No matter what happens in Saturday’s game against the 1-8 Carter County Wildcats, the Kentucky Warriors (8-1) are locked into the the third seed of the Northern Frontier Football League Playoffs. With nothing to lose and nothing to gain, it would seem that the regular season finale would be more or less a meaningless game. But Warrior head coach Jamie Rice knows that every game is an opportunity for his team to improve.
“It’s not like we’re hitting on all cylinders heading into the playoffs,” Rice said. “We definitely have some things we have to work on.”
Offensively, the Warriors will look to take care of the football. Turnovers have plagued Kentucky all season long, resulting in stalled drives and points taken off the scoreboard. Warrior quarterbacks have thrown 15 interceptions in nine games this season, an average of 1.7 per game.
In addition, Rice hopes the Warrior offense can eliminate pre-snap penalties and mental errors.
“We definitely need to eliminate a lot of those mental errors before the playoffs.,” he said. “If one person misses a block, the plays dead. You took a play where you could have gained 20 yards and you lost two. We lose our focus a little some times.”
Defensively, the Warriors look to fix alignment problems that have given Kentucky coaches fits throughout the season. In their only loss this season, the Cincinnati Hawks exploited holes caused by the Warriors’ alignment issues to the tune of 42 points.
“That really put us behind the eight ball in that game,” Rice said.
The Warriors will be facing a Wildcats team that has seen its share of struggles this season. In its first year, the team has just a single win on the season. In Week 3 earlier this season, the Warriors defeated Carter County 46-7. But Rice has seen improvement from the Wildcats, and believes they’ll come into Spartan Stadium ready to compete.
“I’m sure those guys are going to come out and show us how far they’ve come,” Rice said. “I expect them to come out and give us a great effort.”
Though the game is meaningless in the standings, Rice plans on playing his starters for as long as they need to in order to secure a win. That’s good news for Jontez Jones, who hopes to break the thousand yard mark on the season. He’ll need 160 yards in Saturday’s game to get there.
It’s also good news for defensive backs Nate Fannin and Mason Jordan. According to Rice, the duo has a “gentlemen’s bet” on who will finish the season with the most interceptions. Thanks to a strong showing early in the season, Fannin holds a slim 6-5 edge heading into the final week. But Jordan has proved that he can make that margin disappear in a hurry.
“He keeps on getting those interceptions in chunks,” Rice said. “I don’t think he ever gets just one, they come three at a time.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter