Starks

Mayfield senior running back Jutarious Starks (24) muscles his way into the endzone against Paducah Tilghman last Friday night.

Hungry for revenge, the Mayfield Cardinals will host the McCracken County Mustangs on Friday night at CFSB War Memorial Stadium as they look to improve to a perfect 4-0.

The Cardinals enter week four coming off a triumphant 42-28 victory over longtime rival Paducah Tilghman.

Now that they’ve handled business in their two rivalry games, the Cardinals have moved on to the possibility of avenging a 2020 loss that still lingers.

Mayfield dropped its first game of the season last year to McCracken County in a 42-7 rout.

This season, things are much different for both teams.

A full spring and summer for preparation as well as a reloaded roster has Mayfield chomping at the bit to get a hold of McCracken County.

The Mustangs, on the other hand, may not be as jazzed up to see the Cardinals.

McCracken County is trending in the opposite direction than most teams in western Kentucky.

Sitting at 0-3, the Mustangs have struggled both offensively and defensively, dropping close bouts with Paducah Tilghman (35-27) and Bowling Green (14-10), before being dismantled 49-16 in week three against Graves County.

This week, the Mustangs will be tasked with slowing down a Mayfield team that has been rolling since its week one win at home against crosstown rival Graves County.

For Mayfield head coach Joe Morris and the Cardinals, the key to success on Friday night will come down to which team can play a more sound football game.

“I think the biggest thing is that we do a great job in our coverage and formations,” Morris said. “We have to line up right, get pressure on the quarterback and be ready to play. McCracken throws a lot of short drops and they’ve got tight ends that can make plays. Our kids know this is a good football team so we will not be overlooking them. They’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the state and some great receivers so we have to put Tilghman behind us and get ready for a good McCracken team.”

Aside from a few hiccups against Tilghman last week, the Cardinal offense has been lights out to start 2021.

Returning senior running back Kylan Galbreath and sophomore quarterback Zane Cartwright have had their way with opposing defenses thus far.

Galbreath has already rushed for 419 yards on 65 carries with five touchdowns and Cartwright has thrown for 551 yards on 41-62 passing with four touchdowns and one interception.

At receiver, the Cardinals have opened up the passing game with multiple lethal targets.

Seniors Daniel Coles and Isaac Stevenson have been vital in keeping the chains moving this season.

Coles has amassed 271 yards receiving with 13 receptions and four touchdowns while Stevenson has added 123 yards on 10 catches.

Junior Gavin Jackson has also provided a spark to the Mayfield offense, hauling in 105 yards on 11 receptions.

When it comes to offensive strategy for this week’s matchup against McCracken, Morris said the Cardinals will keep it simple as they look to get Galbreath going early by establishing the run.

“I think every game we just have to do what we can with what they give us,” Morris said. “We want to establish the running game and I feel like we have one of the best running backs in Kylan Galbreath and an O-line that is playing well. We’ve also got some great backup running backs in JuJu [Starks] and Tre [Barnes]. We have to do well with blitzes like we did last. If we can get through the initial surge we like our chances on the second and third levels.”

On defense, the Cardinals will face a McCracken County team that has lived and died by its passing game.

Junior quarterback Pryor Lamb has seen a bulk of the offensive production, throwing for 735 yards on 64-119 passing with five touchdowns and four interceptions.

Lamb has been forced to take on an even bigger role this season following the loss of returning senior running back Hunter Bradley.

With Bradley gone and senior running back Jeremiah Hughes struggling (55 yards on 31 attempts), the Mustangs will be expected to stay in the air against the Cardinals.

Lamb’s favorite targets this season have been senior wideouts Zander Mayes and Nick Masek.

Mayes leads the team with 240 yards receiving yards with two touchdowns while Masek has hauled in 235 yards with one touchdown.

The Cardinals will face McCracken County this week before closing out non-district play with Calloway County next week at home.

Knowing the impact games like these have on his team, Morris said it's always nice to have the chance to face challenging opponents early on.

“We try to make sure we always play a tough schedule so we’re battle tested when it comes to district play,” Morris said. “It's been a tough stretch with these first four games, we know we have our hands full but we feel like this makes us better and we’ll be ready when districts come. I’m proud of the way we’ve played so far. Obviously, as a coach, we know we have to improve but we believe we are getting better each and every day. And when you can do that you have the chance to be a pretty good football team.”

Mayfield will host McCracken County Friday night at 7 p.m. at CFSB War Memorial Stadium.