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No team created the John Hardin Bulldogs more problems in recent years than the Bowling Green Purples.
In last year’s Class 5-A state semifinals, Bowling Green’s pressure defense limited the Bulldogs to 232 yards of total offense. To compound matters, the Bulldogs turned the ball over five times, including four fumbles. The teams meet again at 7:30 tonight in the same round of the postseason at Bulldog Stadium
“They’ve got a great system for facing it (Wing-T),” said John Hardin senior Garrett Ray. “They see certain things and they are bringing the house. That’s what killed us the last time. I don’t think we were ready for it and they always had someone come free.”
John Hardin (13-0) has had success against most teams because the Wing-T isn’t all that common. But the element of surprise won’t work against the Purples, who faced Warren Central – which runs the same offense – last week.
“It makes our job more difficult,” said John Hardin coach Mark Brown. “Part of the thing with the Wing-T is people don’t see that much so it’s harder to prepare for. They definitely know it. They play real good defense and they’re going to make us work for it.”
While Brown thinks it gives the Purples an advantage, Bowling Green coach Kevin Wallace said the Bulldogs now have an idea what his defense will do. Wallace also said John Hardin and Warren Central differ in the way they run the offenses.
“Warren Central is very jet- and speed-sweep oriented,” Wallace said. “Warren Central’s passing game isn’t near the same as John Hardin does a lot with waggles and boots. They both have things they do the same, but they’re different
“You watch John Hardin’s backs and they know when to cut,” he added. “They know where the running lanes are and they put their foot in the ground and make the cut. That comes from having an understanding of the offense. Warren Central tries to beat you to the corner.”
Bowling Green’s defense is limiting opponents to 9.7 yards and 159.6 yards per game. The Purples have shut out five opponents and have held all but one – Louisville St. Xavier – to 21 or fewer points.
Junior safety Allen Gonsalves leads Bowling Green with 97 tackles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions, while junior linebacker Lincoln Quick has 85 tackles. Junior outside linebacker Owen Griffith also has three fumble recoveries. Junior safeties Hunter Rogers and Josh Kelly each have two interceptions.
“They definitely have a great defense,” said John Hardin junior Patrick Anderson. “They do a good job of bringing pressure, so we’re going to have to do a good job of picking that up. They have a good secondary, but they’re really good at stunting.”
That puts a lot of pressure on John Hardin’s offense line, which has struggled at times this season against pressure defenses.
“We have to be mentally strong and help each other out,” said John Hardin senior Chris Doss. “They play fast and they’re efficient. We have to pick up their stunts. Their linebackers are really good. They’re like Grayson County, but faster.”
John Hardin, which is averaging 43.5 points and 401.5 yards per game, had success against Grayson County through the air. Anderson has thrown for 1,837 yards and 29 touchdowns this season.
“They stunt really well,” said John Hardin senior Dorian Collins, who has 36 catches for 1,022 yards and 15 touchdowns. “They keep their safeties in the middle of the field. It makes it difficult to pass on. A big factor will be our quick, short passes. Our passing game is going to be the key.”
Although the Bulldogs were caught off guard by Bowling Green’s defensive pressure last year, they say they won’t make the same mistake twice.
“It’s definitely a different attitude this week,” said John Hardin senior Wade Holtsclaw, who has rushed for 1,225 yards and 20 touchdowns. “I could tell on Sunday how serious everyone was. Everyone is going to be prepared this year. Everyone wants this game pretty bad. You can see it in everyone’s eyes and even the coaches’ eyes.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.