HOPSPTS-12-11-20 HOPTOWN FB-PHOTO1

Hopkinsville’s Jay’Den Dillard carries the ball during the Tigers’ win against John Hardin last week.

The Hopkinsville Tigers’ Twitter page has been saying it. But this week, it really is Hoptown vs. everybody.

Not very many people had the Tigers in the state semifinals, and even more people see their season coming to an end tonight against No. 1 Boyle County. But however you look at it, it is an opportunity for Craig Clayton and his team. An opportunity to shock the state and advance to the state championship.

If anyone knows what going to state title games is like it would be Clayton, who took the Tigers to two state title games in his first stint as the head coach at Hopkinsville.

This game against Boyle County is one step closer to returning to what the Tigers’ program was back then and one step closer to having that “swag” that Clayton likes to call it.

“I think our kids are starting to understand the mental toughness, the physical toughness, the want to, the confidence you have to have and the swag,” he said. “The swag is when you walk into a place they know you’re good. It’s the way you walk into a place and how you carry yourself. … That’s what we’re trying to get to.”

Clayton said tonight’s game is a step toward regaining that look.

We’re trying to get to where Boyle is now. We were there before,” Clayton said. “Hopefully this is the step we’ve got to go through to get back to that. Hopefully we go up there and we play well. Everybody gives us zero chance. Everybody thinks they’re going to put the running clock on us. I’m not saying they can’t but if we go up there and play like we did last week, we can stay in the game.”

That swagger is why a lot of people are already putting Boyle County into the state championship.

But make no mistake, the Rebels earned that swagger.

Boyle County hasn’t played a game this season in which it hasn’t scored 40 points or more. On top of that, only one team has scored more that 21 all season on coach Justin Haddix’s team this year.

The main concern is keeping the Rebels off the board. Clayton thinks the Tigers have what it takes to make it tough for Boyle to score and aren’t backing down.

“We played the number one scoring defense in our class last week — Boyle is number three and the number one scoring offense,” Clayton said. “We’re going back-to-back on really good teams. It’s a different offense than what they normally run at Boyle. Coach Haddix has brought in a different look. He’s got a lot of good stuff they’re doing — you’ve got to be ready for everything.

“We’ve kind of made it simple in practice with what we’re going to do and do the best we can with them. I don’t think a lot of people have gone after them like we’re going to. We’re going to get sticky on defense and see what happens. It may backfire on us, I don’t know, but we’re not going to go play scared.”

Offensively, it’s the same gameplan. The Tigers aren’t backing down from the fight.

“Offensively, we’re going to open the playbook a little bit more,” Clayton said. “I’ve been very conservative with us because I want to put us in a position to win but I don’t know that we can be that conservative with them and win. I think we’re going to have to score at least 30 points. I can see a scenario that we hold them to 28 but they may score 45 or 50 I don’t know. … They are very explosive and coach Haddix does a great job.”

In order to walk out of Danville tonight with the upset and a trip to the state title game, Clayton said he needs a complete game from his guys on all sides of the ball.

“I think defensively we’re lined up to all the different formations,” he said. “No confusion, no second guessing. Offensively, understanding the routes and knowing where we need to make our breaks and when to deliver the ball.

“We need to be able to pass block well enough to be able to get the ball off. They have a three-man rush but they get there anyway. … If we get time to throw it, we can hurt them.”

Hoptown and Boyle County are set for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff (CST).

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