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The Hardin-Central Bulldogs have two things in mind when they travel to Chilhowee for their third District 1 contest Friday night. Coach Kirk Thacker wants his team to get a win and come back home healthy.
Injuries have cut the Bulldog roster to 10 after losing Randy Estenbaum to a concussion and reserve lineman Joey Gorham to a broken ankle in last week’s 44-20 win over Miami. Hardin-Central heads to Chilhowee with a pair of district victories safely tucked away, while the first-year Indians have not won since opening the year with a 42-36 victory over Heartland.
A Bulldog win Friday sends them to their rivalry game with Norborne a week later with a chance to take the district crown.
Hardin-Central Coach Kirk Thacker said his team has done a good job of keeping their focus on the task at hand and not looking ahead. He also does not expect a big change in their game plan.
“We’re just going to go down there and play the best we can and do what we’ve been doing all season,” Thacker said. “We’re going to run the ball. Our pass defense has improved by leaps and bounds – it’s still not great, but far ahead of what is was at the beginning of the season.”
The Bulldogs became acquainted with Chilhowee at this year’s jamboree. Thacker said the Indians, featuring size and speed, are a much improved team than the one they faced earlier this fall. The main weapon for the Indians is Merced Cisneros, a big and quick running back. Thacker said he is tough once he gets going.
“Their running backs line up deep in the backfield and if you can get through there, you have a pretty good shot at them,” he said. “But if he gets a full head of steam, he’s tough to bring down. He’s been running real hard and he’s been a bright spot for them. If they have a few more players to go with him, they would be a real force.”
Cisneros ran for 157 yards earlier this season against Fairfax, and picked up 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries last week against the Pirates. Chilhowee’s starting quarterback, Joey Harness completed 8 of 13 passes for 107 yards last week before leaving the game with an injury.
The Bulldogs, who ran the ball 49 times for 284 yards last week, will rely on their ground game once again to chew up game clock and keep the other team’s offense off the field.
“We did quite a bit of that against Miami,” Thacker said. “We did a good job of keeping the ball away from them and kept moving it down 3 yards at a time and that’s all we needed.”