Whitley County (WYMT) -- The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets are playing for one reason: revenge.
"They're really working hard in practice and they never take the time off,” head coach Jerry Herron said. “They don't take days off and they're just so hungry, so excited to get the chance to do it.”
“And they feel that, if this year, if we have some luck and do things correctly we'll be in the same boat as we were last year."
Williamsburg has a bitter taste in their mouths leftover from the way the last two season have ended – two losses in the regional finals to Hazard.
"Anytime a team has beat you for two years and ended your season, that's in your head for the whole winter and the whole offseason and the whole summer,” Herron said. “Hazard's program is where most of the teams in single A and in the mountains and most of the state want to be. “They've won a state championship, they've been to state finals and that's where all of us are trying to get. And you know the old saying: To be the man you got to beat the man and that's what everybody is trying to do, and everybody is chasing them right now."
Considered a veteran team with nine starters returning, they are sick of being eliminated by the Bulldogs when it comes to the postseason.
"It definitely fuels us because it's like, kind of our rival now,” junior wide receiver Corey Shelton said. “They didn't use to be but they are because they keep knocking us out. And we’re just going to keep working and hopefully get past them this year."
Senior quarterback Dalton Sizemore’s throwing odometer is back to zero.
HE THREW FOR MORE YARDS THAN ANY QUARTERBACK IN CLASS 1A … RACKING UP MORE THAN 3,100 YARDS. BUT WILLIAMSBURG Q-B DALTON SIZEMORE'S THROWING ODOMETER IS BACK TO ZERO. AND THERE'S A NEW MISSION.
"Less interceptions than I did last year,” Sizemore, who threw for more than 3,100 yards last season said. “A few more touchdowns, you know, get in the 40 range and hopefully win state. “Coach said when I came into the weight room and we're tired, he's like, 'We're tired of finishing second.' And he brought out a Sports Illustrated page before we started lifting during the summer and it was Kevin Durant and he's like, 'I'm tired of being so close and finishing number two!’ and that's kind of been our motto, and we have been pushing to not to get that hurt feeling and lose on a last-minute play like we did last year."
Compared to some teams, the Yellow Jackets are seen as small so the preparation stage is where the creativity from the coaching staff has taken place this offseason.
"One thing we have tried to do is pick up the pace in practice,” Herron said. “A game is two and a half, three hours long when you take into the breaks and everything, and we've tried to practice at that level and at that speed.”
“You have a lot of practice time where you stand around and you watch and we've tried to make it where it's constant movement, constant practice, constant having to think and be tired and try to really pressure the kids to have to think when they are tired and out of gas and really just ready to just stop and get a break."
Yes, Williamsburg wants to beat Hazard – and they will get that chance in the second game of the season – but they want something bigger. They want to be on the carpet at Bowling Green.
Said Shelton: "State Championship. Anything less is a failure."