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Cougars make statement in season opener, 41-6

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By Chris Cannon

ccannon@lafollettepress.com

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JACKSBORO—It’s all about doing what hasn’t been done.
At least, that’s what head coach Justin Price’s philosophy is, and the Cougars are continuing to look for ways to do what hasn’t been done in Campbell County’s 38-year history.
On Friday night, the Cougars came out strong, going away with a 41-6 victory over the Cumberland Gap Panthers. It was only the 12th time in school history a Campbell County squad has started 1-0.
Three of the last four times Campbell County started 1-0 resulted in the Cougars’ only berths into the playoffs — 2004, 2007 and 2008.
“It’s a big momentum builder — coming out and being part of this atmosphere,” junior quarterback Ethan Jeffers said. “We didn’t play the way we should have in the first half, but we finished. That’s been one of our core values — finishing. Now, it’s over, and we’ve got to focus on next week.”
The Cougars travel to Lynn Camp (Ky.) High School on Friday night to face off with the Wildcats. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Should Campbell County come away victorious, it will be only the second time in school history a Cougar squad has started 2-0. The perfect two-game start came in 2008, as Campbell County defeated Union County (33-6) and Powell (41-22).
“Winning is so contagious, and it’s such a mindset for these kids,” Price said. “It’s such a culture. When we came here, we wanted a change — believing that you belong with anybody you play. You can preach it to them all day, but they have to experience it. They have to experience winning. When you go out tonight and win in this type of fashion, while finding ways you can get better, it’s encouraging to those guys.”
The Cougars hung 41 points on the Panthers of Cumberland Gap, as Ethan Jeffers went 17-of-23 through the air for 290 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception.
“That’s good,” Torres, who scored two receiving touchdowns, said. “I think we ran it a lot tonight. We just made plays. It was bubbles and hitches — just some screens that we scored on. We did pretty good in making plays.”
The 35-point margin was enough to ensue the running-clock rule, as it was the first time Campbell County has achieved the feat in the Price era.
Price said it’s good for his team, as nobody sees how hard his boys practice. However, there’s still work to do.
“We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go to get to where I think our program should be,” Price said. “Tonight’s a big step for us. It’s something that was new to us. That’s always so fun when you get to enjoy that.”
The defense stood strong for Campbell County on Friday night, only allowing one score.
The Cougars forced three fumbles, while Corey Phillips pulled away a Dakota Brock pass for his first interception of the season.
The team also saw 10 tackles for loss, which included six sacks. Those tackles netted 74 yards of loss for the Panthers, resulting in 33 carries for 10 yards.
“Defense is all about the weight room,” Price said. “Matt [Price]’s the strength and conditioning guy. That’s where you win on defense. It’s hard to simulate tackling to the ground, because Andrew Evans, Nick Bailey and Christian Monday might hurt everybody. Those guys played so hard tonight.”
Evans came out on top, having six tackles.
Those cumulated for four sacks (-31 yards) and a forced fumble in the backfield.
The fumble was scooped up by Monday, and the Cougars scored two plays later as Ethan Jeffers connected on a 27-yard pass to Trey Torres.
“I’ve been working hard all summer to do that,” Evans said. “It feels good to come out here and show out. I was doing good at pass rushing. They couldn’t block me. I was pretty excited. It was amazing.”
Price couldn’t agree more.
“I consider him the best defensive linemen and offensive linemen in our district,” Price said. “Christian Monday had a big night, Nick Bailey had a good night at linebacker. Trey Torres is in the secondary. In every level on defense, we have somebody that’ll strike you. That’s what Matt wants to see.”
It was also encouraging to see Jeffers’ stat line, Price said.
The junior is still weak on his ankle, leaving him immobile.
“His timing was off a little bit, both mentally and physically,” Price said. “He was off from practice with that ankle, and it was a little bit worse that we let on…We’re a good roll out team, but we just couldn’t do it. It’s something that he’ll continue to improve every day.”
For Jeffers, it’s just time to focus on Lynn Camp.
“It’s a big game,” the junior said. “Every game is a big game. It’s the biggest game, right now.
“[The Cumberland Gap game] really takes our program to the next level. If we do this — if we play like we did the second half of this game — we can’t be beat. We won’t be beat."