“If you tell a teammate you’re ready to play as tough as you are able to, you’d better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony. And they can tell when you’re not giving it all you’ve got.” — Larry Bird

There was a time, not so long ago, that the LaRue County football team was 4-4 and fresh off a seven-turnover, 42-14 home loss to Elizabethtown.

“We didn’t stop believing in ourselves,” junior tight end and defensive lineman Mark Goode said. “Coaches didn’t stop believing in us. We persevered and here we are now. I can’t believe it. I’m in shock.”

Here is the Class 3-A semifinals.

Now is Friday at Louisville Central.

That’s all due to turning a 32-12 deficit at the end of three quarters into a 40-32 victory 12 minutes later Friday night at the Elizabethtown Athletic Complex against the rival Panthers.

“We’ve been preaching this all season, ‘Don’t get down. Do not get down,’” said senior and Louisville commit Anthony Adkins, who finished with 214 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. “We have a history of people scoring on us first and we shake our heads and get our heads down. But the whole game it was, ‘Do not get down. Do not get down.’ Even after my two fumbles, I was very mad at myself, but everybody over there was, ‘Do not get down. Do not get down. We’re gonna win this game.’

“That’s what it is about this team, we did not get down on ourselves.”

LaRue County trailed 25-12 at halftime and Adkins had those fumbles in the first half.

“Anthony gets a first down, he’s trying to break it for more and he fumbles,” Coach Josh Jaggers said.

“But he never hung his head. Earlier in the year he would hang his head and whatnot. The pressure he puts on himself with everything that he’s got it unreal.

“When we went in there at halftime, they were as positive as can be. Everybody was fine because we got the ball back after half. We were down two touchdowns and everybody knew we were going to make something happen.”

The Hawks finished the regular season at 5-5 after winning at Edmonson County and losing at home to Campbellsville.

“We never got down on ourselves, that’s the main thing about it,” senior defensive back Hayden Waddle said. “After that Campbellsville game something clicked and the team started working on all cylinders. We’re a totally different ball club right there. Attitude, everyone started to get closer — it was the same way with baseball last year. Same thing.”

“I am a member of the team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” — Mia Hamm.

That camaraderie led the Hawks to the state tournament last spring.

The football team is now one win away from a date at Kroger Field on the campus of the University of Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30.

“As Hal Mumme used to say, and I was fortunate to play for him for one year at UK before he moved on, he would always say, ‘Play the next play,’” Jaggers said. “You can’t do nothing about it. You can mope all you want, but that’s done, it’s not coming back. You don’t get mulligans out here – and that’s what they’ve learned to do.

“If we’re gonna go 15 rounds, we’re hard on people. It goes back to boxing and I’m not a boxing savant, but if you keep hitting people and you keep hitting and you keep landing jabs and you keep landing jabs … people don’t want to tackle Anthony late in a game, and the way Jerry (Belton) hit it up there late in the game. When it’s cold out and the defense has to hit big strong guys, people don’t want to do that over and over.”

The Hawks have run the ball 161 times for 1,119 yards and 15 touchdowns in three postseason games, averaging 373 yards and five scores per game and 6.95 per carry.

“Earlier in the year we panicked,” Jaggers said. “We’d go three-and-out and you could tell their body language was different. It was hard trying to convince them to stick to it and there were times we got away from what we do best.

“They’ve just believed. I know I’ve said it over and over, but they just started believing. When you put belief into a group of young men who have the talent that our guys have, led by a couple in particular, it’s a dangerous thing.

“Plus, the entire staff has done such a great job coaching these guys.”

“Being there every week for my teammates is really important to me. It’s about accountability.” — Peyton Manning

Sophomore quarterback Connor Baker had a rough first three quarters. He was 2-for-8 for 16 yards and two interceptions.

“You kind of forget about it. I know all these boys on this team got my back and I got theirs. We’re playing for each other and that’s how we win,” Baker said.

“The thing I love about Connor is he’s such a warrior,” Goode said. “Even though he’s a sophomore, he has that won’t-be-denied attitude. He portrayed that late in the game and I credit this victory to him also, leading us through the tough times.”

You have to trust the guy next to you at all times.

You have to trust he will play his tail off on each play.

“That’s a pretty tough cat right there,” senior Dailliss Cox said of Baker. “He takes a lot of hits. I still have to worry about him when he takes those hits. He took one down here and I said, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But he got right back up. That’s my boy right there.”

Trust also comes from the sidelines in the form of the coaching staff.

“He’s an option quarterback and that’s what he likes doing.” Jaggers said. “There’s gonna be no bones about the stuff we’re going to be doing the next couple years. He knows he’s not a prototypical quarterback. He knows where he’s gonna make his money, figuratively speaking.

“Early in the season we were trying to keep him being protected, being a sophomore. Connor’s just stuck with it. We had to make them defend 11-on-11. Earlier in the year we were 10-on-11.”

Adkins scored with 4:39 left in the game to make it 32-30 and Baker converted the two-point conversion.

The Hawks recovered their second onside kick in a row and Adkins eventually scored on a fourth-and-3 from the 13. Baker’s second two-point conversion made it 40-32 with 31 seconds left.

Everyone who ran the ball for LaRue County got into the end zone and that included a 49-yard run by fullback Zach Duvall in the first period and a 43-yard jaunt by Belton in the fourth with 7:59 left on a pitch right that he cut back across the field.

“To see him get past you, to see him get down the field when you need a big play — and we needed that big play — is the best feeling,” Chase Baker said of Belton’s scoring run.

“If you go back and look on HUDL or wherever you see it, I knew what was gonna happen, so I motioned him, ‘Come on, give it all you got. Come on,’” Adkins said of the cutback.

A team is great for many reasons and on top of that list is selflessness.

You have to care more about your teammates than yourself.

Meet the Hawks.

Mike Mathison can be reached at 270-505-1758 or mmathison@thenewsenterprise.com.

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