It’s been three weeks since the Hopkinsville Tigers suited up for Friday night football and they will take the field in Murray in the first round of the playoffs against the team that handed them their first loss in Calloway County.
The Lakers defeated Hoptown at Jack D. Rose Stadium in Murray 14-7 on Sept. 25 thanks to five turnovers forced by Calloway in the game.
Tigers’ head coach Craig Clayton said the main focus is to limit the turnovers against the Lakers.
“The main thing is to cut down on all the turnovers,” Clayton said. “I just didn’t think we played well. Defensively I thought we played well, we just gave them a short field. I think we just played soft most of the game. Offensively, we didn’t punt the ball but that was because we turned the ball over every possession.”
While that is the main focus, Clayton said they didn’t put any extra emphasis on them in practice leading up to the ontest.
“We really hadn’t turned the ball over that much other than that game,” he said. “We do some protection drills quite a bit anyway. … Four of them were Trey (Jefferson). I think we’re just now figuring out what Trey can do and what kind of offense we can run. I feel a lot better than I did originally.”
Having three weeks off and having to change how the team practices due to a shutdown within the county has had an effect on the Tigers.
“I wish we would’ve started the playoffs last week,” Clayton said. “It’s definitely different. … just a really tough year to coach.”
With the Tigers in a win-or-go-home mode now in the playoffs, Clayton said he has stressed to his team that if they don’t show up on Friday night, their season could be over.
“I don’t think kids now are as mentally tough as they were a few years ago — there are just too many things going on,” Clayton said. “Sometimes they can’t focus on what’s of immediate importance — their minds are everywhere. We’re doing the best we can.”
But most importantly, when the Tigers take the field on Friday night, the head coach said he wants to see his team play like they know what’s on the line.
“I want to see a will to win,” Clayton said. “You have to do it every play. We play in spurts sometimes. I’d like to see that. We need to be more physical than we were the firs time.”
The Tigers and Lakers will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday in Murray.