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PREP FOOTBALL: Crimsons not scaring North (11/12)

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By Greg Crews

 

By GREG CREWS gcrews@thenewsenterprise.com LOUISVILLE Louisville DuPont Manual is an intimidating team. The Crimsons boast an abundance of speed and size, an 8-2 record and a No. 6 ranking in Class 6-A in the latest Associated Press poll. To the North Hardin Trojans, however, that means little. “If anything, I think our schedule has prepared us for opponents like this,” first-year North Hardin coach Crad Jaggers said. “Overall I don’t know if they are any better than some of the teams we have played, like Bowling Green or John Hardin.” Though the Trojans (4-6) did not come away with wins in either of those games, they are confident this time will be different as they face off with homestanding Manual at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of the Class 6-A state playoffs. “They seem like a run offense and we’re a run-stop defense, so I think we match up pretty well,” North Hardin senior linebacker Marcel Haynes said. “They will probably come out with a lot of play action and that’s where I trust my (defensive backs) to stay back and get a couple of interceptions.” However, if North Hardin’s defense does find a way to shut down Manual, it will be in exclusive company. The Crimsons are averaging 29.6 points per game this season and have been held below 14 points only once this season, in a shutout loss to No. 1 Louisville St. Xavier. Manual comes in riding a three-game winning streak, including a double-overtime win over Bullitt East and a 41-24 win over rival Louisville Male. “We’re obviously an underdog. Everybody is going to bet against us,” Jaggers said. “I’m hoping they’re excited about their win over Male and they’re looking past us to a rematch with St. X. I hope they are taking us lightly.” North Hardin enters the game coming off a 34-16 comeback win over Union Cooper. Coming into that game, the Trojans said it was extremely important to build some momentum before entering the postseason. “I think we got the momentum we needed,” Jaggers said. “I think the game was a wake up call to a lot of people.” In order to keep that momentum rolling, the Trojans will likely have to find a way to slow down Manual’s Wing-T offense and its slew of running backs. Through three games, the Crimsons had three players averaging around 10 carries per game, while senior running backs James Clay and D.J. Hawk were averaging more than 80 yards per game apiece. “They are really effective at running the ball, having their guards pull, making key blocks and selling a lot of reverse fakes and play actions,” Haynes said. “We just have to read our keys, stay home and fill our gaps. If we can stop their run, they will have to convert to passing.” However, Manual’s passing attack isn’t much of a falloff. Senior quarterback Joey Harness may not rack up the yards, but he doesn’t make many errors, either. Last season, Harness threw for 1,774 yards and 25 touchdowns, while only throwing two interceptions. Through three games this season, he had 595 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with one pick. “They have a lot of speed and their quarterback is very athletic,” Jaggers said. “I think they are very similar team to John Hardin speed-wise and they are probably a little better on defense.” With the Crimsons’ impressive defense standing in their way, Jaggers knows field position will be crucial for the Trojans’ offense. “We have to put points on the board,” he said. “I think if we can win the special team’s battle and limit turnovers, we will win this ball game.” Greg Crews can be reached at 505-1754