The Wayne County Cardinals, 11-1 on the season and coming off a
38-24 home win over Rockcastle County, travel to Louisville Western
this Friday night in a contest for the Region Three championship.
The Cardinals, on an eight-game winning streak are making their third
straight appearance in the region finals, with championships in 2015
and 2016, while the home standing Warriors own a seven-game winning
streak and 8-4 mark overall. Western is coming off a 12-3 home win
over Knox Central last week and opened the playoffs with a 43-0
shutout of Clay County. The matchup marks the second ever meeting
between the two schools, with the Warriors claiming a 21-7 postseason
win on November 11 of 2005.
"We are very excited to still be playing and excited to be playing
for our third straight region championship. Western has a very
athletic football team that is very well-coached, and not only do
they have good athletes with speed, their size and strength on both
lines is impressive. We know going into their home and trying to get
a win will be a challenge, but we're very excited to get on the
practice field to get ready," said Wayne County head coach Shawn
Western, under the second year direction of head coach Preston King,
has made a big bounce-back from last year's 4-7 campaign with a
district championship and is seeking a region title for the first
time since 2010. The program is no stranger to postseason success
with region finals appearances in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"We lost up there in 2005 in the second round and while it doesn't
seem like it has been twelve years, I guess it has. They have a good
football program and watching film their team has all the ingredients
of a very good football team. Their losses have come against Butler,
Male, Central and Manual, so we certainly won't overwhelm them with
athleticism, or anything like that. Offensively they have a good
offensive line and maybe the best running back in the Thompson kid
that we've faced this season," said Thompson.
The Warriors are averaging 27.8 points per game and 316 total yards
of offense, with 213 of that on the ground led by 5-10 200 lbs.
senior running back Kenneth Thompson. The stalwart has rushed for
1132 yards and 15 TDs going into last week's game on 184 attempts.
Tristian Swain, a 5-6 185 lbs. senior helps carry the load in the
backfield and has 582 rushing yards with 6 TDs heading into the Knox
Central game last week.
Senior quarterback Tyon Pearson runs the offense with experience and
is a another dual-threat signal caller with nearly 300 yards and 8
rushing scores, plus has completed 66 of 147 passes for 1061 yards
with 8 TDs against 10 interceptions.
Senior Jaelin Shannon, at 6-2 200 lbs. is his favorite target and
leads the squad with 12 receptions for 320 yards and 2 TDs. ZayQuan
Black, a 6-1 senior wide receiver, is also a dangerous weapon with 18
catches for 259 yards and a score.
"They have a lot of experience on offense led by a very good group
of seniors and also have several athletic playmakers, so we have to
play very aggressive on defense. We have to swarm the football and
be very sound on defense, which I think starts with focused work in
practice. Last week we didn't have a good Wednesday and that
reflected in our effort on Friday, so that has to improve," said
Wayne County's defense, which allows 16.3 points per game is coming
off an uneven performance against Rockcastle County, as the unit
allowed the Rockets to 381 rushing yards on 62 attempts, but managed
two key turnovers at opportune times.
The Cardinal offense is coming off a solid effort last week, as the
squad used 43 plays to total 336 yards with Lorenzo Linsey totaling 5
TDs in the win. Linsey connected on 13 of 19 attempts for 204 yards
with 3 TDs and now has completed 144 of 250 attempts on the season
for 2494 yards with 28 TDs, against just 7 interceptions. The All-
State candidate also had a season high 81 rushing yards on 11
attempts with scores from 38 and 6 yards out, to total 415 rushing
yards and 10 scores on 86 attempts on the season.
"Lorenzo made some good decisions with the football and made some
big throws, plus was able to make some plays with this legs as well.
Aubrey made some big-time catches to finish off some drives and our
offensive line played better, but a big key was we took care of the
football. We only had one turnover and that's something we have to
continue on if we want to keep playing," said Thompson.
Junior Aubrey Weaver had a career night last week with 7 catches for
158 yards, with scores from 53, 15 and 8 yards and now leads the unit
in catches with 52 for 830 yards and also has 10 TDs. Senior wide
receiver Stetson Simpson has 38 receptions for a team best 938 yards
and team high 12 TDs, while Grant Shoemaker has 29 balls for 378
yards and 3 touchdowns.
Running back German Ruiz leads the rushing attack with 127 attempts
for 978 yards and a team best 13 rushing TDs, as Wayne County is
averaging 37.8 points per game and faces a stingy Warrior unit that
allows 15.8 points per outing.
Senior kicker Riley Woods added to his single season school record
(10) last week with a 40 yard field goal as scoring opportunities and
field-position should be key.
"We have to be able to run the football and that will be tough
with their size up front and they have excellent linebackers as
well. We have to match their intensity and physicality and we need
to make sure we finish off drives with points. Riley hit another big
one last week, which those 3-pointers are so key when making sure we
don't have empty drives. We just need to play solid football in all
phases and see what happens," said Thompson.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night as Wayne County travels
"Our fans have been tremendous and in 2013 at Louisville Central I
still remember how many folks were there and how much that meant, to
the kids and our program. We're getting to go to Louisville again,
so I expect us to pack the place, as they have all kinds of visitor
seating. These kids appreciate it so much and we're trying to do
something special and should we win we get to come back home," said
Details on the matchups will be in next week's edition of The Outlook.