The North Hardin football team has been eyeing one date on the calendar.
Dec. 8, 2019 — the KHSAA Class 6-A state championship game at Kroger Field in Lexington.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
That started on Nov. 12, 2018.
“That was our date — after we lost to Male,” junior linebacker Michael Lunz said.
The Bulldogs beat the Trojans, 40-16 a year ago in the second round of the Class 6-A playoffs on their way to beating St. Xavier, Trinity and Scott County to a state championship.
While Male was still putting on the pads, North Hardin’s players were in one specific place with one specific goal in mind.
“We got back into the weight room,” Lunz said. “That’s why every time we break it down it’s on state championship. That’s what we’ve worked for every day since last year, since Nov. 12. Our goal is a state championship, but we’ve already done better than we did last year.”
Staring the Trojans in the face are the Shamrocks and Coach Bob Beatty.
It will be no easy task at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ray Story Stadium in the state semifinals.
“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us and we know we have a very good team coming in here next week,” Lunz said.
Trinity owns a state-record 25 state football championships, winning it six times since 2010.
It owns a state-record 50-game winning streak from 1988-91.
This program knows how to win.
The Shamrocks come in on a six-game winning streak and have beaten their three playoff teams by a combined 161-12.
“You get to 13-0 and earn the right to play at your house,” North Hardin coach Brent Thompson said after Friday’s 38-2 region championship victory over McCracken County. “That’s something these kids have relished. Making a region championship and winning it is one of our goals along the way. We have an ultimate goal of playing 15 games. We have Trinity, which is a tough test. If you play in the Final Four you’re gonna play a tough team, regardless of who you’re playing.”
The Trojans have outscored their playoff opponents 93-9. They didn’t allow McCracken County in the red zone.
Before the final drive Friday night, McCracken County reached the 34-, 33- and 32-yard lines and the Trojans’ nasty defense turned the visitors away each time. The Mustangs finished with 127 yards of offense, 72 of which came on four plays.
“It shows how much we’ve improved and how much we’ve been grinding as a team,” senior linebacker Darren Green said. “We knew this team was going to be special but that doesn’t mean anything without a lot of hard work that began the Monday after last season ended. We had to put work into this. It just doesn’t come to you.”
Lunz and Green lead the defense in tackles.
The Trojans allow 46.38 rushing yards per game.
They own a state-record 38 interceptions and have 54 turnovers on the campaign. Junior Jordan Lovett has a state-leading 15 picks.
“This shows what hard work in the weight room, hard work in the film, hard work in the class room, hard work on the practice field, hard work everywhere — when it’s put in what the results can be,” Lunz said. “We hold each other accountable. It comes with that optimistic attitude, always staying positive all the time. All the time.
“It started off with a small group of us, but when it came to late in the winter, we had the biggest group we’ve ever had. Even for the non-mandatory lifting.”
Senior defensive linemen Jerell Campbell and Octavious Oxendine are in the top eight in the state in sacks with 15½ and 14½, respectively through 12 games. Green has 12. The defense is second in the state in sacks, four in points allowed and seventh in rushing yards allowed per game.
“As the year has progressed people have seen — when we buy in and we work, we win,” Lunz said. “It’s not hard to figure that out. This starts a trend. Once we get to winning, people see what all that hard work does for you. People start to jump on board and now we’re 13-0.”
It’s now another week, the dirty uniforms were piled in the middle of the locker room Friday night to be washed and worn again Black Friday.
“Everybody was determined and committed to do this, no matter who it was,” Green said. “We wanted to get better. Seeing this is really good.
“We’re trying to get better and better every week and working toward reaching that goal of winning at Kroger and holding that trophy up.”
Just like in the class room, chemistry is important on an athletic team and the Trojans know it.
“Our team chemistry is amazing,” Lunz said. “We’ve built it up since middle school. We’ve always kept it rolling. It’s going back to that positive attitude, knowing that we can make history here. We’ve made history, but we want to keep adding to it.”