The Wayne County Cardinals, 2-2 on the season and coming off a 41-13
home loss to Somerset, stepped-out of district play last Friday night to
face homestanding Russell County. The Lakers entered their 2007 Homecoming
date with a 1-4 record and were coming off a disappointing 26-21 loss at
Logan County. The contest marked the 31st meeting between the two rivals,
with Russell owning an 18-12 all-time series advantage. The Cards have won
four of the past five games in the series, including a 13-6 win last
September at Laker Field.
Senior quarterback Jordan Steele completed a season high 11 of 19 passes
for 188 yards and rushed 17 times for 47 yards, plus scored the go-ahead
touchdown on a 2 yard run, with 3:38 left in the game, as Wayne County
claimed a 20-17 win. The Cards used 47 plays to total 333 yards of offense
with 12 first downs and forced two huge turnovers on defense, to improve to
3-2 on the season.
"This was a big non-district win for our team and gives us a lot of
momentum heading into the second half of the season. Offensively Jordan
Steele did a tremendous job of making plays and running the offense, while I
thought our defensive line played their best game of the season. This was a
total team effort and I'm just so proud of the way our guys battled all
night. To be on the road, playing a rival and get down two different times,
but not panic says a lot about our team," said Cards head coach Shawn
D.J. Hall, a 5-7 165 lbs. sophomore halfback, had another solid night to
help pace the offense. Hall rushed 11 times for 98 yards, which included
scoring runs of 27 and 42 yards, plus added 2 catches for 39 yards. The
sophomore also aided the late score with a 45 yard kickoff return.
"D.J. really ran hard and I think he's finding the holes and making
better decisions every week. He's just a sophomore, so we're learning a
little more with every snap. I also thought our blocking was pretty solid
and our passing game really set up some of our big running plays," said
Steele completed passes to five different receivers, led by the career
night of junior wideout Dustin Denney. Denney grabbed 4 balls for 86 yards,
which included a key 17 yard reception on fourth down, late in the final
"Dustin Denney did a good job of running good routes and making some big
time plays. I thought all of our receivers did a nice job of making plays.
Anytime we have five guys making catches, it gives our offense some
different options, which is a good thing," said Thompson.
Russell County, which dropped to 1-5, finished with 285 total yards of
offense and 11 first downs, but was plagued by two costly turnovers. Both
Laker miscues occurred in the second half, as the hosts fumbled on the Wayne
County goal line and had a pass intercepted on their final drive.
"We watched a lot of tape on Russell County and I thought they played
their best game of the year. Their record is not a good indicator of the
type of team they have. Our defense made two big plays in two crucial
situations. Jordan Steele had a fumble recovery and Zach Stephenson made a
big interception that helped decide the game," said Thompson.
The Lakers were led by junior quarterback Bryon Ellis. Ellis completed
7 of 15 passes for 175 yards, with scoring throws of 20 and 23 yards, plus
rushed 6 times for 12 yards.
"Ellis made some big throws and they showed some things in their passing
game that we hadn't seen on film. We also had some breakdowns in our pass
defense, but that's something we can correct," said Thompson.
Tim Coffey led the Russell County rushing attack with 14 attempts for 54
yards, as the squad totaled 40 attempts for 110 yards.
"Coffey has been battling some injuries, but he's a good hard-nosed
runningback with senior experience. They played him some at fullback, some
at tailback and tried to get him outside, but I thought our defense
wrapped-up pretty well," said Thompson.
Defense dominated the opening minutes as Wayne County was forced to
punt, without a first down, on their opening two possessions and Russell
County also failed to muster a score on their first two series.
Wayne County's only turnover of the night proved to be a costly one, as
the Cards fumbled a lateral on their own 20 yardline to setup the game's
The Lakers used just 1 play, a Bryon Ellis 20 yard strike to David
Wooldridge, to claim the early lead. Ellis added the extra-point to push the
score to 7-0, with 1:31 left in the first quarter.
The Cards answered right back with their own score on the following
drive. Steele completed passes of 16 and 9 yards, as D.J. Hall capped-off
the 8-play, 58 yard march with a 27 yard touchdown run. The kick failed,
leaving the Lakers with a 7-6 lead, at the 10:03 mark of the second period.
"We didn't get anything done our first three drives, but once they
scored we battled right back. We were able to mix some things up and once
the hole opened D.J. made a big run. That was big for our confidence and
gave us the momentum back," said Thompson.
After the Cards' defense forced a punt after only 3 plays, the offense
used big plays to grab the lead.
Wayne County needed just 3 plays to roll 85 yards and score on a D.J.
Hall 42 yard run. The other big play of the march was Jordan Steele's 42
yard connection to Dustin Denney. The conversion pass failed, giving Wayne
County their first lead at 12-7, with 6:35 left in the first half.
The Cards had a chance to add another score, but a 9-play, 65 yard drive
ended at the Russell County 25 yardline, as time expired. Two costly
clipping and holding penalties also hurt the drive. Steele completed 3 of 5
passes for 57 yards, but passes of 19 and 15 yards were negated by the
"That was disappointing to be able to move the ball, but not get anymore
points on the board. Every time we need to make a play it seemed a penalty
stopped our flow and rhythm," said Thompson.
Russell County had the best chance to score in the third frame, but
fumbled the football away. Jordan Steele recovered the Laker miscue in the
end zone, as Wayne County owned a 12-7 lead after three quarters.
The Lakers controlled the battle of field position in the second half
and closed the scoring gap at the 8:31 mark of the fourth period. Bryon
Ellis capped-off a 5-play, 13 yard drive with a 22 yard field goal. The
score left Wayne County with a 12-10 edge.
Russell County battled back to regain the lead on their next possession.
The hosts used 3 plays to travel 46 yards and score on a Bryon Ellis 23
yard pass to Chandler McGowan. Ellis booted the point-after, as the Lakers
claimed a 17-12 advantage, with 6:22 left in the game.
D.J. Hall returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards, to the Russell County
40 yardline, as the Cards enjoyed their best field-position of the game.
Steele connected with Dustin Denney for 17 yards, to convert a key fourth
down and keep the drive alive. Hall followed that with a 16 yard scamper and
Jordan Steele capped-off the 6-play, 40 yard go-ahead drive with a 2 yard
touchdown run. The D.J. Hall conversion run pushed the score to 20-17, with
3:38 left in the final quarter.
The Lakers were able to move the football to midfield, but Zach
Stephenson's interception, with under a minute to play sealed the Cards'
"It's always good to be on the winning side of games like this, but I
thought both teams played extremely hard. We had a lot of guys step up on
defense and make plays and that all started with our effort on the defensive
line. Those guys won the battle up front, which allowed our linebackers to
step up and make tackles."
The linebacker trio of Eric Rhule, John Piercy and Chris Burks all
registered double-digits in total tackles. Rhule led all players with 16
stops, while Piercy and Burks netted 11 each. Adam New anchored the line
with 11 tackles, as eight different players registered 5 or more stops.
"This was a good win, now we have to go back and prepare for a very
dangerous Taylor County. They have a runningback in Chris Thomas that is the
best we've faced all year. Thomas is capable of putting up big numbers, plus
they have very good skill-kids that make plays," said Thompson.
Kickoff for the Wayne County and Taylor County contest is set for 7:30
p.m. Friday night at Jewell Field. For complete details on the match-up see
related story inside this edition of The Outlook.
The Wayne County Cardinals, 2-2 on the season and coming off a 41-13