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Whether it was Saturday night or during the continuation Sunday evening, the North Hardin Trojans had a hard time getting their defense off the field.
Time and time again, the Trojans had the Louisville Doss Dragons in third-and-long or fourth-and-long situations. And time and time again, the Dragons converted.
North Hardin allowed Doss to convert 6-of-7 fourth downs and that was ultimately the difference in a 38-31 loss in the opening game of the Swope Nissan Joe Jaggers Classic at Ray Story Stadium.
“Our main goal was to just get them off the field, but we were having a tough time,” said North Hardin junior linebacker Jeremiah Draper. “They had some good receivers who would go up and grab the ball. It was a tough time wrapping up. They were fundamental problems.”
During the first two and a half quarters, which were played Saturday before thunderstorms postponed the game until Sunday, Doss was 5-of-6 on fourth down. The Dragons only had one fourth down Sunday, which they converted, because they were successful on 6-of-7 third-down attempts.
That was especially harmful in the fourth quarter.
North Hardin senior quarterback Andrew Rugiero hit junior wide receiver Detlef Turner for a 47-yard touchdown to cut the Trojans’ deficit to 38-31 with 8:02 left, but that was the last time North Hardin had the ball. Doss embarked on a 16-play drive to run out the clock, going 3-of-4 on third down and also converting on fourth down. On several third down plays, North Hardin had Doss stopped well short of a first down but couldn’t wrap up.
“We didn’t tackle very well, to be very honest,” said North Hardin coach Brent Thompson. “When you hit a guy three or four times and he still makes you miss, a lot of things happen that don’t help us. We have to go back to the drawing board and get some tackling in. We’re there, we’re in the right spots. We just have to tackle.”
As it did Saturday, North Hardin (0-2) came out of the gates sluggishly Sunday. Starting at the Dragons 32 when play resumed, the Trojans went three-and-out before giving up touchdown drives of 67 yards and 55 yards sandwiched around another three-and-out.
“We came out slow. We didn’t come out ready to play,” Rugiero said. “We felt ready to play – we just didn’t come out and perform.”
Doss quarterback Tre Taylor appeared to deliver the knockout punch with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Keyshon Parris for a 38-24 lead with 9:12 to play, but the Trojans wasted little time answering. Turner capped off a four-play, 80-yard drive that lasted just 1:10 with a nifty grab on Rugiero’s pass over the middle.
“I looked back for the ball and I just saw (the safety’s) arm reaching for the ball,” Turner said. “It hit my hand and I took my eye off it, but I just happened to make the grab.”
Rugiero eclipsed 300 yards for the second straight week, completing 26-of-32 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns. His ability to find senior wide receiver Dante Johnson (nine catches, 105 yards) and Turner (five catches, 128 yards) kept the Trojans in the game. Sophomore running back Taven Graves had another strong game, finishing with 114 total yards and two touchdowns and earning Offensive MVP honors.
Taylor replaced injured starter William Maddox in the second quarter and had a field day, going 23-of-32 for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Whenever he got in trouble, he looked to 6-foot-4 senior Dajzon Dukes (seven catches, 122 yards, two touchdowns) and 6-6 junior Tyler Jefferson (five catches, 103 yards, touchdown).
“It really was (difficult),” Draper said of the height disadvantage North Hardin faced defensively. “They had good receivers who go up and catch the ball. We tried to make a game plan during the week, but they just outworked us.”
Senior Kevin Dyer returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and freshman kicker Martin Marlin added a 30-yard field goal for a Trojans team looking for the ball to bounce their way sooner rather than later.
“We need something big to happen for us,” Thompson said. “These kids are working hard. There’s not a lack of effort, not a lack of anything like that. We need some good luck to go our way. We’ve had some bad luck. You think of the storm that came and we got this. (Doss) was dead tired last night. If we had gotten to play last night, the fourth quarter would have been a big difference for us.”
UP NEXT: North Hardin plays Pulaski County in the Don Marshall Bowl at Pulaski Southwestern at 6 p.m. Friday.
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doss 6 12 13 7—38
North Hardin 9 7 8 7—31
D: Tyler Jefferson 13-yard pass from William Maddox (kick failed), 8:54
NH: Taven Graves 21-yard pass from Andrew Rugiero (conversion failed), 4:13
NH: Martin Marlin 30-yard field goal, 1:13
D: Dajzon Dukes 7-yard pass from Tre Taylor (kick failed), 4:51
NH: Kevin Dyer 88-yard kick return (Marlin kick), 4:40
D: Devonta Moffitt 1-yard run (conversion failed), 0:34
NH: Graves 5-yard run (Dyer run), 6:45
D: Dukes 23-yard pass from Taylor (conversion failed), 5:19
D: Ramone Kelly 13-yard run (Chase Mathis kick), 1:09
D: Keyshon Parris 6-yard pass from Taylor (Mathis kick), 9:18
NH: Detlef Turner 47-yard pass from Rugerio (Marlin kick), 8:02
Yards Rush 117 12
Yards Pass 334 357
Total Yards 451 369
Passing 25-39-1 26-32-0
Fumbles/Lost 2/0 4/0
Penalties/Yds 7/50 2/30
Rushing: DOSS — Keyonte Parris 28-107, William Maddox 1-18, Ramone Kelly 1-13, Devonta Moffitt 5-0, Phillip Neal 1-0, Tre Taylor 4-(-21). NORTH HARDIN — Taven Graves 7-37, Kevin Dyer 5-19, Dante Johnson 1-10, Martin Marlin 1-(-1), E.J. Babauta 1-(-14), Andrew Rugiero 6-(-39).
Passing: DOSS — Trey Taylor 23-32-0, 303 yards, William Maddox 2-7-1, 31 yards. NORTH HARDIN — Andrew Rugiero 26-32-0, 357 yards.
Receiving: DOSS — Dajzon Dukes 7-122, Tyler Jefferson 5-103, Devonta Moffitt 6-54, Jerry Coleman 3-29, Keyshon Parris 3-21, Keyonte Parris 1-6. NORTH HARDIN — Detlef Turner 5-128, Dante Johnson 9-105, Taven Graves 8-77, Dominique Gully 3-32, Darius Walters 1-15.