The Wayne County Cardinals, 10-1 on the season and Class 4A District Seven champions, return to action this Friday night traveling to District Eight champs Johnson Central. The Golden Eagles are Class 4A defending State Runners-Up and advanced into the matchup with a 50-6 home win over Harlan County, while the Cardinals advanced into the matchup with a 63-49 home win over Corbin. The contest marks the fourth meeting overall between the two schools and fourth meeting in five years, as Johnson Central claimed a 43-24 decision at Jewell Field in 2017, to own a 3-0 series advantage.
"What a great opportunity for our program, school and community to
travel to Johnson Central this Friday night to compete for a region
championship. We know Johnson Central has a great program and great
team, so it's going to take a tremendous week of practice to be ready
to compete. We have played those guys down to the wire once, had our
chances another time and failed to get off the bus other, so I told
our guys just have fun and be loose. This is a great opportunity and
we just have to make the most of it," said Wayne County head coach
Johnson Central, under the 16th year direction of veteran coach Jim
Matney, has been a powerhouse program since his tenure started with
an eye-popping 158-36 record. This year's team has been as strong as
ever averaging 47.3 points per contest and allowing a very stingy 9.5
points per outing.
"Coach Matney has been around a long time and he's obviously very
good at what he does, as Johnson Central has all around one of the
top programs in the state. They have a great football team. It
starts with big and strong guys on both lines in the trenches. Also,
they have outstanding players at the skill positions and I'm really
impressed with the discipline they play with on both sides of the
ball. They don't make mistakes," said Thompson.
The Golden Eagles opened the postseason with home wins over Letcher
Central (49-7) and Harlan County (50-6), dominating their six
district games by outscoring their opponents 296-25. The offensive
attack starts with a punishing ground-game as the squad averages 281
rushing yards per game and compliments that with an efficient passing
game that nets 100 yards per contest, to average 381 yards per outing.
Senior running back Devin Johnson paces the very powerful attack
with a team best 1,218 rushing yards on just 99 carries with 16 TDs,
plus is threat as a receiver with 7 catches for 127 yards and an
additional 3 scores. Senior Cody Rice has added 63 carries for 506
yards with 11 scores, while senior Bryce Tackett has 63 attempts for
491 yards with 7 TDs. Dillon Preston and Reece Gross combine with 14
other players that have rushing attempts on the season.
"Offensively they pound you to death and it starts with a big
physical offensive line. They are really good at coming off the
football and they also have a lot of different kids that run the
ball, but all have a mix of power, speed and athleticism, starting
with Devin Johnson. That kid is a man and we certainly remember him
from a couple years ago," said Thompson.
Senior quarterback and four-year starter Riley Preece has completed
47 of 63 passes for 1,133 yards with 17 touchdowns against just 2
interceptions, plus is a threat to run the football with 55 attempts
for 513 yards and an additional 12 touchdowns. Senior Seth Dalton is
the favorite target with 19 receptions for a team high 616 yards and
10 scores, while Zach Russell has 13 catches for 241 yards and 2 TDs.
The Cardinal defense, which is allowing 27.7 points per night, is
led by the 95 total tackles, which includes 10 tackles for a loss of
senior linebacker Cody Roysdon, while Lee Shelton is second on the
unit with 83 total stops, plus is tied for team honors with three
interceptions. Senior Riley Hancock is next with 72 total stops and
also has three interceptions. As the unit will look to improve,
after allowing 559 yards in last week's win, but managed to force
The Wayne County offense, facing its toughest test of the season, as
the Johnson Central defense allows a very stingy 160 yards per
contest, is averaging 48.5 points per game and 464 yards of offense
and that starts with junior running back and All-State candidate
Braedon Sloan. Sloan has rushed for 2,703 yards and 47 TDs on 244
carries and also helps the receiving corps with 20 catches for 6
yards and 6 scores, while senior wide receiver Tito Ruiz adds 30
touches for 470 yards with 5 scores. Thomas Spencer also is a weapon
that has totaled 27 catches for 490 yards and 6 TDs the past nine games.
"We played our best offensive game last week and that all starts
with the improvement of our offensive line. Those guys are
undersized but keep working to improve each week and we must continue
to take great care of the football. They have an aggressive defense
with great size, but we have to find a way to move the football and
put our guys in position to make plays," said Thompson.
Junior quarterback Brody Weaver has completed 102 of 176 passes for
1,822 yards with 20 TDs, against just three interceptions and has
rushed 70 times for 235 yards and two scores. Versatile offensive
back Carson Simpson has scored touchdowns in five of the last eight
games and now has 180 rushing yards on just 18 attempts, plus 8
catches for 168 yards and 3 touchdowns.
"We know they are very good and have great size on both sides of the
ball, but we have fought hard all eleven games this season, which we
expect nothing less this week. Last week we didn't stress too much
about game of the year, or anything like that and that will be our
approach again this week. We'll do what we do and see if we can't
keep this thing rolling another week. Hopefully we'll pack their
place and be very loud, as these guys certainly deserve it," said
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Johnson Central's Eagle
Stadium and for all the complete details check next week's edition of