Coach Frank Smith admits the Trojans were "banged up" after a hard-fought 27-14 loss at Middlesboro, which meant an extra week of practice and healing time were valuable in preparing for defending state champ Breathitt County.
"We would have had a hard time lining up and playing last week," Smith said.
Cawood (4-1, 0-1) is almost back to full strength, but junior quarterback Andrew Brock is still questionable for Friday's 7:30 p.m. district matchup after suffering a hairline fracture of his ankle against Middlesboro.
The Trojans will need all their weapons to upset Breathitt County (4-2 overall, 2-0 district). The Bobcats are still ranked among the state's top teams despite losing 17 starters from last year's undefeated squad that pounded Corbin 51-0 in the state finals.
Breathitt has counted on junior quarterback Jacob Hundley (6-4, 220) to carry their offense this season as both a passer and runner. Finding a way to stop the big Breathitt quarterback has been the Trojans' focus in practice this week.
"He's one of the most versatile players we've seen," Smith said. "He throws a good football, and once they get down inside the 20 you have to stop him, because he's going to run it at you."
Avoiding mistakes on defense is also crucial to the Trojans' success this week, according to Smith.
"That's the biggest thing for us. Our kids are so aggressive that sometimes our form tackling is not very good," Smith said. "We've had some success knocking people around, but if you get in a game against Middlesboro or Breathitt County you can't do that. The first person there has to wrap up and hold on."
Breathitt County's Mike Holcomb, who has led the Bobcats to three state titles, knows that stopping the Trojans' ground attack is crucial to victory. Cawood had been ranked among the state's top rushing teams with the senior running back trio of Jacob Napier, Timmy Engle and Josh Estes before being held to 83 yards by Middlesboro.
"They are a real well-coached football team with some excellent skill kids and a big, strong line," Holcomb said. "They look like a completely different team from what I've heard about before.
"We've got to do a good job of defending the Wing-T and executing our defensive game plan. We've also got to take care of the football and play strong on our special teams."
The Trojans are looking at the game as an opportunity to gain some statewide respect.
"Everyone keeps talking about how much progress we've made. This gives us a chance to see how much we have improved," Smith said.
"I'm proud of our team, and I loved the way we played at Middlesboro, but we've got to turn one of those into a victory."
An emotional 7-6 win last week at Harlan proved to be an uplifting experience for the Cumberland Redskins.
"We're riding on a little high right now," Cumberland coach Frank Vicini said.
"We've got more kids at practice now and got more confidence than we had a week ago."
Cumberland (3-2, 1-1) needed the confidence boost before going to Somerset for a 7:30 p.m. game Friday.
The Briar Jumpers entered the season ranked among the state's top teams in Class A and were the solid favorite in District 7.
"I don't think the kids are looking at this game as something to try to get through," Vicini said. "They are looking at what can we do to beat Somerset."
Somerset (4-2, 2-0) was blown out by traditional state powers Corbin and Danville early in the season but bounced back for wins against district rivals Williamsburg (63-6) and Lynn Camp (28-14) the last two weeks.
"Speed comes to mind immediately," Vicini said when asked about Somerset's strengths. "They have a lot of athletes and good overall team speed."
Senior quarterback Neal Tucker, who is being recruited by Eastern, Western and William & Mary, completed 16 of 20 passes for 256 yards last week and has thrown for 1,153 yards through six games.
Sophomore tailback Scottie Newell leads the Jumpers' ground attack with 623 yards.
"Defensively, we've improved a little bit," Somerset coach Jay Cobb said.
"We're still finding ourselves offensively. The Tucker kid is starting to play well, and that's important for us, but we didn't take care of the ball last week."
The Redskins had only 160 yards of offense in the win over Harlan, but played a strong game defensively and impressed Cobb.
"They are a very athletic football team," he said. "They have nice size.
"We'll be giving up size. Defensively, they do some very nice things, and we know we'll have our hands full.
"The quarterback (Drew Allison) is getting better every week, and I like (Kevin) Vicini. He catches the football extremely well."
Keeping the ball away from Somerset is the key for Cumberland this week, according to the Skins' coach.
"Lynn Camp did a good job controlling the ball and used up a lot of time," Vicini said. "They made Somerset work on offense and didn't give up the big plays."
There is little doubt about what the visiting Green Dragons will see from Lynn Camp. Under the leadership of coach David Mitchell over the past quarter century, the Wildcats have featured a physical, hard-hitting defense with a ball-control offense that comes straight at the opponent.
"I tell people that I'm not smart enough to fool anybody," Mitchell said. "(Harlan) Coach (J.B.) Donahue's philosophy and mine are a lot alike. Most of the time it comes down to execution. Whoever executes best is going to win."
Harlan has the task of trying to stop the Wildcats' no-frills attack in Friday's 8 p.m. district clash.
"They're not as big and strong as they have been, but they still play aggressive, hard-nosed power football," Donahue said. "It will be a matter of us being able to bow our necks up and play good stiff defense."
Lynn Camp (3-3, 1-1) features the region's most effective defense through six games. The Wildcats have given up only 70 points. Harlan has scored only 73 points and will need improvement offensively to knock off the Wildcats.
"We're hoping we can have some success throwing the ball as well as getting some seams to run in," Donahue said.
"We've worked hard this week on offensive execution. We've spent a lot of time on offense this week, and we hope that pays off."
Donahue said that senior Donnie Clem will start at quarterback for the Dragons this week.
Freshman Jon Lundy started the previous two games, but was replaced by Clem in the second quarter last week.
The Dragons are still without junior tailback Andrew Grieshop, who suffered a broken collarbone in the season's first game and has been limited to kicking the past couple of weeks.
Harlan (2-3, 1-1) is coming off a 7-6 loss to Cumberland and needs a victory Friday to regain control of its playoff destiny.
"It was a real tough loss for coaches and kids alike, but we've had a real good week of practice," Donahue said.
"I think the kids know they are still in the mix."
Senior linebacker Richard Reece (6-5, 220), who Mitchell said is being recruited by both Western and Eastern, leads the Lynn Camp defense but is questionable for Friday's game due to a possible concussion suffered in last week's 28-14 loss to Somerset.
Senior safety Cory Disney and senior linebackers Jody Middleton and Gino Cima are other key players on defense.
Senior tailback Dusty Brock leads the Lynn Camp offense with approximately 500 yards rushing, and is also a big-play threat on special teams, where he has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Jimmy Chaffin, the Wildcats' second-leading rusher, will miss Friday's game due to mononucleosis.