All the talk about Mercer County has to seem awfully familiar to the Russell coaching staff, players and fans.

They have an explosive offense. ...

They’ve put up big numbers. ...

They’ve beaten people by big margins.

Much the same was heard last year before the Red Devils rolled into Papa John’s Stadium, beat Owensboro Catholic between the tackles and brought home the hardwood.

Owensboro Catholic came into the game with a wide-open attack. But something funny happened to the Aces’ offense. It seems moving the ball is not so easy when receivers are covered well and the quarterback ends up spending most of the day getting helped up by defensive linemen.

It’s also hard for a team to score when it doesn’t have the ball. His philosophy may be old school and some may say even predictable, but Russell coach Ivan McGlone isn’t among the leaders of career coaching victories by accident. Russell is good at what it does — defense and ball control offense.

Good enough, as it turns out, to be a state champion.

So what is everyone to make of this Mercer County team that has beaten Lexington Christian 63-0, Boyle County 27-14 and had six games where it has scored 60 points or more? Are the Titans unbeatable?

The answer is no.

The reason is simple. Mercer County has not played a team this season as good as Russell. No, not even Boyle County, which had a mediocre year by its standard and finished 6-6.

But the Red Devils will have to have things go their way to have a chance to beat the favored Titans.

‰ They will have to contain the explosive speed on the Mercer County offense. Russell’s defense has a lot of speed of its own and eliminating big plays is first on the list for the Red Devils.

‰ They need to move the chains. Much like it did last year, Russell needs to control the tempo of the game. The Red Devils found holes in Owensboro Catholic’s defense and chewed up clock. They’ll need similar success when they have the ball. The Red Devils can throw it and third down conversions to keep possessions alive will be a statistic to watch.

‰ They need to apply some pressure in the fourth quarter. Funny things can happen to teams that haven’t been on the ropes before. Mercer County has handled the teams on its schedule and Russell needs to find out if the Titans have any poise.

‰ They need a good first quarter. The worst thing for the Red Devils would be a quick start for Mercer County. Playing catch-up has never been easy for Russell, or any ball control team for that matter. Things could get ugly if the Red Devils get out of their element.

Who knows? Mercer County could waltz onto the turf in Louisville and run right past the Red Devils and do what they’ve done to so many other teams.

But don’t look for it. This one is decided in the fourth quarter.

RICK GREENE is the sports editor of The Independent. He can be reached at rgreene@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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