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Seth Duncan and Dante Johnson could only smile as the North Hardin band played the school’s fight song.
After seven weeks, the Trojans are finally in the win column.
Duncan recovered two fumbles and Johnson had 124 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns as North Hardin knocked off Louisville Iroquois, 29-7 in a Class 5-A, District 3 game Friday night at Ray Story Stadium.
The win kept alive the Trojans’ playoff hopes, which would have been dashed with another loss. The district is jumbled behind John Hardin (2-0 in district), with Grayson County and Jeffersontown 1-1 and North Hardin and Iroquois 1-2 in district play.
It took a while for the Trojans (1-7) to get going against the Raiders (4-4), but they finally put things together in the second quarter.
After freshman Martin Marlin made a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter, North Hardin erupted for three touchdowns in the second. Johnson took a pitch from senior quarterback Andrew Rugerio for a 49-yard scoring run.
Two punts and two interceptions later, Iroquois cut its deficit to 9-7 as senior running back Nate Gray scored on a 4-yard run with 4:58 left in the second quarter.
Duncan, who was named a team captain for the game, said giving up a touchdown was what the Trojans needed.
North Hardin regained momentum with two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes of the half.
Rugerio connected with Johnson on a 25-yard scoring pass with 3:16 remaining, then found junior Detlef Turner in the near corner of the end zone on fourth-and-10 for a 22-yard score with 50 seconds remaining to push the lead to 22-7 at the break.
Turner was covered by two defenders, but Rugerio perfectly lofted the ball to his outside shoulder so he could make the catch. Iroquois was called for a personal foul after the play when Turner was shoved out of bounds.
Before hooking up with Turner, Rugerio had thrown three straight incomplete passes after the Trojans benefited from a roughing the passer penalty.
Things got off to a slow start in the third quarter, with the Raiders punting the ball twice and North Hardin missing a long field goal.
But Rugerio capped a seven-play, 68-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run with 2:02 left in the third. Rugerio scrambled to his right on third-and-6 and eluded two defenders to the end zone. A flag was thrown for holding, which would have negated the score, but it was called on Iroquois.
UP NEXT: North Hardin hosts John Hardin at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.