If there ever was a week for the Pirates to have their running backs healthy, it would be this one.

However, Berea Community (2-1) will sit its top runner, Curtis Payne, as he battles high ankle sprains on both legs. Also facing limited minutes in today’s showdown with Nicholas County (7:30 p.m. in Berea) will be Darius Whitaker, who is coming back from a pulled hamstring, as well as wide receiver Jordan Clontz, who is recovering from a broken fibula.

Senior quarterback Bo Brewer left last week’s 33-8 loss to Pineville because of an injury; however, he only sustained a bruised quad and will be back in the line-up against the Bluejackets..

“Bo has looked really good in practice. He’s going to be fine,” Berea coach Kenan McWhorter said.

The Bluejackets (1-2) won their season-opener against Bath County in spectacular fashion, but have suffered through two tough losses since then, a 33-0 setback against Fleming County and a 26-6 loss to West Carter.

Nicholas County’s defense gave up 292 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the loss to Fleming County. The Bluejackets graduated 11 seniors from last season and are rebuilding behind sophomore running backs Caleb Pope and Jessie Smith and senior quarterback Zach Lemons.

Pope had 150 yards and a TD in a 22-17 victory over Bath County in the first week, as well as 71 of the Bluejackets’ 102 rushing yards against Fleming County.

“They are a power-running team,” McWhorter said. “They line up in the wishbone and try to pound the ball. That’s what we’re expecting from them.”

Nicholas County rebounded from a 10-0 deficit against Bath County to score 22-unanswered points for the win. Smith scored the go-ahead TD on a five-yard run and had 22 yards against Fleming County. Lemons was 0-for-12 against the Panthers and gave up two interceptions.

“I know they beat Bath County, so I think they’re going to be a pretty solid football team. We’ll have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure,” McWhorter said.

The Bluejackets are led on defense by junior Wes Hopkins, who had 11 solo tackles against Bath County.

McWhorter said he plans to shift some positions to add depth at running back. Junior D’Anthony Chambers will likely see some good minutes and it’s a possibility that wide receiver Joseph Parker will be moved over to add some speed at running back.

“I think we’ll be able to run the ball with some speed plays,” McWhorter said. “I’m going to put (Joseph) at running back to get him some more touches and see if his speed can’t disrupt the defense a little bit.”

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