HARRODSBURG — After facing two wide-open passing offenses in Lexington Catholic and Nelson¿County the last two weeks, the Mercer County must get ready for a change of pace in a Class AAAA, District 5 game at Marion County.
“Marion is more ground-oriented,”¿Mercer coach Chris Pardue said. “They’re going to give us a lot of fullhouse backfields and a lot of option now. The main thing is we’ve got to get back to fundamentals.”
Marion (2-4, 1-0 district) have won two straight games after dropping its first four and beat Taylor County 21-15 last week.
The Knights’ offense, which averages 25 points per game, is led by quarterback Hayden Taylor and running backs Enrico Floyd, Anton Cowherd and Cameron Brown.
Pardue said Mercer (3-3, 0-1)¿has worked on the option game, but not having seen it for a while means the Titans have to stay disciplined on defense, noting there are only a couple of people on each play that can make a stop for a loss or short gain.
“We have to make sure we focus on our fundamentals and be sound. An option team doesn’t let you pursue to the football, you have to take care of your responsibilities,” he said. “You have to make your tackle.”
Mercer has put two strong games together, and Pardue said he feels the team may be turning a corner.
“Especially after the Nelson game. We gave up several yards passing, but still we were pretty fundamentally sound and we kept them in front of us,” he said. “I was proud of our offensive and defensive lines. I felt like they did their jobs and it was the best they had done all year.”
Mercer is averaging 25 points and 329 yards of offense per game, and is giving up 30 points and 372 yards.
James Johnson has rushed for 852 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Darion¿Lewis has rushed for 269 yards and a touchdown since making the move to quarterback.
“We can spread it out and take some pressure off James. If James is our sole ball carrier, people focus on him and Darion gives what option teams do. You have to take care of more responsibilities than one,”¿Pardue said of the move to Lewis. “We will stick with Darion to start with and we may use Austin (Sparrow) or even Drew Davis some this week.”
Pardue said he expects Marion to load up the box to slow down the Titans’ run game.
“They’re aggressive. They’re young, but aggressive,”¿he said. “It’s going to be a test for us.”