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After playing seven of their 10 regular-season games on the road, the John Hardin Bulldogs are happy to have an extended home stay during the Class 5-A playoffs.
The Bulldogs (12-0) won the District 3 championship to earn two home games. They turned those into lopsided victories over North Bullitt and Grayson County.
When Jeffersontown upset Shelby County, 42-33 on Friday night, it ensured John Hardin another home game. The Bulldogs host Jeffersontown (8-4) at 7:30 Friday night in the Region 2 championship at Bulldog Stadium.
“It’s definitely a luxury,” John Hardin senior halfback Wade Holtsclaw said of playing at home. “We’ve played so many road games this season and I think that made us a better team. But it helps a whole lot being at home in the playoffs.”
John Hardin’s stay at home could get even longer. If the Bulldogs beat Jeffersontown, they’ll host the Bowling Green-Warren Central winner next week.
The Bulldogs are 16-5 at home during the playoffs in the last eight years. Since 2005, they are 52-5, including 36 consecutive wins in regular-season games. They have won 13 straight at home since losing to Christian County in the 2010 Class 5-A state semifinals.
“We’re more hyped when we play on our home field,” John Hardin senior guard Chris Doss said. “This is our house and we don’t like to lose here. I think when we play at home that builds up the hype. We love playing here in front of our fans. We get hyped because of them.”
Several of the Bulldogs remember the painful loss to Christian County. Holtsclaw and seniors Domonick Brown and Jalen Fleming started on defense that season, while Doss was a starter on the offensive line. Christian County trailed 14-6 before exploding in the second half for a 45-20 victory.
“It gives us much more motivation playing at home,” Fleming said. “We have to protect the Dawg Pound. We don’t want a repeat of Christian County. That was a horrible feeling walking off our home field like that. We must protect homefield advantage.”
Painful home playoff losses are a part of it when a program has experienced the success John Hardin has. The Bulldogs have advanced to at least the quarterfinals in seven of the last eight years. Christian County spoiled John Hardin’s season in 2008 in the state semifinals, while Bowling Green in 2007 and Louisville St. Xavier in 2005 ended the Bulldogs’ season in the quarterfinals.
Despite the setbacks, the Bulldogs would rather be at home than the alternative this time of year. The players said there’s a distinct advantage to playing at Bulldog Stadium.
“I think we are much more relaxed at home,” John Hardin junior quarterback Patrick Anderson said. “We are in a routine here. Everything feels more comfortable. We don’t have to worry about packing our bags and rushing to get ready to go somewhere. I don’t know why we seem to play better here, but we’re happy to be at home in front of our fans.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.