After a win last week over Paducah Tilghman to give them a district championship, Hopkinsville Tigers coach Craig Clayton said his team would have to play better offensively if they wanted to continue their season.
While it wasn't perfect and it definitely wasn't pretty, the Tigers overcame miscues in all three facets of the game to take down Calloway County 28-20 in the first round of the KHSAA Class 4A State Playoffs Friday at the Stadium of Champions.
Despite the win, Clayton wasn't pleased with his team's effort or play for the most part.
"I thought Calloway had a really good gameplan and they played hard," he said. "I think our gameplan was OK, but we just acted like we'd never played a game before. It looked like an August scrimmage. There was a lot of sloppy play, just penalties. I don't know what they were, it was just terrible. It was offense, defense, special teams, it was breakdown after breakdown and I don't know if the kids were just too confident, maybe we didn't prep them well enough. I'm not sure exactly what happened but it wasn't good."
Clayton knew coming in that the Lakers would try to limit the ground game of the Tigers, but Hoptown still ran for 183 yards, including 113 from Jay Bland.
"They were going to stop the run this time and make us throw it," he said was the Lakers' plan. "We threw more than I wanted to going in but you just can't block everybody. They're more physical than they were the first time too."
Calloway County got on the board in the second quarter on Kanyon Franklin's lone pass of the game. Franklin found Luke Schwepker 40 yards downfield as the ball went between two Tiger defenders to give the Lakers a 7-0 lead.
Jayden Dillard then scored from 20 yards out and Bland round Ryan Myers from 15 yards out with just 2.0 left on the clock in the first half.
While it may have just been two seconds, it was still long enough for the Lakers to strike back.
Aaron Fennel returned the Tiger kickoff 75 yards to house as the game was tied 14-14 going into the break.
Two Laker field goals in the second half weren't enough as Dillard found the endzone again and Bland hit Reece Jesse for a 24-yard touchdown to give Hoptown the last lead it would need at 28-20 in the fourth quarter.
Despite throwing for 226 yards and two touchdowns, Bland wasn't as consistent in the second half but he still got the job done and excelled with his legs in the victory.
"I thought the first half he threw the ball really well," he said. "Second half, he threw a lot of balls in the dirt. I'll have to go back and see if his release was bad or why he was doing that.
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Sometimes when he throws like that, he didn't have much power on it so he has a habit of throwing off of his back foot too much and trying to get the ball out a little quicker. When he steps into his throw, he has a lot of zip on it.
"He did a great job running it. Actually he's running the ball better now than throwing it. I think that was the biggest part. We had the same routes over and over and over, just didn't complete them."
All four touchdowns scored by the Tigers in the game were scored by players that are returning next year as Jesse and Myers are juniors and Dillard is just a sophomore.
"I think Ryan really played well the first half, that's probably the best half he's had," Clayton said. "It was really good for him. The other two are who they are, they've been that way all year."
Clayton said at times this season that Dillard has gone through a sophomore slump.
"Jayden's been up and down, he's a little inconsistent," he said. "He's a sophomore … that's what sophomores do. We had two other sophomores starting the first six weeks and eventually they kind of fell off and the older guys took the job. That's usually what happens with sophomores."
Even with that, the Tigers return a lot when the season does wrap up.
"It's a really good nucleus to build off of for next year," he said.
After the game, the Tigers didn't have their usual meeting in the endzone as they headed straight to the locker room.
Clayton said there were some things that needed to be addressed and if those things don't get fixed, there will be some changes.
"It had better or somebody's not going to make it through practice this week," he said. "It's time now, those who can't handle it are going to have to be left behind. We may play with some new kids next week. I know we're not going to do that again. We're just not going to have that kind of effort out of some of those guys. We're doing the same things we did the first week wrong and I think we've regressed offensively the last two or three weeks. I can't put my finger on it exactly what's going."
Hopkinsville now looks to Madisonville-North Hopkins as the Maroons got revenge on the Logan County Cougars in their 35-28 win in Russellville.
The Maroons beat Hoptown 20-18 earlier this season but the Tigers are hoping a change of venue will provide a different outcome.
HOPKINSVILLE 28, CALLOWAY COUNTY 20
CCHS 0 14 6 0 -- 20
HHS 0 14 7 7 -- 28
CC: Kanyon Franklin 40 pass Luke Schwepker (Kick good), 11:50, 2Q. 7-0
HHS: Jayden Dillard 20 run (Kick good), 8:10, 2Q. 7-7
HHS: Jay Bland 15 pass Ryan Myers (Kick good), 2.0, 2Q. 14-7
CC: Aaron Fennel 75 kick return (Kick good), 0.0, 2Q. 14-14
CC: Ian Clark 27 field goal, 8:28, 3Q. 17-14
HHS: Jayden Dillard 8 run (Kick good), 6:38, 3Q. 21-17
CC: Ian Clark 26 field goal, 2:29, 3Q. 21-20
HHS: Jay Bland 24 pass Reece Jesse (Kick good), 8:45, 4Q. 28-20
CC: Zachary Orange 7-23, Jacob Waters 10-14, John Foster 10-8. Ian Clark 1-4
HHS: Jay Bland 8-113, Jayden Dillard 10-33-2, JeVon Leavell 2-30, Tyrell Gray-Lewis 2-5
CC: John Foster 7-16-75-0-1, Kanyon Franklin 1-1-40-1-0
HHS: Jay Bland 20-34-226-2-0
CC: Luke Schwepker 3-81-1, Conner Potts 2-29, Jacob Phillips 1-7, Kanyon Frankin 1-3
HHS: Reece Jesse 8-79-1, 4-64-1, Tyrell Gray-Lewis 4-36, Lane Rushing 3-44