The Seventh Annual Forcht Bank Pioneer Bowl will be played Friday, August 17 at Lynn Camp High School with two games on tap. The Knox Central Panthers will take on the South Laurel Cardinals at 6 p.m., followed by the Lynn Camp Wildcats going against the East Ridge Warriors.

Three of the four coaches met at Forcht Bank in Barbourville to talk about their teams and the 2012 Pioneer Bowl. First year coach Phil Russell, Knox Central coach Scott Russell and South Laurel coach Larry Welch were on hand. East Ridge Coach Bradley Allen was unable to attend the press conference.

Rodney Kuhl of Forcht Bank said. “This is the Seventh Annual Pioneer Bowl. We certainly appreciate Knox Central and Lynn Camp hosting these games each and every year.”

“It gives Forcht Bank a great opportunity to be a part of our community. It’s a great event and the coaches do a great job putting on the Pioneer Bowl,” Kuhl said.

Phil Russell is in the process of rebuilding at Lynn Camp High School after the Wildcats were winless in 11 games last season. “Obviously, we are trying to turn things around. We are a senior based team this year and I have put a lot on my seniors to get the program turned around,” Russell said.

“We have over 30 kids out for football right now and that is something you want to do, get as many kids out as you possibly can,” Russell said. “We have installed a whole new system and we are going to focus on special teams. We need to focus on that area of the game.”

“Like most small schools, a lot of our kids will have to go both ways,” Russell said. “I really feel confident with this team. Most of the kids on the field have varsity experience and they are a great group of kids.”

“We have a junior quarterback and a senior-based offensive line. We could possibly start five seniors on the offensive line,” he said.

“We are going to the four-front defensively, that’s something they tried last year,” Russell said. “We are called the Hitmen for a reason, so our kids can take pride in that. We want to keep that old school traditional Lynn Camp philosophy that we are going to try and out hit you every time we play you.”

Aaron Mills, a junior, will get the nod at quarterback for the Wildcats. “He started last year. Aaron has a good arm and he has been doing good in our passing tournaments,” Russell said.

The Wildcats will rely on senior Jesse Keith as well. “He will be an all-around player. He will be a linebacker, tight end and I even put him in at quarterback during our seven-on-seven scrimmage at Middlesboro,” Russell said. “He is a senior and just a football player.”

“Austin Hall, another senior known as ‘Bubba’ is a 380-pound lineman. You can’t coach size and is a wonderful young man. He has had letters from Harvard and scored a 26 on his ACT. He is a very smart and respected young man. He will anchor our line.”

“We have four or five juniors that can play too. Tommy Hatfield is one of our corners and running backs, Tyler Reynolds will be one of our receivers. He will be real good for us,” Russell said.

“Derrick Girdner (junior) is a kid who that has not missed a practice since the fifth grade. He is not the biggest guy, not the fastest guy, but he is a program builder,” he added.

Lynn Camp will meet East Ridge in the second game of the Pioneer Bowl. The Warriors were a very young team last year and was led by freshman quarterback Christian Hagy and freshman running back Michael Farris.

The Warriors struggled on offense, scoring just 44 points the entire season. East Ridge lost all nine games by an average of 40 points a game.

Scott Russell of the Panthers said, “We lost quite a few seniors last year, but we have to great leaders back. They have made a world of difference in our off-season workouts. They kids have really worked hard and have gotten a lot stronger and worked on their speed.”

“We have not had to get on kids about missing practice and work outs. They are policing their selves and that’s what you want,” Russell said. “When the kids start taking pride in what they are doing and believe in what you are doing everything else takes care of itself.”

The Panthers lost quarterback Jonathan Barger to graduation, but have an outstanding player in Jeffrey Canady returning in the backfield along with new quarterback Devon Evans. “He has big shoes for fill,” Russell said.

“It’s good to have a Division One prospect (Barger) on your team,” Russell added. “John Shepherd has worked really hard and he is probably one of the stronger seniors you will come across. We are expecting big things from him.

The Panthers finished the season 6-4 last year and was 2-1 in district play, but lost to Boyle County in the first-round of the playoffs, 28-14.

“All in all, if we go and do what we are capable of doing everything will take care of itself, but we do have some young kids that will have to step up and play for us this year.”

South Laurel will have a veteran team back and quarterback Tyler Dethridge has a year under his belt. “He had 2000-plus yards passing and he can run the ball pretty decent,” said Cardinal Coach Larry Welch. “But, he has some good kids to throw the ball to.”

“We have a good group of seniors coming back and they have bought into working real hard,” he said. 

“I know the district is ahead of us, but there is a lot of excitement about this first game against Knox Central. We know the quality of Knox Central and we know what they have done in the past,” Welch said.