Josh Jaggers admitted to being a nervous wreck before his first game as LaRue County’s head coach.
A 47-7 victory can be very calming.
“I’m relieved and excited. It was a first for me,” Jaggers said afterward. “It obviously wasn’t like having my first child or getting married, but it was a first. There’s always a nervousness and anxiety and excitement before and then after, but I’m tickled to death.”
LaRue County’s stable of running backs helped allay those fears. Seniors Caleb Canter and Matthew Hornback and the junior tandem of Austin McDowell and Dalton Lawson combined for five rushing touchdowns to lead the Hawks to a 47-7 rout of Adair County in the Forcht Bank Bowl at Campbellsville University’s Finley Stadium.
“I’m just excited for the kids,” Jaggers said. “The kids really have bought in, and we’ve got a great bunch of kids. People just don’t realize the work ethic and attitude these kids have, and that’s what makes it all worthwhile. They’re gamers.”
Hawks players were just as excited for Jaggers, who was picked to take over the program after former coach Rodney Armes retired following last season.
“It’s just a great thing and it feels good to do that for him,” senior lineman Cole Hughes said of Jaggers. “He’s got a long career ahead of him here, I think, and it’s a great thing to be part of his first win here.”
Displaying their new offense which blends the shotgun with the Wing-T, the Hawks had no trouble giving Jaggers his first win.
Canter and Hornback scored LaRue County’s first three touchdowns on its first three possessions as the Hawks jumped out to a 19-0 lead in the second quarter. Canter scored on a 1-yard plunge on the first drive, while Hornback capped scoring drives with runs of 14 and 5 yards.
Canter, who also scored on a 75-yard run in the third quarter, said the offensive line deserved a lot of the credit.
“The offensive line was amazing,” he said. “That’s always been a big thing, running backs blaming their line. We can’t blame the line this year because they’re going to get their job done. They know what they’re doing and they know how to do it. If they play like that, we’ll win a lot of games this year.”
Hughes said while the line played well Friday night, there are some things they still need to improve on – like understanding blocking schemes.
“I think we did a good job,” he said. “We went hard on every play. We didn’t get blown off the ball. We still made some mistakes that we can improve on. We’ve got some great running backs and they’re going to hit a hole and they’re going to hit it hard, and you saw what they can do when we make those holes.”
The Hawks also showed off a vastly improved passing game.
They only threw five passes and all came in the first half, but they completed all of them. Senior quarterback Gabe Shirley went 4-for-4 for 95 yards, while Canter completed one for 42 yards on a halfback pass.
Senior wideout Kelton Ford had a solid outing after two years away from the sport.
He caught four passes for 123 yards, including a 62-yard catch-and-run just before halftime. Ford had to come back for the ball which was underthrown by Shirley, but he was able to outrun two Adair County defensive backs to the end zone.
The Hawks finished with 430 offensive yards, which may surprise some people. Canter isn’t one of them.
“I’ve known since the beginning of this year that this team could do something,” he said. One thing Jaggers said the Hawks will work more on this week in practice is their 2-minute offense.
After recovering a fumble on a kickoff just before halftime, LaRue County had a chance to build on its 26-0 lead. But two penalties – an illegal forward pass and a false start – backed the Hawks outside of the red zone.
But the Hawks picked up right where they left off in the second half. Canter scored on his long run with 6:43 left in the third quarter and McDowell followed that up with a 71-yard rushing touchdown 4 minutes later.
“It was awesome just seeing them do what our running backs can do,” Hughes said. “You know you don’t have to worry. If you do your job, they’re going to do theirs and that’s a good thing to know.”
Freshman defensive back Marquis Franklin capped LaRue County’s scoring when he intercepted Adair County sophomore quarterback Brandon Burton and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown – which started the running clock as the Hawks led 47-0. Adair County got on the board with 1:25 left as Burton scored on a 1-yard keeper.
This wasn’t the type of game Jaggers envisioned.
“The offense did great. They’re having fun with it,” Jaggers said. “We’re doing some of the same things we’ve done; we’re just doing it from a different look.”