Despite being in different districts unlike the majority of the sports they play against one another, there’s still no love lost between Rowan County and Fleming County.
The Vikings play in Class 4A, while the Panthers are in 3A, but when they meet Friday night, none of that matters.
“They are in a group kind of like Mason County, maybe not so much historically, but it’s a border rival and most of these kids have played against one another from 7th grade all the way through high school,” Panthers coach Bill Spencer said. “It’s a bragging rights game and we really want to beat those guys. We go to Morehead often, if you win, you can hold your head a little bit higher. It’s a pride game.”
The Panthers enter at 1-2, having struggled defensively in their two losses, allowing 107 points in the two defeats to Harrison County and Greenup County. The main disadvantage has been in their rushing defense, allowing an average of 293.6 yards per game on the ground. In order to be successful come Friday night, the Panthers know that will have to improve.
“We’re hoping the things that we’ve worked on in practice with repetitions are working. Making tackles, finishing the play and a better job with pursuit. We have to avoid the big plays,” Spencer said.
Their lone win comes over another rival, Mason County, a team both have faced this season. The Panthers knocked off the Royals 35-14 on August 24, while the Vikings prevailed 47-13 on August 31.
Quarterback Jonathan Maher seems to be getting more comfortable as the Panthers signal-caller, throwing for 281 yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. One thing he’ll need to avoid is turning the ball over, something the Vikings thrive on. Rowan County has forced 12 turnovers to go along with 10 sacks in their first three games. They’ve recovered nine fumbles and intercepted three passes.
“We have to limit turnovers. They do a good job of getting points off of them and have even scored on special teams. We have to be sound with the ball and not give them those easy opportunities. Rowan County is much improved from last year, on both sides of the ball,” Spencer said.
To go with an opportunistic defense, the Vikings run game spearheaded by Cole Wallace will try and present some problems. Wallace enters with 365 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the season, getting the majority of the workload with 59 carries. He’s complemented by Jacob McDaniel, who cleared the 100-yard mark in last week’s win over Mason County.
“They have a nice sized offensive line probably averaging 270 pounds and above with good size. They platoon a lot of guys too. For us with injuries along the line, we’re hoping these guys are ready conditioning-wise,” Spencer said.
The Panthers have had the Vikings number as of late, winning three of the last four matchups prior to the Vikings winning six in a row from 2008-13. The Panthers owned the series before that, winning every matchup from 1999-2007. Fleming County hopes to continue that momentum Friday night in Morehead.
Who: Fleming County Panthers (1-2) at Rowan County Vikings (2-1)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Paul Ousley Stadium, Morehead
Previous Meeting: Fleming County won 49-23, September 8, 2017
Series: Fleming County leads 10-8 since 1998