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North Hardin coach Brent Thompson couldn’t hide his concern after the Trojans started the season 0-2 for the first time since 2007. Coming off a disheartening 38-31 loss to Louisville Doss on Sunday, Thompson wasn’t sure what the mood was going to be like for Monday’s practice.
But the Trojans have responded the way few winless teams do. Instead of grumbling or moping around, they have come back with the intention of getting better and correcting the mistakes which has led to the poor start.
“I was worried about how they’d be on Monday,” Thompson said. “If we finish it on Saturday night, I know and the kids know we win that game. The layoff helped them more than it did us. But they responded well. We’ve had a great week of practice, probably our best week.”
Junior linebacker Jeremiah Draper said the Trojans needed to have a good week of practice after the loss to Doss and that’s exactly what they’ve done in preparing for Pulaski County (2-0). North Hardin meets the Maroons at 8:30 tonight in the Don Marshall Bowl at Pulaski Southwestern.
The Trojans haven’t had time to dwell on the loss to Doss and the strange circumstances surrounding it. The game started Saturday night, but was postponed with more than 3 minutes left in the third quarter after thunderstorms moved into the area. Tied at 24, Doss scored two touchdowns to pull away.
“Get our mindset right, get our mentality together,” North Hardin senior quarterback Andrew Rugerio said. “We’ve been having close games. We’re up there; I think our minds just aren’t right yet. It was frustrating for everyone on the team.”
The players aren’t placing blame on any one particular area, but the Trojans realize they must improve in all facets of the game.
“Work together as a team, take our energy from offense and put it to defense,” North Hardin junior Detlef Turner said. “It’ll carry over and we’ll start winning some games.”
The Trojans have put up some eye-popping numbers, averaging 26.5 points and 398.0 yards per game. Rugerio has passed for 668 yards and four touchdowns. He’s completing 78.1 percent of his passes and has thrown only one interception in 73 attempts.
Sophomore Taven Graves has 18 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 131 yards and two more scores. Senior Dante Johnson has 17 catches for 197 yards, while Turner has 10 grabs for 177 yards.
As good as the offense has been, the defense has been on the other end of the spectrum. It has allowed 89 points and 843 yards – 341 on the ground and 502 through the air. Thompson said keeping the offense on the field would help the young defense.
“They (Doss) had a long series where they end up scoring and then we return the kickoff for a touchdown,” Thompson said. “Our defense was right back out there. That takes its toll on a defense. As an offense we need to maintain drives and move the chains to give them a break. We’ve seen improvements with the defense, but we need to help them out.”
The Trojans will be tested against Pulaski County, which is ranked eighth in the latest Associated Press Class 5-A poll. The Maroons, who are averaging 39.5 points a game, have a dynamic spread attack which has piled up 756 yards in wins over Somerset and Montgomery County.
Quarterback Riley Hall has passed for 321 yards and one touchdown, while adding 80 yards and a score on the ground. Caleb Cox leads the team with 158 yards followed by Jesse Whitaker’s 79 and Zach Whiles’ 66. Jake Johnson and Zach Melton have combined for 17 catches.
“They are a spread team that likes to run the ball,” Thompson said.
Pulaski County’s defense has been even better. It has forced five turnovers and held its first two opponents to 20 points. The Maroons have given up only 68 rushing yards.
“They have three or four players on defense that make life hard on an offense,” Thompson said. “We are going to have to play well. It’s a different atmosphere than we’re used to, but I hope the kids relish this opportunity.”
Sports writer Ryan O’Gara contributed to this story. Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or email@example.com.