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PREP FOOTBALL OPINION: 2-Minute Drill (11/22)

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By Chuck Jones

When Central Hardin hired Mark Perry to replace Mike Lawson, athletic director Chris Bauer called it a home run.

Three years later, it looks like a grand slam.

Perry has taken the Central Hardin program to new heights. Look at what Perry has done this year.

The Bruins finished a program-best 9-1 in the regular season. They have won 11 games for the first time in program history. They won a road playoff game for the first time since 1997. And they are in the state quarterfinals for only the third time, the first since 1997.

When Perry was hired in March 2011, he had a vision of what the program could be. Instead of looking at the negatives like some coaches might have, Perry saw what the program could be.

“This is a great opportunity,” Perry said when he was hired. “I think the best is yet to come, so to speak, here. It’s a great school with a lot of potential. Coach Lawson and Coach Bauer have done a great job in building the program and we’re looking to continue to grow it.”

That’s exactly what Perry has done.

Lawson helped start the program headed in the right direction. He had a 24-19 record during his four-year tenure and guided the Bruins to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since they went from 1997-99. In 2010, Lawson led Central Hardin to its previous best season, finishing 9-3.

Perry came to Central Hardin with an impressive resume. He was a back-up quarterback at Kentucky before serving on Guy Morriss’ staff at the University of Kentucky and Baylor University before earning his first high school head coaching job at Washington County.

Perry’s success didn’t happen overnight or by chance. The Bruins are where they are because of hard work and dedication. Perry’s emphasis on the weight room has paid huge dividends. The Bruins are reaping the benefits of Perry’s offseason program, whether it’s spring practice or conditioning.

“In 6-A football, you have to win the line of scrimmage battle,” Perry said.

The Bruins have done that this season, getting excellent play on both sides of the ball. That might not have been the case in Perry’s first two seasons when they went 11-12.

But it’s not just the Xs and Os, which Perry is very good at. In a way, that’s the easy part. Perry has taught the Bruins the commitment it takes to be a great team, not just a good one. The Bruins have bought in and that’s the reason for their success.

Perry has changed the attitude around the program and the perception of it within the community. That’s no small feat. He’s built a winning program for years to come.

 

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

The John Hardin Bulldogs are making their seventh consecutive appearance in the state quarterfinals. They’ve won the previous five, beating Louisville Doss, Oldham County, Anderson County and Jeffersontown twice.

They’re hopeful that experience will come into play tonight against the Bullitt East Chargers, who haven’t been in this situation since 2008.

“It helps a lot being here before,” John Hardin senior Chris Smith said. “Since our freshman year, we’ve always been this far. We’re hoping that experience pays out. We know what it takes to get things done.”

The Bulldogs are 5-2 in region championships, with their only two losses coming to Louisville St. Xavier in 2005 and Bowling Green in ‘07.

“No question. They are a very good football team,” Bullitt East coach Darrell Vincent told the Pioneer News. “They have been to this level for several years and for a reason, they are good on both offense and defense. They play good football.”

While they’ve been in this situation before, the Bulldogs aren’t taking it for granted, knowing this is just another step to get them to where they want to go.

“Experience is a real big deal,” John Hardin senior Patrick Anderson said. “We’ve been here before and we don’t want to blow it. Bullitt East is going to be hungry and they want to get us. But we know what we have to do and experience has a lot to do with it.”

Chuck Jones is the sports editor for The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 270-505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.