PREP FOOTBALL OPINION: Central Hardin, Meade County looking like elite teams once again (9/2)

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By Ryan O'Gara

Tim Mattingly stood on the sidelines Saturday night at North Hardin, talking with his former players and coaches before the Meade County Green Wave blanked Louisville Doss.

Just one night earlier, Larry Mofield sat in the bleachers at Bruin Field with his family and watched the Central Hardin Bruins dismantle John Hardin.

Each got an up-close view of the other — one of the perks of early-season bowls — and each surely came away impressed with what they saw.

There were plenty of interesting developments from area high school football over Labor Day weekend — like North Hardin’s continued improvement, Elizabethtown no longer being a one-trick pony and LaRue County putting a winless season behnd it — but the biggest takeaway was that Central Hardin and Meade County are going to make it another entertaining season in Class 6-A, District 2.

In both cases, it isn’t so much as what the teams are now, but what they have the potential to be in six and a half weeks.

Each team was dominant without even playing their best game last weekend and flashed glimpses of why Oct. 17 in Cecilia will be just as anticipated and hyped as last season’s two meetings, both won by the Green Wave.

After a disappointing debut, the Bruins (2-0) delivered what many expect to see throughout the season: A bruising offense led by junior fullback Xavier Arnette and a physical, run-stopping defense.

Their first two games have been like night and day. Issues that plagued the Bruins in a season-opening 28-21 win over North Hardin seemingly evaporated against John Hardin, which was a little surprising. It certainly would’ve been reasonable had it taken them a little longer to gel on both sides of the ball, but it’s a really good sign that it didn’t and speaks to the coaching ability of Mattingly.

For example, take a look at junior Gavin Krupinski’s second-quarter interception — the play that swung the game in the Bruins’ favor and opened the floodgates. An outside linebacker, Krupinski drifted right as Bulldogs quarterback Shay Stone rolled left. Stone fired a perfect spiral that hit Krupinski right between the numbers. He returned it 23 yards to the 4-yard line before Arnette punched it in on the next play for a 21-6 lead with 4:17 left in the first half.

“That’s a play where last week against North Hardin, he doesn’t make that play because he takes bad steps or a bad angle to the ball,” Mattingly said after the game. “First thing I said when he came off the field was, ‘Good job. You finally see what we’re talking about — you have to get under that No. 1 receiver.’ And you see what happens? Boom, pick.”

The offense, though not a finished product, was vastly improved as well. While senior quarterback Koree Krupinski improvised on the first two touchdowns, using his athleticism and instincts to rescue broken plays, the offense hit its stride in the second half and played the style it needs to if it wants to be successful against top teams.

There was rhythm and flow, something sorely lacking in Week 1. The Bruins sustained drives in the second half; their three scoring drives took an average of 4:05 off the clock. To put that number in perspective, Central Hardin had only one drive in the entire North Hardin game that lasted that long.

Quick-hitting drives have their place, too, but prolonged ones allow the defense to rest. That’s an encouraging sign for the Bruins.

Replacing 14 starters should be a challenge, but two games in, the Green Wave (2-0) are making it look easy — especially on the defensive side.

The defense already seems to be in midseason form, which is no small feat considering it lost eight starters and its coordinator in Mattingly. The Green Wave haven’t allowed a point this season, and while the competition will certainly get steeper, they are already showing two qualities that characterized the top unit in 6-A last season: Tough and physical.

Mofield is worried the offense doesn’t have anyone to make the big play and said Saturday night that he was disappointed in the unit’s progress, but there is definitely the makings of a good offense. It seems to take three defenders to bring down senior fullback Tyler Addesa, and with the savvy of senior fullback Micah Kaiser and the speed of senior wing Will Carnegie, the Green Wave will be just fine.

And they’re all operating behind an experienced offensive line. When you win the battle up front, it covers up a lot of shortcomings.

The offense could really take off later in the season when senior quarterback John Wilson is fully recovered from the broken wrist he suffered in the preseason.

So what do two games mean? Maybe not much, at least from Mattingly and Mofield’s perspective.

But the early indication is Oct. 17 could be really fun.

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.