Panthers heavy favorites tonight in Clash of the Cats
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Russellville, which ranks among the all-time winningest teams in Kentucky during its 79 years of playing high school football, has won over two-thirds of the games in its series with crosstown rival Logan County. The Cougars are in just their 30th season of football. When the Panthers won the 25th version of the Clash of the Cats 35-17 last Oct. 26, it gave RHS a 17-8 won-lost balance sheet in the rivalry.

Yet in many of those 17 losses, the Cougars have been competitive, playing the favored Panthers either down-to-the-wire or at least close well into the second half. We’re only two seasons removed from Coach Dain Gregory’s Cougars knocking off the Panthers 32-21 at Rhea Stadium.

When the two schools meet Friday at that same Ken Barrett Field, however, the odds are stacked so heavily in Russellville’s favor that even the most ardent Cougar fan has to admit that only Friday the 13th stands in the way of a probable Russellville win.

The Panthers (3-0) are ranked first in the state in Class A in the Litkenhous ratings and second by the Associated Press. They are the second-highest scoring team in Class A with 124 points (Pikeville has scored 127) and second in margin of victories (68 points) to Bethlehem’s 89 (95-6 in just two games).

The Cougars (0-3) are ranked last in Class 5A by Dr. Lit, three touchdowns behind the next-to-the-last team in their class. Overall the Cougars are ranked 189th among the 215 football-playing high schools in Kentucky. They didn’t score until the final minute of their third game last Friday when Michael Sydnor caught a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Tyler Wright. Landon Stratton kicked the extra point.

Even of more concern for Logan are comparative scores. The Cougars opened the season with a 47-0 loss to Butler County. Two weeks later, the Panthers won 41-0 at Butler. That’s an 88-point difference. The Litratings predict the Panthers will win by 73 points, which figures out to be 12 touchdowns.

There’s no way RHS coach John Myers will let his team run up that many points unless the Cougars just keep turning the ball over to them, much in the way they did to South Warren two weeks ago. He did say on WRUS’ Coaches’ Corner Tuesday that Defensive Coordinator Gwynne Gaddie—a former Cougar head coach—wants a shutout every time his defense takes the field.

All of these odds being in Russellville’s favor are not what John Myers wants to hear. He knows the dangers of overconfidence. This is his 10th Clash of the Cats, and he’s well aware how high emotions are in a game like this. Sometimes high emotions work against a prohibitive favorite.

Coach Gregory remains upbeat despite the three lopsided losses. After every game he talks about a few miscues having caused the outcome, not overall ineptness. He sees improvement every time his team takes the field. He notes that most of the team consists of freshmen, upperclassmen who have started playing football as juniors and seniors, and a few experienced players who are in new positions.

The most experienced players are tailback Brennan Rostampour, receiver Mason Robertson, lineman Joe McGinnis and Stratton, the kicker. Quarterback Wright has often shown skills and promise in his two starts and threw for almost 200 yards last week. Kaleb Coursey had a breakout receiving game against South Warren, which is ranked fourth in the state in Class 3A, less than two Litratings points behind the Panthers.

Rostampour has rushed 37 times for 55 yards. The only other ball carrier with positive yardage is former cross country runner Spencer Parsons. He has five total yards on two carries, but he suffered a scary injury in the loss to Franklin-Simpson Friday, and his availability for the Clash is uncertain.

Wright has completed 21 of 50 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown with five interceptions. Sydnor has caught 11 passes for 86 yards while Coursey has caught 10 for 45 yards, Robertson 8 for 92, Anthony Oberhausen 3 for 28, Dalton Rowe 1 for 45, J.R. Morrow 1 for 39, and Layton Morgan 1 for 4.

Stratton has averaged 41.8 yards per punt. Rostampour has 20 tackles, Oberhausen 19, Layton Morgan 14, and Connor MColpin and Sydnor 10 each.

Myers, who can tie Ken Barrett for the winningest Clash coach with 8-2 records Friday, is able to send several highly skilled players on to the field. They include three-year-starting quarterback Barrett Croslin, a senior who runs the option beautifully; Demarcus Hampton and Coco Darden, running backs with breakaway speed; bruising junior fullback Desmon Quarles; and kicker Corey Wright, who is virtually automatic on placekicks and punts the ball well despite having undergone Tommy John Surgery after baseball season.

Croslin has thrown the ball only 17 times with 8 completions for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Lee McMurray has caught 7 of those 8 passes for all of the yards and both of the touchdowns. Croslin has also kept the ball on the ground 21 times for 175 yards and another pair of TDs.

Hampton has rushed on 30 snaps for 256 yards and a pair of scores. Darden has scored three times while picking up 108 yards on just 14 carries. Quarles has made his 16 carries count by scoring five touchdowns. Fellow fullback Dustin Morgan has picked up 78 yards and two scores on 13 carries. Dequan Beard is third in rushing with 116 yards and a TD on 12 totes.

Christian Naylor, Beard and Croslin have each intercepted two opponent passes with Darden getting another. Quarles has recovered a pair of fumbles and Rashaun Jones one. Josh Bigbee joins most of these guys as key players on both sides of the ball.

Game time is 7 p.m. John Brett Reynolds plans to call the game on WRUS despite the death of his uncle, Russellville’s Hall of Fame sportscaster, Lon Sosh. “I think he would expect me to do the game,” Reynolds said. Soccer coach Alex Watkins will join him in the pregame show at 6:30. Andy and Zach Woodall will record the game for a delayed broadcast Saturday at 2:05 p.m. on 610 AM.

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