PREP FOOTBALL: Central Hardin beats John Hardin for first time in school history (08/31)

-A A +A
By Ryan O'Gara

Xavier Arnette couldn’t help it Friday night. He started crying.


The tears of the Central Hardin junior fullback weren’t because of the cramps that forced him to exit the game twice, nor the result of numerous hits he took in carrying the ball 26 times.

No, they were tears of joy after helping his team accomplish something it had never done before: Beat John Hardin.

Arnette rumbled his way to 161 yards and the Bruins gashed John Hardin for 318 yards on the ground, pounding their way to a 45-12 win in the Swope Family of Dealerships Bowl at Bruin Field and giving them their first win in program history over their county rival.

And Central Hardin’s defense was equally effective, forcing four turnovers and holding the Bulldogs to 224 yards.

“It’s something where you can’t ever get that feeling again in your life,” said Central Hardin junior linebacker Dalton Parr. “We’ve never beat them in the history of Central, and we made history tonight. It’s just a burst of happiness.”

When Central Hardin coach Tim Mattingly took over the program in the offseason, this was the style of play he envisioned: running the offense through Arnette with some improvising from senior quarterback Koree Krupinski mixed in, and a defense that aside from one big run was flat-out dominating.

It all overwhelmed the Bulldogs (0-2), who entered the game having beaten the Bruins all 10 meetings, including eight wins by 29 or more points.

And it was a far cry from last week when the Bruins (2-0) lacked sharpness in a 28-21 win over North Hardin.

“Bottom line, our kids got with it finally,” Mattingly said. “Some good things happened to them, and they started to see what we were doing was working. They just caught fire from that. It was a good win not only for this team, but this whole program. We’re pleased.”

As John Hardin coach Chad Lewis said, every dog has its day, and this was clearly Central Hardin’s day. It started right from the beginning, too.

The Bruins forced a three-and-out to open the game and Krupinski found senior tight end Austin Pence for a 27-yard touchdown on third-and-21.

Krupinski was back at it again in the second quarter with a 19-yard touchdown run in which he appeared to only have a minimal gain but snuck down the left sideline. He finished 7-of-10 passing for 73 yards and one touchdown while adding 13 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

“I knew going in Krupinski was going to be hard to handle,” said Lewis, whose team lost back-to-back games in a season for the first time since 2006. “We had him a couple times in the backfield for big losses, and he gets out and makes a play outside the pocket and with his feet. He hurt us. We had a hard time containing him.”

It got worse for the Bulldogs as Bruins junior linebacker Gavin Krupinski intercepted quarterback Shay Stone on the next play and returned it 23 yards to the 4-yard line. Arnette punched it in on the next play to give Central Hardin a 21-6 lead with 4:17 left in the first half.

The Bruins looked to be going into halftime in control, but a fumble on a punt return gave the Bulldogs a short field at the Bruins 27. They capitalized with sophomore running back Korie Cleveland’s 4-yard score with 24.6 seconds left in the first half, cutting Central Hardin’s lead to 21-12.

At that point, the question became whether the Bruins would have a second-half letdown like the week before against North Hardin, or whether they’d seal the deal.

“I was really nervous at halftime,” Mattingly said. “I was thinking, ‘Which Central Hardin team is going to show up in the second half? Is it the one that I know that’s there, bursting to get out, or is it the one that played against North Hardin last week?’

“Luckily, the right Central Hardin team showed up.”

Indeed it did, as the Bruins allowed just 36 yards in the second half.

With seniors Alex Hawkins, Trent Baker and Dakota Coogle, junior Alex Bibb and sophomore Drew Goodman winning the battle up front, the linebacking corps of senior Markel Willis, junior Seth Bryan, Parr and Gavin Krupinski were free to make plays.

That extended to the secondary, too, as sophomore Darius Barbour picked off Stone in the end zone and later Parr scooped up a fumble and returned it 15 yards to run the score up to 38-12 with 8:13 left.

“Our defensive line got a good push on their O-line, ripped across their faces and made tackles,” Parr said.

“Smash-mouth, hit-you-in-the-face football — that’s how we like to play.”

And on the other side of the ball, the Bruins simply wore the Bulldogs down.

Lewis was only half joking when he said he could have run through the holes opened up by the Central Hardin offensive line of Coogle, Baker and senior Josh Farris and juniors Nick Lockard and Garrett Goatley.

“They gave me good pushes,” Arnette said, “and I could get up behind them and grind out some yards.”

Senior Chase Hicks added a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter and Koree Krupinski capped one of the biggest wins in program history with a 3-yard score with 1:29 left.

In the Bulldogs’ most lopsided loss since 2011, they were overmatched, as Lewis suspected they might be considering the experience gap between the teams. Senior running back Elijah Smith (nine carries, 107 yards) had a 73-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but that was the only big play John Hardin could muster.

“Our guys can’t get their heads down and start pouting because the road here doesn’t get any easier. It probably gets harder,” Lewis said of an upcoming schedule which includes Meade County, Fort Thomas Highlights and Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park. “We know that and welcome the challenge.

“We’ll probably have more lumps down the road,” he added, “but this group will get better if they keep believing and keep listening to us. They will.”

For the Bruins, on the other hand, this is the kind of performance that makes them think it may not only be their day, but their year.

“We’re stepping up,” Arnette said with a smile. “I think we’ll do pretty good this year, make some things happen.”

UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays at Madisonville-North Hopkins at 8 p.m. Friday. John Hardin plays at Meade County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.