The Wayne County Cardinals, 7-3 on the season and coming off a 31-22 win

at Monroe County, open the Class 3A state playoffs this Friday night at

Jewell Field, hosting rival Garrard County. The Golden Lions are coming off

an open week and own a 4-6 record overall, but the squad has lost three

straight and four of their last five games, including a 32-10 loss at

Pendleton County two weeks ago.

The contest marks the 17th meeting between the two schools, as the Cards

have won the last three in the series to knot the rivalry at 8-8, which

includes a Wayne County 25-20 win a couple of weeks ago at Garrard County.

"Every time we play Garrard County it is always a battle that goes down

to the wire and I'm sure this game will be no different. Garrard County has

a good football team with lots of good skill kids and they are also big up

front. Both teams know each other very well, so it's all going to come down

to which team wants it more and executes the best," said Cards head coach

Shawn Thompson.

The teams enter the post season match-up riding two different waves of

momentum. The Cards have won five of their last six games and their seven

regular season wins are the most at Wayne County since the 1990 squad posted

an 8-3 regular season mark. Garrard County opened the season 3-2, but the

Lions have lost four of their last five games and have dropped their last

three games, while being outscored 92-30, during the three game skid.

"We have the advantage of playing the game at home, but other than that

everybody enters the playoffs 0-0. It is a new season, so regular season

wins do not matter at this point. It's all about focus, execution and

intensity. We know it will take four quarters of good football if we want to

advance," said Thompson.

The Golden Lions, led by senior quarterback Stephen DeBord, average 24.1

points per game. DeBord, a three-year starter, has passed for 1,036 yards

with 10 touchdowns.

"Offensively they like to run some spread and DeBord does a good job in

their offense. They hurt us with their passing game the first time we played

and DeBord has a couple of very good receivers that make plays," said

Thompson.

Jordan Phillips leads the receiving corps with 16 receptions for 304

yards and 6 TDs, while Tyler Ray is also a threat with 16 catches for 233

yards, with 3 TDs.

Garrard County head coach Steve Stonebraker has several different

dangerous weapons to run the football. The trio of Jamarious Merritt, Jansen

Penman and Fred Hayes all have rushed for over 400 yards in the regular

season. Penman has 401 yards with 6 TDs, Merritt has 414 yards with 3

scores, while Hayes has 400 yards and 5 TDs.

"All their backs are good, solid backs that can hit the hole and make

the big play. Our defense has to be aggressive and do a good job of wrapping

up on the initial hit. They also have a good fullback in the Pearce kid,"

said Thompson.

Chris Pearce led the Garrard County rushing attack with 11 attempts for

86 yards, in their last outing at Pendleton County.

The Wayne County defense is allowing 21.4 points per game.

"Our defense was able to force some turnovers early the last time we

played, so that's something we want to do again this week. We need to win

the battle of field-position so hopefully our special teams will force their

offense to have to play on a long field," said Thompson.

Wayne County is averaging 25.8 points and will face a Lions defense that

allows 27 points per outing.

The Cards are coming off a 315 yard effort at Monroe County that

featured a balanced attack. The squad rushed 35 times for 202 yards and

completed 11 of 20 passes for 113 yards. Jordan Steele had a huge game on

the ground, the last time the teams met, as the Golden Lions keyed on D.J.

Hall.

"I thought we mixed things up pretty well last week and the only thing

that's disappointing is we dropped some balls in the passing game. This week

we have to do more of the same and it will take a huge effort up front. At

this point of the season it is not about surprises, but it comes down to the

team that can mix things up, make plays and avoid negative plays. We have to

stay away from second and third down and long situations," said Thompson.

What must the Cards do to take the playoff win and improve to 8-3 on the

season?

"We must pick up our intensity and have a focused attitude all week in

practice. The post season is about survival and this team has had a lot of

battles throughout the regular season, so we know what needs to be done. The

challenge is putting it all together for 48 minutes. I'm sure it will be

another exciting battle, I just hope we find a way to be on top," said

Thompson.

Kickoff for the Class 3A opening round state playoff game is Friday

night at 7:30 p.m. at Wayne County's Jewell Field. The winner of the

Wayne-Garrard match-up will face the Taylor County at Somerset winner the

following week for the district championship.

Details on the game in next week's edition of The Wayne County Outlook.







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