The Hardin-Central Bulldogs followed their game plan to a “T” Friday night at Miami. The Bulldogs entered their District 1 contest with the Eagles wanting to establish their running game, and also shut down the Miami air attack. Coach Kirk Thacker’s crew accomplished that on their way to a 44-20 win and a 2-0 district record.
Hardin-Central picked up 284 yards rushing despite running against an Eagles defense that was focused to stop the Dawgs on the ground. Patrick King gathered 135 yards on 19 carries while also completing 6 of 11 passes for 119 yards, and Chris Wilson added 127 more rushing on 25 attempts, while catching 3 passes for 61 yards.
“They put eight guys up in the box to stop the run, so we set them up with it for the pass and it really paid off,” Thacker said. “They were zoned in on stopping Wilson and Patrick reaped the benefits and had a big game.”
Randy Estenbaum added 18 yards on the ground for the Dawgs, with Joe McMichen picking up 4 yards on his only carry.
The Bulldog defense held quarterback Dylan Fink to 171 yards through the air as he completed 14 of 37 passes with three touchdowns, however, the Hardin-Central secondary came up with three interceptions – one each by Daniel Carpenter, Chris Wilson and Lukas Milligan. Milligan also had a quarterback sack and a fumble recovery to show for his night’s effort.
“Defensively, we stopped their running game and they went to the pass,” Thacker said. “Overall, I would say we did a good job against it. We bent, but we didn’t break against him. He had some touchdowns, but we didn’t panic and got in there and ended up with three interceptions.”
The Bulldogs scored the first time they touched the football with Wilson reaching the end zone on a 7-yard run and then adding the 2-point conversion. King added a touchdown late in the period with a 46-yard run and Wilson ran his second conversion of the night. The Eagles got on the board early in the second quarter as Fink hooked up with Garrett Gutshall for a 20-yard pass play, but the conversion pass was incomplete.
Hardin-Central opened up some breathing room with a pair of touchdowns with King scoring on a 3-yard run, and then hitting Mark Carpenter for a 31-yard touchdown pass as the Dawgs took a 30-6 lead into the locker room for halftime.
The Eagles scored the lone touchdown in the third quarter, but Hardin-Central closed out the game with a pair of King scoring runs of 4 and 15 yards sandwiched around Fink’s third touchdown pass. King also hooked up with Chris Herring for the conversion following the first touchdown.
“We did a very good job tonight,” Thacker said of his team’s performance. “We played hard against a very much improved and hard-hitting team. All of the boys did a great job, and right now, we control our own destiny.”
Daniel Carpenter and Milligan shared the tackle lead for Hardin-Central with 11 apiece, with Wilson in on 9 stops and McMichen making 7 tackles.