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Josh Krupinski hopes Central Hardin can come up with the area’s biggest postseason surprise.
It’s been 15 years since the Bruins have reached the third round of the playoffs.
They knocked off unbeaten Henderson County on their way that year. And go figure, another unbeaten team, Pleasure Ridge Park (11-0), stands in their way at 7:30 tonight in the second round of the Class 6-A playoffs.
“It’s just go out there and play. We’re not trying to make it a big deal or nothing, just try to win a game and go out there and play,” Krupinski said. “It would be really big, like something that hasn’t happened at Central for a long time. So it’d be a big thing for us. Nobody expected us to come out and win the first game of the playoffs, so we’re going to try to win the second one.”
The only unbeaten team left in 6-A, Pleasure Ridge Park is averaging 47.7 points per game while allowing only 16. The Panthers, who have been held below 35 points just once, have won 10 games by 14 points or more and their only single-digit win came in a 15-14 victory Oct. 26 over Louisville Central. Pleasure Ridge Park has held four opponents – Louisville schools Fairdale, Fern Creek, Valley and Southern – to seven points or less.
Senior quarterback Spencer Sumpter has thrown for nearly 2,300 yards and has 27 touchdown passes and just one interception. In the Panthers’ 44-20 first-round victory over Boone County, he went 17-of-20 and threw for more than 200 yards.
That’s trouble for the Bruins, who have allowed opponents to throw for more than 200 yards five times this season. Second-year Central Hardin coach Mark Perry thinks the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Sumpter takes PRP’s offense to a whole new level.
“They’ve got an exceptional quarterback that probably makes them tick. He’s the guy that can throw the ball and deliver, I mean, just strikes to receivers down the field but can also run the ball and is an emotional leader. I think he’s the guy that makes them go,” Perry said. “They’re really good. They beat some good teams and we’ve got to bring our A-plus game Friday night.”
But senior wide receiver Taywan Taylor is just as explosive. He’s returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, including the opening one 76 yards for a touchdown against Boone County last week. Taylor caught nine passes for 184 yards, and finished with 268 overall yards and three scores against the Rebels.
The Panthers have totaled around 4,500 yards this season.
“We’ve just got to stop the pass,” Krupinski said. “They’re fast. We’ve just got to keep them inside and don’t let them get outside. They could take it, big play.”
Pleasure Ridge Park coach Jason Hiser is worried about Central Hardin’s big-play passing attack as well. The Bruins have scored at least 20 points in eight games, including in all five of their wins, with sophomore quarterback Koree Krupinski (167-of-265, 1,757 yards, 15 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) leading their quick, no-huddle offense.
Hiser said the Panthers haven’t faced a strong passing team since recording a 56-6 victory over Southern three weeks ago and have only faced two opponents with heavy air attacks this year. The two schools haven’t met in 10 years, with Pleasure Ridge Park winning 19-6 in 2002 and 38-16 in 2001.
“We’re excited about it,” Hiser said. “We’ve been trying to simulate tempo of offense in practice and hammering home to the defense all week long that you’ve got to sprint to the football. I told them if you don’t sprint to the football, you’ll pretty much be non-existent. It’s all about guys putting their foot in the ground and sprinting to the football as fast as they can.”
Central Hardin has found its offensive rhythm late in the season.
The Bruins have scored 111 points in their past three games and totaled more than 375 yards in each. Junior wide receiver Ken Browning thinks they can keep their pace, but the offense needs to be methodical, too.
“We feel pretty good. We think that we can score some points against them and do pretty good. We’ve got good rhythm going right now and we just have a good feeling,” said Browning, who has 18 catches for 251 yards and two touchdowns. “They’re pretty athletic. It’s going to be hard to break huge plays on them. We’ve just got to start drives and try to keep their offense off the field.”
Defensively, the Bruins need to put together two strong halves – similar to those of the first half against Greenwood and second half against Louisville Seneca in a 50-22 victory last week.
“To beat a really good team like PRP you’ve got to have that. We’ve talked about it. Our kids know what that is. But you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to play a full 48 minutes,” Perry said. “You’ve got to play your best game. You’ve got to make plays. We’ve seen spots of that and what type of team we can be, but we’ve got to do it for a full 48 minutes Friday night.”
John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.