Ahead of Friday night’s 6-A state semifinal game against Louisville Trinity, the North Hardin football program had been on a tear.
Through their previous 13 regular season and postseason games, the Trojans had won 10 by double-digit margins. Two of these double-digit routs had been shutouts, including a 40-0 victory over fellow state semifinalist Tates Creek.
That dominance was not present in a 54-7 loss at the hands of the Shamrocks. Much like the impending rain that grew stronger throughout the game, Trinity pounced on mistakes over its course and turned an early North Hardin lead into a blowout victory over the Trojans.
“We had a couple things go bad early on. We had a turnover there and then we had a blocked punt. That gave them some touchdowns,” Trojans coach Brent Thompson said. “Once they get that snowball rolling over there, they do a really good job of keeping it going.”
The stages of North Hardin’s night and the errors that played a role in the loss can almost be divided into the four stages of the storm as it passed through.
Prior to the bad weather’s arrival in the first quarter, the team looked to be heading in the right direction.
The Trojans initially led 7-0 after a long drive ended in a quick 1-yard punch into the end zone from Lavell Wright. Even when the Shamrocks scored, they were unable to convert the extra point, which allowed North Hardin to hold a 7-6 lead.
Near the end of the first quarter, the rain began to fall. Along with it came the first costly moment for the Trojans in the second quarter. As a steady drizzle fell onto the field, a blocked punt set Trinity up on the North Hardin 42, which was brought into the end zone at the drive’s completion.
By halftime, the Shamrocks were up 26-7 and the light drizzle was now a harder rain. The scoreboard may not have shown it, but the game was still manageable for the Trojans, who had put up 131 passing yards compared to Trinity’s 132.
The downpour at the start of the third quarter came with an onslaught by the Shamrocks and a sharp fall for North Hardin.
The Trojans’ offense had two successive drives end in interceptions. Trinity capitalized on both ensuing possessions with touchdowns and the Trojans were suddenly in a 40-7 hole early in the second half.
The Shamrocks’ defense would add another interception in the fourth quarter and also picked up two fumble recoveries.
Trinity’s defense made life difficult for the Trojan offense without the turnovers, with strong route coverage making it difficult for quarterback Logan Coleman to connect with his targets.
“They played deep, they did their role,” senior receiver Josh Moore said. “We’ve gotta do our role. They just stepped up.”
Defensively, North Hardin was left looking for its own answers as the Shamrocks put up 21 third-quarter points to initiate a running clock before the start of the fourth. The turnovers forced the defense to spend more time on the soaked field as Trinity continued to pull away with the victory.
“They outperformed us, quite honestly,” junior Michael Lunz said. “Defensively, we let them score 54 points so I feel like we didn’t perform. We did what we could, but obviously it wasn’t enough.”
In the fourth quarter, the rain lightened up and left behind a mud-covered field. With the rain’s end came the game’s end, with 54 unanswered points for Trinity and the final chapter of the Trojans’ season.
Rain or shine, there’s no denying this was still a special year for North Hardin. This was the team’s first trip to the state semifinals since 1994.
“They’re legends. You look at it in my eyes, it’s 25 years since our team has been here,” Thompson said. “First time undefeated, first time they beat John Hardin four times in a row, first time back-to-back that we won the county. There’s a lot of things we can talk about.”
Just like the heavy rain that cleared up before the game’s completion, players like Lunz felt ready to bounce back from the disappointment and continue toward a brighter, sunnier future for the program.
“We didn’t get to where we need to be, nobody wants to be second place. But it’s good knowing that I played a part in etching history,” Lunz said. “It gives us a good momentum going into next year.”