During the Tigers' final huddle at practice Friday at Hopkinsville High School, defensive coordinator Dustin Lopez mentioned that Hoptown is 0-4 in their last four meetings against the Madisonville-North Hopkins Maroons, but the Tigers are trying to change that today at the Stadium of Champions.
Hoptown and Madisonville meet at 2 p.m. at the SOC in the second round of the KHSAA Class 2A State Playoffs.
For the Tigers to change the streak and smear the Maroons, Hoptown has to limit the hot start of Madisonville, something they haven't been able to do in the past.
"I think we know we can play with them to come back the way we did," Hoptown coach Craig Clayton said. "But again, they've got off to fast starts against us. They do that to a lot of people but the last couple of weeks they've gotten behind and had to come back … Usually, they don't do that."
After the game was moved to Saturday, Clayton said there wasn't a huge difference in preparation this week.
This is the third Saturday game the Tigers are playing in in the past four seasons. In those games, Hoptown is 2-0 with a win over Graves County in 2016 and a victory over Caldwell County in 2017.
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"We just got an extra day," he said. "We got some time to spread out a little bit and work on some extra things, which I think helped us. I wish we could practice that many days every week before we play."
Clayton said he enjoys games on Saturdays and hopes to schedule a home and away series with team in the next couple of years that enjoy it as well. Clayton remembers a certain game that packed the Stadium of Champions.
"I've always liked the afternoon games," he said. "I can go back to Leslie County, we played them in 1995 when Tim Couch was playing, that's been a long time ago. He ended up being a No. 1 prospect and draft pick and all that stuff and we beat them 61-0. It was like a college game. That's as packed as I've seen that stadium."
The 2 p.m. game always is helpful for the players in that they don't have to worry about the normal issues surrounding gameday.
"I like it better because our kids aren't in school, they don't go through the academic process all day, they don't see all the girls, they don't see all the distractions," Clayton said. "Mom and dad are going to have to roust them out in the morning to make sure they get here on time. I like that. You don't have time to really think about all that stuff. By the time you get your pregame meal, go warm up and go through some meetings, it's to time to play.
"As far as the kids, I don't think they know what to expect but I do as a coach. I think we'll be fine."
Given the way the Tiger offense has played the last couple of weeks and their narrow 28-20 victory over Calloway County week, Clayton and his coaches had a meeting with the players after the game and he said he thinks they understand what he was saying given how practice was the last few days.
"I think we've had good practices this week," he said. "I think everybody realizes you have to play with a sense of urgency in the playoffs because it can be your last game."
He said they could have been overconfident last week but they were able to get the job done.
"We just haven't been exactly right the last couple weeks," he said. "We're capable of being very explosive but we just have to execute."
For the Tigers to get the win, Clayton said they have to protect the football, have fewer penalties and keep the Maroons from getting big plays, something they're accustomed to with Jeriah Hightower carrying the football.
Hightower ran for 148 yards in the last meeting during the Maroons' 20-18 win, but the Tigers to ready to rewrite the narrative and advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Madisonville-North Hopkins (9-2) at Hopkinsville (9-2)
Time: 2 p.m.
Place: Stadium of Champions, Hopkinsville
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