RUSSELLVILLE — The first half of Friday night’s game between the Hopkinsville Tigers and Logan County Cougars had Craig Clayton feeling like it was August through one half.
Hoptown had trouble with its back against the wall early but in the second half rebounded.
However, the rally fell just short as Trey Jefferson was stopped at the goalline on a two-point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the game and the Tigers were stopped on the final play, falling to Logan County 39-37 on Friday night.
The beginning of the game felt like it spelled the end early on as Logan County drove down the field against what had been a very strong Hopkinsville defense all year long and scored three points. On the ensuing possession for the Tigers, a fumble turned into a safety and with under four minutes left in the first quarter the Tigers had run only one play.
Hoptown was forced to once again lean on the defense that had given up just 7.5 points per game over the last five games to pull through again and on Friday night the Cougars had put a piece on the puzzle to figuring out the Tigers’ defense.
Logan County entered the half with a 19-10 lead. Those 19 points in the first half were more than the Hoptown defense had given up in the last seven games.
“They were just killing us off tackle which shouldn’t happen,” Clayton said. “When they did they were busting off tacklers. Without look too close you can’t really tell but we were fifth in the state in rushing defense and we definitely weren’t (Friday night).”
With how the Tigers had fared facing a deficit this season, it wasn’t looking good for Clayton’s bunch. However, a switch flipped in the second half.
Trailing 33-17 going into the fourth quarter, the Tigers rallied back, coming withing two points of tying the game on two separate occasions. But when Hoptown needed those two-point conversions, the Cougars defended their end zone and stood tall.
With seconds on the clock, the Tigers recovered an onside kick and with about eight seconds left, the decision was on Clayton.
“We knew they were going to double (Daisjaun) Mercer and we lined up and they called timeout,” Clayton said. “We saw they didn’t have much on (Emmanuel) Cheatham and he had been having a good night. We thought we could give him a chance in the seam and if we got it to him quick enough he could make some moves and score. They brought some pressure on Trey and he had to scramble. By the time he had thrown it he was already in the end zone.
“We thought about trying to throw something to the sideline and kick a field goal. But a 20-yard gain would’ve given us a 47-yard field goal so we just went for it.”
Jefferson was rushed out of the pocket and forced to heave a prayer that wasn’t answered, leaving no time on the clock and the Cougars victorious.
“We just couldn’t get the ball in the first half,” Clayton said. “That’s the most offense anybody has run against us all year — we just couldn’t stop them.
“Second half we were able to get our offense going a little better. It’s disappointing because we felt like we could get to the semifinals again.”
Clayton was disappointed in the result but was happy he saw his team change throughout the year.
The Hopkinsville Tigers from the beginning of the year would have just let this game get away and the long time coach credits his quarterback in Jefferson as a big reason why
“I really think the key was Trey Jefferson,” he said. “He got better every week and became a leader of our team. He’s turned himself into a college football player. I think that was what truly opened everything up for us.
“All the offensive weapons also come out for us. The last couple weeks we’ve scored a lot of points and had a lot of yardage.”
Hopkinsville closes the season 7-5 record while Logan County is in position to host a playoff quarterfinal game next week.