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Football Playoffs Round 1 Preview: Mercer County vs. Clay County

Daarik Gray

Herald Staff

The KHSAA State Football Playoffs have been set and the Mercer County Titans are slated to host the Clay County Tigers Friday, Nov. 6, at 7:30 p.m. 

Mercer County, the number one seed, finished the 2015 regular season with a 5-5 record. Clay County, the number four seed, finished with a 2-8 record.

Both teams will rely heavily on their running games as each team has more rushing yards than passing yards on the season.

Junior Donald ‘D’ Smith will lead the rushing attack for the Titans. Smith had 514 yards on 88 carries in the regular season. Junior Dustin Baker has also had a big season in the backfield, rushing for 461 yards on 68 carries. The duo combined for 15 rushing touchdowns in the regular season.

Clay County’s ground attack will be led by senior Nathan Sizemore and junior Will Sexton. Sizemore leads the team in rushing with 422 yards on 69 carries. Sexton has rushed for 421 yards on 54 carries. The pair have combined for five rushing touchdowns on the season.

Drew Davis is the starting Mercer County quarterback. The senior was 65-163, with 1,006 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.

The Tigers will most likely go with Sexton at quarterback Friday night. So far this season he is 61-91, with 763 yards and six touchdowns.

“We have to align soundly and get our keys and reads,” said Mercer County Head Coach David Buchanan. “His (Sexton) run-pass ability makes him dangerous.”

“We have to align soundly and get our keys and reads,” said Mercer County Head Coach David Buchanan. “His (Sexton) run-pass ability makes him dangerous.”

Mercer County and Clay County haven’t met in school history, but Clay County Head Coach Justin Combs was a player on a team Buchanan’s Mason County team faced in 2003.

“I have never played Clay County, but their head coach played for Breathitt County when we played them in the Recreation Bowl in 2003. He has a strong background and does a great job using his quarterbacks’ athleticism,” said Buchanan.

The two teams have three similar opponents this year: East Jessamine, West Jessamine and Wayne County.

Mercer defeated East Jessamine 19-0, while Clay County lost 42-0. Both teams defeated West Jessamine, as the Titans won 44-11 and the Tigers won 40-24. Both teams also lost to Wayne County, as Mercer County fell 21-14 and Clay County lost 64-0.

Clay County enters the game on a one game losing streak, while the Titans enter on a five game win streak in which they have outscored opponents 177-34. Buchanan hopes the recent domination of opponents will help his team this Friday.

“We had said earlier that once we got some confidence that we would be a totally different team. The George Rogers Clark game was big because when you look at where we both were at the time we played Anderson County, our guys have come a million miles,” said Buchanan. “Our guys see that and it helps them believe what we are doing is making us dramatically better.”

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