BY MATTHEW SPARKS
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
OLIVE HILL After some earlyseason struggles, Russell was looking for a statement win.
Its defense and Landen Duvall’s big-play ability did all the talking in Olive Hill on Friday night.
The Red Devils held West Carter to 181 yards of total offense and Duvall added 161 yards on the ground in a 43-12 victory over the Comets to open district play.
Devils coach T.J. Maynard said his team has made strides this season while encountering a few setbacks along the way.
“From the first game of the year against Greenup County, we have lost five starters to injuries — lost four two-way senior starters,” Maynard said. “It’s totally made us revamp each week. The frustrating part is when you think you have it figured out, then you lose (Nathan) Brinkman and (Jaeden) Layne for the year. You have to retool and regroup.”
“I thought our young guys, (Charlie) Jachimczuk, (Nathan) Conley and (Ethan) Sharp, did a real good job,” Maynard added. “I thought the difference in the game was our guys up front on the offensive and defensive lines.”
Freshmen Conley and Sharp each found the end zone. Conley produced 71 rushing yards on nine carries. Grant Bates added 96 and scored once.
“Going into the year, we talked about it being running back by committee,” Maynard said. “But we have lost three of them. The young guys have been forced into action. Landen has been getting more reps and is getting better each and every week. Grant Bates had a heck of a game. … Really proud of how we played up front.”
The offensive line opened up a seam for Duvall and the junior sprinted 85 yards to the house on Russell‘s opening play of its second possession.
“We looked really good,” Duvall said of the victory. “We came out not looking too hot (to start the season), but we have finally settled in and we are trying harder in practice. We have been playing much better.”
West Carter (2-3) took its first drive into Red Devil territory, but its final four possessions of the first half netted a total of negative-6 yards. Russell swallowed up the Comets at the line of scrimmage to limit West Carter’s playmakers.
“They dominated us up front,” West Carter coach Kevin Brown said. “That’s a problem with us. We are young and we are little. We are going to get better as time goes on, but right now we really struggle with the size and strength of teams.”
Conley’s 2-yard TD plunge early in the second quarter gave the Red Devils a 14-0 lead at intermission.
Russell (2-3) found more big plays after halftime. It took just one snap for the Red Devils to dent the scoreboard again. Quarterback Austin Church found Reed Galloway all alone down the middle of the field. They connected for a 75-yard touchdown on Russell’s first play of the third stanza.
Bates added to Russell’s highlight reel. The bruising back was stood up by three tacklers near midfield. He kept his legs churning to dispatch the defense and scampered in from 55 yards out.
Peyton Brown put the Comets on the board with a 23-yard TD run early in the final frame. It was the bulk of West Carter’s running game as the Comets were held to just 42 rushing yards.
“(Christian) Rivers and Brown both are two guys that if you make a mistake or take a wrong angle, they are capable of taking it to the house,” Maynard said. “All week, we talked about containing those two guys. Our main focus was keeping Rivers in the pocket and not let Buddha (Brown) get the edge on us.
“Our defense did a great job on that and I thought our secondary did a good job of helping and tackling.”
Sharp followed with a 4yard touchdown and Duvall added a long TD run before Rivers found paydirt for West Carter as time expired off a running clock.
Russell improved to 25-0 against the Comets and 1-0 in district play. West Carter started its district run at 0-1.
The Red Devils will entertain Fleming County next Friday. West Carter will travel to Bath County.