MAYFIELD — It may have only been three weeks since the Graves County Eagles abruptly finished off their regular season with a 28-0 win over Marshall County, but it’s felt like an eternity.
A COVID-19 cancellation during the projected final week of the regular season as well as an additional week off before the start of the playoffs has held the Eagles out of competition since Oct. 30.
As Week 1 of the Class 5A playoffs gets set to begin tonight, the Eagles will be tasked with taking down Grayson County for a second time, as they set out on their quest for a deep playoff run.
With the extended layoff inevitably taking its toll on area teams, Graves County head coach Nick Kemp said his guys used the time off to patch up past mistakes and improve in areas they were lacking.
“We’re trying to build on making our team better,” Kemp said. “We’ve worked on special teams a lot over the last couple weeks, because that’s what we’ve struggled with. We’re also reminding the kids that (Grayson) isn’t sitting over there trying to be the same team and coming out with the same game plan that they had the first time. They’re going to attack us differently and we’ve got to try and figure out what their game plan is going to be.”
The Eagles (6-2, 4-1 district) are all too familiar with Grayson County, as they’ve faced the Cougars in the first round of the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
Grayson (5-2, 3-2) came away victorious in 2018 with a 54-35 win, but Graves got revenge last season, taking down the Cougars 28-0.
Although each side has seen recent success, all signs point to an Eagles win tonight.
Graves handled Grayson with ease during the regular season, defeating the Cougars 45-0 on the road in Week 5 as the Eagle offense dismantled the Grayson defense all night long.
Junior running back Clint McKee ran for 183 yards with three touchdowns, and senior quarterback John Ben Brown threw for 219 yards on 12-for-18 passing with three touchdowns.
Looking ahead to tonight’s matchup, Kemp said he expects his team to run another balanced attack against the Cougars.
“First and foremost, we’re going to try and run the ball,” Kemp said. “To be able to open the run up you’ve got to throw the ball, and we feel like that’s our biggest advantage, our receivers against their secondary.”
While it may seem like Grayson County’s chances to pull off the upset are slim, the Cougars do possess one weapon that may provide a spark on Friday night.
Senior running back Cadan Woodcock is the fifth leading rusher in Class 5A (142 ypg), running for 995 yards on 189 carries with 13 touchdowns.
The offensive success stops there for the Cougars though, as Grayson County quarterback Kaylor Decker has not been a go-to guy this season.
Decker has thrown for a measly 315 yards on 28-for-51 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions.
If the Eagle defense can replicate their Week 5 performance against Woodcock and Decker, Graves County should be in good hands.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Eagles Stadium.