Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- Aug 21, 2015
- TROJANS: 55
BOWL GAME @ MERCER COUNTY: 20
PREP FOOTBALL: North Hardin rolls up 611 yards of offense in win against Mercer County (08/24)
HARRODSBURG — Like the steaks Coach Brent Thompson now owes his players, the North Hardin Trojans sizzled in their season opener Saturday night.
Sophomore running back Erick Johnson’s 4-yard touchdown run gave the Trojans more than 50 points in their 55-20 win over Mercer County in the Little Caesars Fort Harrod Bowl nightcap, meaning Thompson will cook his team steak.
“Because we scored 50, Coach Thompson said he’d cook us some steaks. Everybody’s excited about that,” said North Hardin senior running back Taven Graves, who was named MVP of the contest.
It’s safe to say Thompson is OK with rolling out the grill after his squad put an exclamation point on the season opener.
“It’s great. These kids played great at the end last year, and we didn’t have a little luck,” Thompson said. “We needed somebody else to get us into the tournament, and we didn’t get in. It was a chip on our shoulder all year, all summer and all winter. That’s one thing we talked about with them.”
The talking paid off after a long season last year.
In 2014, North Hardin managed to pick up only two wins in 10 games.
It only took the one game to reach half that win total.
Teams typically decide to start the game as the kicking team in order to get possession of the ball coming out of the half. But North Hardin (1-0) had different plans. Right out of the gate, Thompson called for an onside kick, which his squad recovered to get the ball on the Titans’ 38-yard line.
And the Trojans’ offense came out with the same intensity.
Junior quarterback Isaiah Bankhead started off the night 3-for-3, completing passes to three receivers to drive into the red zone. Bankhead capped off the drive by firing a strike to junior Martin Marlin, who sprinted 15 yards to the end zone for the opening score.
Then it was the Trojans’ defense’s turn.
Mercer County (0-1) struggled to find production on its opening possession, failing to convert on fourth-and-long after overthrowing on a fake punt.
When Bankhead came back out to the field, he stayed red hot in the pocket, completing his fourth consecutive pass, again to Marlin.
The Trojans, however, stalled inside the red zone, and a failed field goal attempt led to North coming away empty-handed on the drive.
Mercer County responded with a little trickery as senior quarterback Drew Davis lined up at wide receiver, took the ball on an end-around and launched a 40-yard pass to junior tight end Wesley Bird. But for the second consecutive possession, the Trojans’ defense prevented a fourth down conversion to end the drive.
And then Bankhead made his first misplay of the season, tossing an interception directly into the waiting arms of Mercer County junior Grayson Blevins. But for the third consecutive possession, North Hardin’s defense prevented a fourth-down try.
It took until 6:58 remained in the second quarter for a team to get back onto the scoreboard as North Hardin, powered by the combination of Bankhead and senior receiver Will Alexander, drove the length of the field to set up first-and-goal.
From there, it was all Graves, who pounded the ball into the end zone to give North Hardin a 14-0 lead.
But this time, Mercer County had a response. After a lengthy drive led by Davis, the Titans finally overcame their early woes to break into the Trojans’ red zone.
With the ball on the 1-yard line, junior running back Donald Smith powered the ball across the goal line to narrow the deficit to 14-6.
But Bankhead and Graves weren’t finished in the first half.
With the Trojans facing fourth-and-1 near their own 35-yard line, Bankhead audibled at the line out of the gun. The play was simple – throw the ball to Graves and let him run.
And run he did.
Sixty-five yards, in fact, as he eluded the Titans’ defenders and left the secondary in the dust as he gave the Trojans a two-score lead heading into halftime.
“Once I caught the ball, I saw the outside was there,” Graves said. “(Jay) Pitre – the left wide receiver – and Martin did a good job of sealing their man off so I could just cut back and go straight up the lane.”
Bankhead didn’t limit his production to the first half.
Coming out to the field after halftime, Bankhead and Graves continued to push the offense down the field. On first-and-10 at the Titans’ 15-yard line, Bankhead went for the kill, tossing a jump ball to Alexander.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound wideout left his feet, snagged the ball and secured it to make it 27-6.
On the ensuing drive, Mercer County put together a solid offensive drive, taking the ball down to the goal line before Davis scored.
But Alexander would end any hope of a comeback once North Hardin got the ball back.
Following a 55-yard scamper by Graves to put the Trojans in the red zone, Alexander caught a pass from Bankhead at the 16-yard line, but he appeared to be wrapped up by a Titans’ defender.
But before he went down, Alexander slipped away from the defensive back’s hold, made his way around the edge and scored to push the lead to 35-13.
“I caught the ball and somebody had my foot, so I started kicking,” Alexander said. “I got loose, and (senior wide receiver Terriq Myles) bumped me, and I bounced back. Then I was like, ‘Oh, I’m free.’ So I just started running, then somebody tripped, then I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m off to the races now.’”
And just to make sure the Trojans’ advantage was safe, Marlin scored his second touchdown of the night on an 18-yard run to make it 41-13. But Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown for the Titans.
North Hardin continued to score throughout the fourth quarter, though, as Bankhead led his unit down the field with two long passes to Pitre, and Graves finished the drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
UP NEXT: North Hardin hosts John Hardin at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Lawrence Barreca can be reached at 270-505-1754 or email@example.com.
NORTH HARDIN 55, MERCER COUNTY 20
North Hardin 7 14 14 20—55
Mercer County 0 6 7 7—20
NH: Martin Marlin 15-yard pass from Isaiah Bankhead (Analu Rugerio kick), 8:00
NH: Taven Graves 2-yard run (Rugerio kick), 6:58
MC: Donald Smith 1-yard run (kick failed), 2:00
NH: Graves 65-yard pass from Bankhead (Rugerio kick), 1:13
NH: Will Alexander 15-yard pass from Bankhead (kick failed), 7:44
NH: Alexander 15-yard pass from Bankhead (Alexander pass from Bankhead), 1:32
MC: Drew Davis 1-yard run (Brandon Ballard kick), 0:35
NH: Marlin 18-yard run (kick failed), 11:03
MC: Smith 85-yard kick return (Ballard kick), 10:49
NH: Graves 2-yard run (Rugerio kick), 7:38
NH: Erick Johnson 4-yard run (Rugerio kick), 0:46
Yards Rush 202 69
Yards Pass 409 91
Total Yards 611 160
Passing 28-35-1 5-11-1
Fumbles/Lost 2/1 1/1
Penalties/Yds 7/50 6/65
NORTH HARDIN — Taven Graves 24-132, Martin Marlin 6-47, Erick Johnson 4-15, Isaiah Bankhead 3-8.
MERCER COUNTY — Donald Smith 7-30, Drew Davis 2-17, Seth Tatum 1-15, Braxton Bradshaw 1-6, Grayson Blevins 4-1.
NORTH HARDIN — Isaiah Bankhead 28-35-1, 409 yards.
MERCER COUNTY — Drew Davis 5-11-1, 91 yards.
NORTH HARDIN — Will Alexander 11-122, Jay Pitre 5-100, Martin Marlin 5-54, Taven Graves 3-101, Terriq Myles 2-22, Jay Bankhead 1-6, Erick Johnson 1-4.
MERCER COUNTY — Aaron Johnson 2-27, Wesley Bird 1-40, Donald Smith 1-14, Chase Moore 1-10.