North Hardin was coming off fall break and its bye week the last time it faced Barren County.
“We just need to come out of the gate ready to go Friday night,” Trojans coach Brent Thompson said. “I think we were a little rusty all the way around. It was 14-0 in the first half and we turned it on a little more in the second half.”
Part II begins tonight at 7:30 when the teams again face off, this time at Ray Story Stadium as the KHSAA Class 6-A playoffs begin.
North Hardin won Part I, 55-12 on Oct. 18.
“What happened in the past, happened in the past,” Trojans junior linebacker Michael Lunz said. “We’re obviously focused on the present now. We’re focusing on week by week. We did that this year, but now it’s for real. Assuming that we get to the second round, if we take care of business, playing teams we’ve already played give us an edge, but it also gives them an edge of what to expect. We just have to come out and perform better than we did last time.”
The Trojans enter the postseason setting a state record for most interceptions through the regular season with 28.
They have five players with multiple picks, with junior safety Jordan Lovett leading the way with nine, the second-most in the state. Eian Patry has six, including three in last week’s 48-20 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park. Jordan Moore has five and Micah Parmes and Michael Lunz have three each.
“As the year went on our kids continued to buy in,” Thompson said. “We continued to do the turnover circuit each week and I think that’s something that’s also contributed to it. We’ve also continued to get pressure up front which has allowed our DBs to get some interceptions. That number is definitely something we take a lot of pride in.”
North Hardin has 13 fumble recoveries, giving it 41 turnovers.
“That’s another thing we do on the turnover circuit is try to punch the ball loose,” Thompson said. “That’s a testament to our coaches that rep that each week and it’s something we try to make a priority.
“I’ve never heard our offensive coaches complain about where they get the ball. I know they don’t mind having a short field. It’s something we always look at, how many times they are able to score off our turnovers. We feel like that’s a key to our success.”
Thompson said the offense scores 55 percent of the time off turnovers.
“If they get it inside the 50, it’s at about 62 percent,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say we necessarily came in with a set goal on the number of turnovers we wanted to get,” said Lunz, who has 58 tackles, 12 for loss, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions. “It was more week-by-week as we started to see how many turnovers we could force. Of course you want to go in each week trying to force as many turnovers as you can.”
In addition to collecting 41 turnovers, the defense is allowing less than 140 yards per game.
“I couldn’t really attest to which one is more impressive,” Lunz said. “I’m just worried about what’s on the opposite side of the scoreboard. We can give up 400 yards, but if they don’t score, then I don’t really care.”
The defense took a blow, though, as senior defensive lineman Jerell Campbell is out for the season after breaking his leg last week. He had 53 tackles, 17 for loss and 15½ sacks.
Darren Green leads the defense with 61 tackles, 15 for loss and 12 sacks.
Octavious Oxendine has 43 tackles, nine for loss and 12 sacks.
North Hardin is second in the state, behind DeSales, with 49½ sacks.
Sophomore quarterback Manie Wimberly is 127-for-191 for 2,051 yards, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“Going in Manie was not the starter and was able to overtake that,” Thompson said. “Any time you get a young quarterback who throws for over 2,000, that’s definitely a bonus. He’s putting the ball out there for our receivers to go get and he also brings a little leadership with him.
“When Manie wasn’t the starter his team attitude was the best. I never once saw him pout. I never once saw him put his head down. I always saw him encouraging Logan (Coleman), always say him trying to get better. That’s something that he has inside of him.”
The offense averages 420 yards and 35.9 points per game.
“The other night we had a back over 150 (yards) and we threw for over 350,” Thompson said of last week’s 48-20 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park to secure the first 10-0 regular season in school history. “We had several receivers that had 50 yards or more. That just means you can’t key on one of them, which is a bonus for us on the offensive side.”
Running back Lavell Wright ran for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, while Wimberly tossed it around for 353 yards and four scores — two each to Josh Moore and Ramaj Adams.
“Both sides of the ball have done nothing but get better as the year has progressed,” Lunz said. “The defense, we’ve really held it down, I would say for the most part of the season. The offense, they don’t do anything but get better and better every week.”
The importance of the 10-0 record is being No. 2 on the 6-A RPI list, allowing the Trojans to be at home as long as they are in the playoffs through the first four weeks.
“That’s a bgi thing for us,” Lunz said. “I feel the home field advantage will be a big benefit for us as long as we take care of business. That’s a big plus being in front of the home fans.”
INTERCEPTIONS - SEASON
School, Year (Games Played)
34 Owensboro, 2007 (14)
Owensboro Catholic, 2005 (15)
32 Newport Central Catholic, 2005 (15)
Eminence, 1998 (13)
Breathitt County, 1996 (15)
31 Newport Central Catholic, 2003 (13)
30 Mercer County, 2006 (15)
29 Boone County, 1993 (14)
28 North Hardin, 2019 (10)
Newport Central Catholic, 2001 (15)
Hancock County, 1999 (15)
Logan County, 1998 (12)
Lawrence County, 1997 (14)
Boone County, 1996 (14)
27 Boone County, 1997 (14)
Logan County, 1997 (10)
Pikeville, 1989 (N/A)
Bell County, 1987 (N/A)
Boone County, 1987 (14)
24 Highlands, 2011 (15)
St. Xavier, 1978 (15)