The Richmond Register

Sports

September 13, 2013

H.S. FOOTBALL: Eagles ready for the next challenge

BEREA — Through the first three weeks of the season, the Eagles have been able to accomplish some special things.

They picked up their first-ever win over long-time rival Rockcastle County (after 18 straight losses).

They defeated Madison Central for the first time in school history.

And they’ve opened the season with three consecutive wins for the first time since 2005.

Now, the undefeated Eagles are ready for the next challenge.

Madison Southern is set to play host to Paul L. Dunbar (1-2) today in Berea. Kickoff  is set for 7:30 p.m.

The game will mark the first time Southern has faced a Lexington-based school at home in eight years (Bryan Station, 2005).

“I think everyone is excited about playing someone that we haven’t played before,” Southern coach Jon Clark said. “I think our kids are pretty excited about the opportunity to compete against a Lexington school. I think people put Lexington schools on a platform and we’ve been trying to get into some Lexington games since I’ve been here. So, this is a game we are excited about.”

Once again, junior standout running back Damien Harris led the way for Southern last week.

Harris had a career-high 319 yards rushing on a career-high 27 carries in a 34-27 win over Madison Central in Richmond. He also had three rushing touchdowns and threw a 21-yard pass as well.

“He had a great game. He played very well,” Clark said. “I think he finally silenced his critics who say he’s not physical and won’t run tough. I don’t think there’s anyone on the field who wouldn’t say that he didn’t run like a freight train.”

Through the first three games of the season, Harris is leading the state in rushing yards (806) and has 14 touchdowns (13 rushing and one kickoff return).

Led by Harris, Southern is sixth in the state in rushing at 315 yards a game.

While Harris was the focal point of the offense once again, the Eagles had a new quarterback under center against Central. Sophomore Aaron Slone got the start and completed six-of-12 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown.

“We are going to stay with that (look),” Clark said. “This is how we are going to look from here on out. Aaron is going to be our quarterback. We made that decision last week in practice. We feel like we can progress pretty quickly with him. He’s intelligent and he’s picking things up pretty quick.”

Slone, a transfer from Central, did throw three interceptions last week, but managed the offense effectively.

With Slone at QB, Devante Linville was moved back to receiver. The junior had two catches for 36 yards and gave Southern an additional offensive threat.

“We are going to have some growing pains, but we think it’s best for the program,” Clark said. “We are thinking long-term.”

Dunbar has struggled in recent years.

The Bulldogs had a combined record of 8-47 the past five years and haven’t won a playoff game since 2007.

But, under first-year coach Paul Rains, Dunbar has won two straight games and is averaging 34 points a game.

Senior quarterback Emory Thompson has been the driving force behind the Bulldogs’ triple option offense this season.

Thompson has nine touchdowns (six rushing, three passing) and has 366 yards on 39 carries, while completing six-of-20 passes for 146 yards.

Last week, the quarterback had 168 yards rushing on 11 carries with five touchdowns in a 54-6 win at home over Woodford County.

A.J. Williams also has 224 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Dunbar. He’s also caught two passes for 60 yards and another TD.

“They’ve got a lot of really good athletes,” Clark said of Dunbar. “They are extremely athletic in their skill positions, there is no doubt. They are not real big. They have a couple of decent size kids, but they played hard.”

Following the showdown with Dunbar, the Eagles will get a week off before jumping into district play. Southern will play five-straight district games to finish the regular season, starting with South Laurel on Sept. 27 in London.

“I think that’s a good time for a bye week,” Clark said. “That’s kind of a stale part of the season, but our boys have stayed really focused. That will give us a week to focus on school and rest their bodies a little bit.”

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