, communication issues and alignment issues, and just hitting our spots offensively and defensively, we definitely did that,” Rice said. “We know what’s coming up in the next three weeks, and we’re definitely prepared for that.”
The Warriors’ playoff road begins on Saturday at home against the Cincinnati Blue Devils. At 6-3, they have yet to face Kentucky on the season. Though Rice has yet to scout or watch film on the Blue Devils, he’s excited to get his team back to the Northern Frontier Football League championship game.
“I feel good about them. They’re really coming together as a team,” Rice said. “I like the spot we’re in going into the playoffs, even more than last year.”
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter