Bardstown looked none the worse for its playoff opener Friday night, despite not having played in nearly a month, taking the lead a little more than two minutes into the game on the way to a 60-28 rout of LaRue County.
That puts the Tigers (7-1) into a rematch with Elizabethtown (9-0) in Friday’s second round of the Class 3-A District 3 playoffs, where they hope to avenge an earlier 33-6 setback, their only loss of the year. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“There’s been a lot of curves in the road, but we reached where we wanted to be,” Bardstown coach David Clark said. “E’town is a really good team. We’ve got to execute the game plan and try to minimize the mistakes.”
In their first meeting Oct. 24, Bardstown struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over four times in the first half. Elizabethtown took full advantage and never allowed the Tigers to get back in the game after that.
On Friday, Bardstown had no such problems, turning the ball over just once. By that point, the Tigers had built a big lead behind a strong running game that produced 261 yards on just 24 carries.
“You’ve got to take what they give you,” Clark said. “We just kept on feeding T.J. (Greenwell) and DaTrail (Wright) the ball.”
Greenwell scored Bardstown’s first three touchdowns — two on the ground and one by way of a 50-yard punt return. Wright also had three scores, all on the ground. Greenwell finished with seven carries for 103 yards, while Wright had seven rushes for 71.
“That was the plan — that’s what we really wanted to establish,” Clark said.
Meanwhile, LaRue County struggled to get going early on. After a long kickoff return following Greenwell’s first score, the Hawks found themselves in a good spot deep in Bardstown territory. But two rush attempts were snuffed out, and Greenwell sacked LaRue quarterback Cutter Boley on third down to stall the drive. The Hawks went three-and-out on their next possession, and Greenwell’s return score made it 12-0 with just less than four minutes to play in the first quarter.
The Hawks found a groove on the next possession, as Boley hit Kellen Bowen for a long catch-and-run to take it down to the Tiger 19. They picked up a first down, then Boley connected with Preston Self for an 8-yard strike in the end zone to make it 12-6 in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
The Tigers quickly drove for another score — Greenwell’s second rushing touchdown — and Bardstown’s defense came up big after that. Jagger Kenny took down the Hawks’ Jeremiah Belton for a loss in the backfield, then Greenwell followed that up with a hard hit on Boley to force an incompletion and set up another punt.
A few plays later, Bardstown was back in the end zone again, as Wright took it in from 6 yards out, a score set up by Brady Clark hitting Greenwell on a 35-yard screen pass. The Tigers forced another punt on the next drive, but what would have been a second return score from Greenwell was called back and the Hawks had to punt again. Matthew Hamilton got a piece of the punt, setting Bardstown up with a short field, and Clark hit Gray Clark for a 34-yard scoring pass to make it 32-6 with 2:31 to go before half.
LaRue’s offense got going again late as Boley hit Connor Baker for a pair of big gains, and Baker ran for a pair of first downs. Greenwell had the final say, however, picking off Boley with one second left in the half.
“I was pleased with the way the defense played — we’ve moved some people around and had different people playing” different positions than what they were used to, David Clark said. “T.J. was able to get quite a bit of pressure on the quarterback.”
LaRue County (4-3) put together a long drive to start the second half, and Baker was able to run it in for the score, but Bardstown needed just seconds to get it back, as Shannon Tonge caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Brady Clark, and Wright scored again a couple minutes later to put the game out of reach at 46-14.
Wright added another rushing score in the fourth, and Brady Clark — a four-year starter at quarterback — got his first career rushing touchdown late.
Boley hit Bowen for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to set the final margin.