PINEVILLE —The Mountain Lions start district play tonight as they hit the road to take on an improved Jenkins team.
The Cavaliers are 4-2 after winning just one game last season and none in 2010.
“They’re a solid little Class A football team,” said Pineville coach Bart Elam. “They’re much-improved, they’ve got a lot more speed than any Jenkins team I’ve seen in the seven years I’ve been at Pineville.”
Freshman quarterback Andrew Oliver has thrown for 813 yards and 10 TDs on 42-of-80 passing and leads Jenkins with 523 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Senior Ryan Bentley leads the Cavaliers with 19 catches for 427 yards and six scores. While Charlie Cox and Cody Childers are the top running backs.
“They’ve got a freshman quarterback and a freshman running back. They’re not real big, they play a lot of light kids even on the line. But they kind of use their quickness up there and it’s paid off for them,” Elam said.
The Lions have hit their stride the last couple of weeks, coming out their open date with wins over Paintsville and Allen Central by a combined 84-15 to even their record at 3-3.
A big key for the turnaround is a renewed emphasis on the running game. Seniors Andrew Douglas (391 yards) and Tanner Mike (314) and junior Connor Ford (305) have provided a diverse ground attack with Douglas and Mike both scoring six touchdowns.
Senior Jamie Roan remains steady at quarterback, completing 51-of-85 passes for 821 yards and 12 TDs, spread out to six different receivers.
“We’ve improved every week, and that’s really all you can ask for,” Elam said. “We’ve settled in to a niche running the football. We switched some players around after that loss to Lynn Camp and decided we needed to control the clock better and cut down on our turnovers.”
That in turn has put the defense in better position and the Lions have thrived on that side of the ball. Last week Pineville held Allen Central to just 73 total yards.
“The defense has gotten better every week. I don’t care who you are playing, when you hold a team to 73 yards you’re doing something right,” Elam added. “We’re happy, but the season is a marathon and you can’t let yourself get too high or too low. We’re keeping it on an even keel.”
Expect Jenkins to put up a tough fight, especially on their home field, in the district opener for both teams.
“It can be a tough place to play whether your a 40-point favorite or it’s a even match-up,” Elam said. “Our kids have got to be focused and just go out and execute.”
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.